On 1 January 2018, the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 (PBR Act) will commence, establishing a new principles-based framework for providing remuneration and public resources to parliamentarians.
Together with the PBR Act, the new framework comprises the Parliamentary Business Regulations 2017 (PBR regulations), determinations made by the Remuneration Tribunal, and determinations made by the Special Minister of State.
While the new framework principally reflects the types and kinds of public resources available to parliamentarians under the existing framework, the new framework imposes new obligations on parliamentarians in their use of a majority of public resources, including:
- a parliamentarian must not claim or use public resources unless it is for the dominant purpose of conducting their parliamentary business (section 26 of the PBR Act)
- a parliamentarian must ensure value for money for the Commonwealth in incurring expenses or claiming public resources, taking into account the need to conduct their parliamentary business (section 27 of the PBR Act)
- a parliamentarian must not claim resources or incur expenses if any conditions for accessing the resources have not been met (section 28 of the PBR Act), and
- a parliamentarian must be personally responsible and accountable for their use of public resources, and act ethically and in good faith in using and accounting for their use of those resources (section 25 of the PBR Act).
The obligations do not apply to a parliamentarian’s remuneration (including electorate allowance, private plated vehicle(s), or home internet or telephone services). The dominant purpose test does not apply to travel by family members and certain other persons.
Compliance and IPEA Rulings
A penalty loading scheme will apply where a parliamentarian contravenes their obligations in respect of a travel or non-travel related activity. Under the penalty loading scheme, the amount of the public resource that contravenes their obligations and a 25 per cent loading on that amount is a debt due to the Commonwealth by the parliamentarian. A loading will not apply where: a parliamentarian relied on incorrect personal advice from IPEA (in relation to travel expenses and allowances); the overpayment was the result of an administrative error by the Commonwealth; or the overpayment is repaid within 28 days of the claim being made. A penalty loading will also apply to voluntary repayments made 28 days after a claim is made.
The new framework provides IPEA with the ability to make rulings as to whether travel expenses and allowances were claimed by a parliamentarian in accordance with the new framework.
In addition to the new obligations on parliamentarians, the new framework will implement several changes to non-travel-related work expenses, including:
- new types of expenses that can be met from the office budget, including costs relating to virtual town hall meetings, interactive voice response phone surveys, short messaging service (SMS) broadcasting and survey services, and information and communications technology and services in addition to those generally provided by the Department of Parliamentary Services
- streamlining the calculation of office budgets from the 2018-19 financial year
- broadening the Chamber Flag Program to facilitate access by Senators, and
- a new reimbursement for Members of the House of Representatives with electorates between 5,000km2 and 25,000km2 for lease and service costs to establish and maintain a privately-leased electorate office.
Further information in relation to the non-travel-related changes is provided at Attachment A.
Further Information and Claim Forms
A suite of new guidance material in relation to new framework and non-travel-related work expenses is available on the M&PS website. Information in relation to travel‑related work expenses is available from IPEA.
For any work expenses claimed under the new framework on and after 1 January 2018, parliamentarians must complete new claim forms. New claim forms are available on the M&PS and IPEA websites. Existing claim forms must be used for any pre 1 January work expense claims. Existing claim forms will continue to be available on the M&PS and IPEA websites. I encourage all parliamentarians to submit claims relating to pre 1 January work expenses as soon as possible.
Should you require any further information regarding the new framework, please contact your Ministerial and Parliamentary Services’ Advice and Support Director on the number below* (for non-travel-related matters), and IPEA# (for travel-related matters, reporting and auditing).
A/g First Assistant Secretary
Ministerial and Parliamentary Services
20 December 2017
|* Advice and Support Directors||State and Territory||Contact Number|
|Mr Andrew Templeton (A/g)||NSW, WA & ACT||02 6215 3621|
|Mr Daniel Collet (A/g)||SA & QLD||02 6215 1373|
|Mr Shane McGaughey||VIC, TAS & NT||02 6215 3827|
|# IPEA Enquiries|
|Parliamentarians & MOP(S) Act employees||02 6215 3000
|Hours of operation||9:00am – 5:00pm EST|
New Office Budget Expenses
In addition to existing arrangements for the use of the office budget, from 1 January 2018:
- parliamentarians can transfer documents and other small items between any of their offices, with the cost to courier or freight the items being met from the office budget
- the supply of nationhood material (formerly known as items under the constituents request program), including booklets on Australian flags and national symbols, recordings of the National Anthem and portraits of Her Majesty The Queen, will be charged to the office budget. The cost of flags for presentation to constituents (other than the Chamber Flag Program) will continue to be an office budget expense
- the office budget can be used to meet the cost of three new services:
- virtual town hall meetings by electronic communication
- interactive voice response phone services, and
- short messaging service (SMS) broadcasting and survey services
- parliamentarians from the major political parties will still be limited to the constituent relationship management software nominated by their respective party. However, they will be able to purchase other software that they require for their parliamentary business and have the cost reimbursed from the office budget
- parliamentarians can also use their office budget to purchase additional information and telecommunications equipment and services from the Department of Parliamentary Services, which may include mobile phone devices, tablets and computers.
In addition, the internal cap of $50,000 per year on the purchase of office requisites and stationery items will be removed from 1 January 2018 along with the list of approved stationery items. Parliamentarians will be able to choose any stationery items, subject to their legislative obligations, that are for their parliamentary business and deliver value for money as long as it stays within the allocated office budget.
Likewise, the limit of 50 flags per year that can be presented to individual constituents will be removed from 1 January 2018.
Streamlining the Calculation of Office Budgets
Office budgets for the 2017-18 financial year will not be changing on 1 January 2018. However, from 1 July 2018, office budgets will be simplified.
The current two-tier structure for the publications segment of office budgets for Members of the House of Representatives will be replaced by a single amount (the current higher rate) for all Members of the House of Representatives.
From 1 July 2018, parliamentarians’ office budgets will be fully indexed in line the consumer price index (CPI). Further, the distribution component of Members of the House of Representatives’ office budgets (which is currently based on the standard rate of postage (currently $1.00)) will be indexed in line with CPI. The distribution component will continue to be multiplied by the number of enrolled voters in the Members’ electorate each year to determine the distribution component of their office budget.
Parliamentarians will be provided with further information in relation to the streamlined arrangements prior to 1 July 2018.
Broadening of the Chamber Flag Program
From 1 January 2018, the Chamber Flag Program which operates in the House of Representatives will be extended to the Senate, allowing Senators to obtain from the Usher of the Black Rod a flag to present to a constituent or organisation that has been flown in the Senate on a sitting day.
Reimbursement for Costs of Privately-Leased Electorate Office Accommodation
From 1 January 2018, a Member of the House of Representatives with an electorate between 5,000km2 and 25,000km2 may be reimbursed up to a maximum of $50,000 per year for net rental and service costs incurred to lease, operate, maintain, establish or vacate a privately-leased office within their electorate. Service costs exclude any costs for the purchase of furniture or equipment (including lease or rent to buy schemes).
The maximum amount of reimbursement each year will be indexed in line with CPI.
To be eligible for the reimbursement, the lease term must be for a minimum period of six months and the office must be (or be part of) a permanent building. The office cannot be used for a commercial purpose and, like all work expenses under the new framework, must be used for the dominant purpose of conducting parliamentary business.