Part Four Travel - 4.7 Overseas Travel

4.7 Overseas Travel

The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives and other members of the Opposition, as approved by the Leader of the Opposition, may travel overseas on official business. Travel must be undertaken at a class no higher than business class.1

The cost of overseas travel in a financial year for the Leader of the Opposition and other Opposition members is to be met under a capped budget equivalent to four scheduled first class around-the-world airfares as calculated on 1 July in that financial year.2

To approve travel by other Opposition members, the Leader of the Opposition must advise Ministerial and Parliamentary Services in the Department of Finance in writing in advance of the travel, detailing who is approved to travel and the duration and location(s) of the intended travel.

Overseas travel costs which may be met from within the capped budget include, but are not limited to, transport, accommodation and meals. Equipment and clothing allowances, equivalent to the standard applying to an SES employee in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, are to be met from within the capped budget.3 In addition to the travel costs met from the capped budget, the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition and approved Opposition members are provided with travel related insurance for travel undertaken in carrying out official business, as approved by the Special Minister of State.4

Any unused amount of the budget may not be carried forward from one financial year to the next. Where overseas travel takes place across two financial years, travel costs will be debited from the budget for the financial year in which the travel commences.

Where a party becomes the Opposition part‑way through a financial year, the Leader of that party shall be provided with a pro rata amount of the budget.5 Pro rata arrangements will not apply where there is a change of leadership within the party during a financial year. In this instance the new Leader of the party would have access to the remaining balance of the budget for that financial year.6

Further information on overseas travel may be obtained through the Parliamentarians’ Work Expenses Help Desk. Information regarding the commercially-sourced travel insurance policy may be obtained through the Australian Government’s commercial insurance broker.

4.7.1 Travel Arrangements

Travel overseas should be by normal commercial transport. Airline bookings are made through the contracted travel services provider. Arrangements for overseas travel (for example, airline reservations and hotel bookings) should be made by the office of the Leader of the Opposition or the approved Opposition member. It is the responsibility of the office of the travelling Opposition member to liaise with any overseas posts about their requirements for the visit, such as accommodation, meals and ground transport.

A copy of the detailed itinerary for the travel must be provided to Ministerial and Parliamentary Services, so that payment can be made for airfares and other travel expenses, including the calculation of allowances. Early advice about proposed travel is appreciated.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can assist with developing programs and arranging appointments. The Ministerial, Cabinet and Parliamentary Services Section in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can coordinate arrangements and liaise with Australian overseas posts.

4.7.2 Accompanying Employees

If the cost of an Opposition Office Holder’s overseas travel fare is being met within the capped budget, he or she may be accompanied by two staff members. The cost of travel of the first staff member may be met at Commonwealth expense outside of the capped budget.7 The cost of travel of the second staff member is to be met wholly from within the capped budget.8

Other Opposition members, whose overseas travel fares are being met within the capped budget, may be accompanied by up to two staff members, as approved by the Leader of the Opposition. The cost of travel of both of those staff members is to be met wholly from within the capped budget.9

Accompanying staff must travel at business class or a lower class.10

An employee may not travel overseas in advance or independently of the Leader of the Opposition or other Opposition member.

An accompanying employee may take short periods of annual leave while overseas on official duty. The employee will be personally responsible for all costs incurred while on annual leave overseas, including airfares for travel outside of the official itinerary. Any leave must be approved in writing by the Leader of the Opposition or the relevant approved Opposition member prior to departure, and the Special Minister of State should be informed of the proposed leave before the overseas travel commences.

4.7.3 Financial Arrangements

Prior to overseas travel, Ministerial and Parliamentary Services:

  • pays for airfares and other initial travel expenses
  • provides the Leader of the Opposition or approved Opposition member with a Minor Official Expense Allowance of $63 per day, to cover minor official expenses that may need to be met personally (for example, tips, gratuities and porterage)
  • provides any accompanying employees with an allowance to cover incidental expenditure, as well as meal and equipment allowances when applicable
  • authorises relevant Australian overseas posts to meet accommodation and other substantial costs expected to be incurred during the travel.

Accommodation costs for the Opposition member (and employees, when accompanying the Opposition member) will normally be paid by the post. Similarly, costs of meals (whether taken at the hotel or elsewhere) may also be paid by the post. Where the post does not pay for meals, an allowance or reimbursement will be paid by Ministerial and Parliamentary Services at a rate advised in the Opposition member’s pre-departure letter.

The Minor Official Expense Allowance is intended to provide for expenses of an official nature. Where possible, the allowance will be paid prior to commencement of the travel, or as soon as practicable. If the allowance is insufficient to meet all official expenses incurred by the Opposition member, he or she will be reimbursed any additional expenses (within the available capped budget), on submission of supporting documentation. 

A number of sundry expenses can arise and may be met from the allowance or by the post. Examples of sundry expenses related to the official visit which may arise and be met from the allowance include:

  • official car hire and other supplementary transport charges, including departure taxes, etc
  • laundry and dry cleaning
  • porterage, tips, gratuities and similar charges
  • tours, attendance at cultural performances, or similar activities, where such occasions are part of the official program of the visit
  • postage, telephone calls etc necessary because of the visit, including limited international communications to maintain essential personal contacts, in addition to calls directly related to official business
  • newspapers, stationery to supplement official supplies, official photographs, laptop hire, etc.

Any expenses incurred above the available capped budget, will be the responsibility of the travelling Opposition member.

Purely personal expenses (which may, for example, include items such as family gifts and personal purchases, and any related freight, entertainment and leisure activities) that may be included in accounts rendered should be adjusted during the accounting processes. Where they are not personally adjusted before departure from the posts, such accounts will be forwarded by the post to Ministerial and Parliamentary Services. Following discussions, where necessary, with the Opposition member’s office, the person or persons responsible for incurring the personal expenses will be invoiced for those expenses by Ministerial and Parliamentary Services.

There is no provision for the spouse, de facto partner or dependent children of the Leader of the Opposition or other Opposition member to travel overseas at Commonwealth expense. If the Leader of the Opposition or other Opposition member is accompanied overseas by a spouse, de facto partner or dependent children, all associated costs are to be met at personal expense.

There is no provision for hospitality costs to be met at Commonwealth expense.

Accounting Procedures

Once Ministerial and Parliamentary Services receives confirmation from the office of the Leader of the Opposition detailing the proposed destination/s and travelling party, Ministerial and Parliamentary Services will:

  • write to the Opposition member concerned confirming funding arrangements and allowances to be paid
  • at the request of the relevant Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade overseas post(s), advise of the financial arrangements necessary to provide the services required.

To assist budget monitoring and accurate record keeping, all relevant invoices should be submitted in a timely manner.

Certification of Expenditure

Within 28 days of the completion of the travel, the Leader of the Opposition, or other Opposition member, is required to notify Ministerial and Parliamentary Services if there have been any variations to the original itinerary on which the Minor Official Expense Allowance was calculated or if reimbursement of additional expenses is being sought. If reimbursement of additional expenses is sought, the Leader of the Opposition or other Opposition member must certify that expenses claimed do not include any component for alcohol or other personal expenses.

Accounts from overseas posts relating to the travel are forwarded to Ministerial and Parliamentary Services for reconciliation. A summary report detailing payments made by Ministerial and Parliamentary Services through overseas posts will be provided to the office of the Leader of the Opposition or other Opposition member following the reconciliation of all expenditure.

Medical Expenses

The following costs relating to medical and hospital services for the Leader of the Opposition and approved Opposition members will be met outside of the capped budget:

  • the cost of vaccinations and medical supplies essential for travel overseas
  • the cost of medical services (including emergency dental services) and hospital services received overseas if the cost is not covered by insurance.11

Footnotes

1  Items 2A(1) and 2A(4)(a) of Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.

2  Item 2A(1) of Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.

3  Item 2A(4)(d) of Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.

4  Regulation 3EB of the Parliamentary Entitlements Regulations 1997.

5  Item 2A(2) of Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.

6  Item 2A(3) of Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.

7  Item 2A(5) of Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.

8  Item 2A(4)(b) of Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.

9  Item 2A(4)(c) of Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.

10 Items 2A(4)(c) and 2A(5) of Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.

11 Item 2A(6) of Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.