State, Territory or Local Elections

Last updated
19 February 2024

Parliamentarians have obligations and responsibilities under the Parliamentary Business Resources Framework (PBR Framework) and Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 (MOP(S) Act) employment framework relating to State, Territory and local elections that may include activities involving (but not limited to):

  • resources provided under the PBR Framework,
  • directing electorate employees,
  • engaging volunteers, and
  • travel.

It is also the responsibility of parliamentarians to ensure any other legal requirements or authorisations are met, and that they are satisfied that they are able to defend their use of public resources and duties undertaken by all their employees. For the relevant State or Territory electoral requirements, please be sure to visit the Electoral Commission website as each jurisdiction is different:

Resources provided under the PBR Framework

The Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 (PBR Act) does not preclude parliamentarians from using PBR Act public resources or claiming expenses for activities related to your own parliamentary business. However, the PBR Act prescribes conditions which prohibits the use of Commonwealth-provided offices or resources for the purposes of assisting in the election/re-elections of others.

Parliamentarians may use their work expenses in support of their own re-election, but not to produce, communicate or distribute material that seeks the election or re-election of any other person or to solicit a vote for a political party. This includes the use of printed and electronic material, and material produced either in-house or by a commercial service provider. The PBR Framework imposes specific conditions on the use of office expenses. If you contravene a condition, you are unable to claim expenses for the item.

In particular, parliamentarians must ensure that material does not:

  • solicit a vote for another person (or any political party)
  • solicit subscriptions or other financial support or non-financial support for any parliamentarian, political party or candidate (other than volunteering)
  • solicit applications for or renewals of membership in a political party
  • provide instructions on how to complete a ballot paper, including for a federal, state or territory election and referendums
  • include an advertisement pursuing a commercial purpose for yourself or another person (including a business)
  • exceed the limit of your office budget

These conditions apply to all election-related activities. For further information on each of these conditions – see Printing and communication and Conditions for claiming.

In general, material produced, communicated or distributed using your office expenses budget should not mention voting, unless the material expressly requests the recipient to vote for the Parliamentarian, or is about participating in an election or referendum without soliciting a vote for any person, party, or position (i.e. 'Yes' or 'No').

Parliamentarians are not permitted to use their Commonwealth-provided or funded offices to undertake election-related fundraising activities. Parliamentarians are accountable for all use of resources provided to them at Commonwealth expense, including any charges incurred for use of office equipment and facilities, such as telephones. Please refer to the Use of offices and office resources webpage for more information.

Parliamentarians must be satisfied that you have met all of your obligations under the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 (PBR Act), including that the expense:

Parliamentarians are encouraged to use the optional pre-claim assessment process for any election-related activities. Please note that the pre-claim assessment only reviews an item against the requirements of the PBR Act. It is the responsibility of each parliamentarian to ensure any other legal requirements or authorisations are met, including electoral laws.

Directing Employees

Employees may undertake certain activities relating to elections provided they are consistent with the legislative obligations of their employing parliamentarian under the MOP(S) Act employment framework and PBR Act framework. This may include undertaking some duties in relation to fundraising activities.

Determination 2023/09 – Employment of Electorate Employees, specifies that electorate employees work under the sole direction of the employing Senator or Member and are employed to assist their Senator or Member to carry out duties as a Member of Parliament, and not for party political purposes. This means that, by convention, electorate employees may undertake activities in support of their parliamentarian’s re-election, but not the election or re-election of others. For the avoidance of doubt, activities undertaken by electorate employees in support of a candidate seeking election or re-election for a State or Territory election is not defensible under the frameworks.

It is generally not appropriate for electorate employees to be directed to travel to undertake activities relating to State and Territory elections.

Employees on approved leave

It is not appropriate for electorate employees to be directed to take leave (paid or unpaid) to undertake activities relating to State and Territory elections. Workplace relation laws specify that an employer can only direct an employee to take annual leave in some situations. For example, when:

  • the office is closed during the Christmas and New Year period
  • an employee has accumulated excess annual leave.

Employees may choose to take annual leave, and this would be approved via the normal mechanisms.

Should personal or electorate staff be on approved paid or unpaid leave they may choose to undertake activities in relation to a State or Territory election. In this circumstance, the employee would be considered a volunteer (see below) and would not be covered by the Commonwealth’s workers’ compensation scheme (Comcare) or insurance fund (Comcover) in the event of an injury or workplace incident.

Employees standing as a candidate in an Election

MOP(S) Act employees contesting an election

While the MOP(S) Act does not preclude MOP(S) Act employees being on approved paid or unpaid leave to contest an election, MOP(S) Act employees who are considering contesting an election should seek independent legal advice on their eligibility to contest in the relevant Federal, State, Territory or local jurisdiction, while still being employed or paid as a MOP(S) Act employee.

Further details for MOP(S) Act employees who wish to participate in some other way, such as volunteering, is set out below.

Federal elections

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) provides advice on nominating to be a candidate. Prospective candidates should also consider reading the AEC’s Electoral Backgrounder: constitutional disqualification and intending candidates, and in particular, information on section 44(iv) of the Constitution (regarding any person holding an office for profit under the Crown). 

Campaigning for your own election during normal working hours

MOP(S) Act employees are unable to campaign for their own election during normal working hours, or use any office facilities towards their own election.

Reinstatement under the MOP(S) Act

Should you resign, you will not automatically be reinstated under the MOP(S) Act if you are unsuccessful as a candidate. It is a matter for the individual parliamentarian to decide if they will re-engage a former employee who resigned to stand as a candidate.

Engaging a volunteer

Parliamentarians may engage individuals to perform tasks in a voluntary or unpaid capacity. These individuals may be work experience students, members of the community or family members of the parliamentarian.

Volunteers work in a capacity for the parliamentarian rather than the Commonwealth and are not covered by the Commonwealth’s workers’ compensation scheme (Comcare) or insurance fund (Comcover) in the event of an injury or workplace incident. The parliamentarian is responsible and liable for work health and safety matters relating to the volunteer, not the Commonwealth. This responsibility includes meeting the cost of any work health and safety related equipment or services, such as ergonomic workstation assessments and the provision of any specialised equipment.

Parliamentarians engaging an individual on a voluntary basis in their office are encouraged to take out their own personal insurance cover and to consider any security and confidentiality factors relating to their engagement.

Travel

Consistent with the PBR Framework, parliamentarians can only claim travel expenses that are incurred for the dominant purpose of conducting their parliamentary business. In all instances, the travelling parliamentarian must be able to meet all five obligations outlined under the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017

Travel for parliamentarians and MOP(S) Act employees is administered by the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA). IPEA should be contacted regarding any travel related queries.

Managing Fatigue and other WHS Risks

In the lead-up to an election, parliamentarians and MOP(S) Act employees may be exposed to, or expose other persons to, a greater range of health and safety risks in the workplace. Parliamentarians must familiarise themselves with the Fatigue Management Policy and information relating to other WHS risks during election periods, to assist them in managing the health and well-being of their employees and volunteers during election periods.

Support Available

For further information on the supports available please contact PWSS for support on 1800 747 977 (Option 1). Further information on the PWSS is available is at www.pwss.gov.au.

Tailored Advice

Should you have any other non-travel specific queries, including in relation to use of your parliamentarian’s office and office resources, please do not hesitate to contact MPSHelp@finance.gov.au.

Any queries relating to a parliamentarian or MOP(S) Act employee’s travel should be directed to the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA).