During an election period, and at all other times, work expenses claimed under the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 (PBR Act) may only be claimed for conducting your parliamentary business, and cannot be used for any commercial purpose.
This page does not cover travel related matters or reporting arrangements (such as quarterly expenditure or monthly management reports). Information in relation to travel by parliamentarians and their employees or reporting is available from the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA).
All queries regarding Commonwealth-funded office and mobile ICT equipment should be directed to the Department of Parliamentary Services' (DPS) 2020 Service Desk.
Annual budget for office expenses and other resources
Can I produce postal vote applications and reply-paid envelopes from my annual budget for office expenses?
Yes– provided you distribute the postal vote applications and reply-paid envelopes to meet the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC’s) deadline for receipt of a postal vote application. There is no prescribed limit on the number of postal vote applications (PVA) and reply paid envelopes for PVAs that may be printed and distributed using your annual budget for office expenses. However, you must take into account your obligations under the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017, in particular, your obligation to not claim expenses unless the expenses are incurred for the dominant purpose of conducting your parliamentary business. For example, in determining an appropriate number of PVAs to be printed, it would be appropriate for you to consider the number of enrolled voters in your electorate/state.
Information on the number of enrolled voters is available from the from the AEC.
It is expected that the delivery address for a reply paid envelope for PVAs would be your electorate office, Parliament House office, capital city office or Post Office Box. It is also expected that you conform to the restrictions that apply to the timing and distribution of PVAs to electors as set out in the AEC’s guidelines for the reproduction of postal vote applications.
The Parliamentary Business Resources Regulations 2017 prohibits the use of the annual budget for office expenses to pay for postage stamps or stamped envelopes, other than those provided by a Department of the Parliament established under the Parliamentary Service Act 1999.
What if the form of postal vote applications (PVA), as gazetted by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), changes after I produce my PVAs - can I still claim the cost from my annual budget for office expenses?
Yes. However, you will still need to comply with the requirements of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
For further information please refer to the AEC’s guidelines for the reproduction of postal vote applications.
Can I produce and/or distribute how-to-vote material using my annual budget for office expenses?
No. The Parliamentary Business Resources Regulations 2017 prohibits the use of the annual budget for office expenses to produce, communicate or distribute material that provides instructions on how to complete a ballot paper.
What are the turnaround times for having print/production-ready material vetted by MaPS?
Given the likely increase in the submission of material to MaPS for assessment during the election period, some delays may be experienced and these should be taken into consideration in planning for the printing or production of material.
Print/production-ready items can be submitted for assessment by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I use my annual budget for office expenses to produce or place content for broadcasting on television or radio?
No. The Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 prohibits the use of the annual budget for office expenses to pay for the production or placement of content for broadcasting on television or radio.
Can I use my annual budget for office expenses to produce or place content on the internet, including on platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter?
Yes. However, you must take into account your obligations under the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017, including that expenses incurred are for the dominant purpose of conducting your parliamentary business and achieve value for money. You are also personally responsible and accountable for the use of your annual budget for office expenses and you must be prepared to publicly justify any expenditure.
Can I charge an entrance fee to a function that I am holding at the local community hall or other venue, that I advertise using my annual budget for office expenses?
Yes, but only to cover costs incurred for holding the event (i.e. not to make a profit).
You must use your annual budget for office expenses for the dominant purpose of conducting your parliamentary business and not for commercial purposes, as defined in the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 as ‘a purpose relating to the derivation of financial gain or reward’.
Where the collection of funds unintentionally exceeds costs, it is recommended that you donate surplus funds to not-for-profit groups or charities.
Similarly, functions that have been advertised using your annual budget for office expenses must not be used as a means of raising campaign funds.
Can I produce signage from my annual budget for office expenses?
Only signs that identify or direct constituents to the location of your mobile electorate office may be produced from your annual budget for office expenses.
It is expected that you will only produce small quantities of signs to achieve this purpose, and that the signage would not be issues-based or include election campaign material.
Mobile office signage must be easily movable, such as an A-frame or pull-up banner. Signage must conform to the terms of any local government requirements regarding placement and construction.
Mobile office signage cannot be non-mobile (such as fixed billboards or bus stop signs).
Will my postage meter be read on the day before polling day, as in previous years?
No. There are no changes to the administrative arrangements or follow-up action required as a result of this election.
Can I use my Canberra-based self-drive vehicle during the election period?
Yes. If you are provided a Canberra-based self-drive vehicle, you may only use it for the dominant purpose of your parliamentary business and the vehicle must be predominately used and garaged in Canberra.
If you contravene these obligations, you will be liable to repay the expense that relates to the contravention. Any amount not repaid within 28 days attracts a 25 per cent penalty loading that is a debt due to the Commonwealth.
Can I ask my electorate employees to undertake activities in support of the election or re-election of others?
No. Employees are unable to undertake activities in support of the election or re-election of others. Any such activities does not count as hours of work and will need to be covered by a leave application.
Can I direct my employees to work from the party’s campaign headquarters?
Yes. By convention, personal and electorate employees may undertake activities in support of your own re-election but not in support of the election or re-election of others. In addition, electorate employees may not be directed to undertake party political duties (refer to Determination 2016/15).
You should satisfy yourself that your electorate employees are not undertaking party political duties and that you are able to defend the duties undertaken by all of your employees. Directing an employee to assist the party’s campaign in general may be defensible. The duties of an employee become less defensible to the extent that they are in support of the election of another person and not in support of your own re-election.
Can I ask my employees to attend party meetings?
No. You may not direct employees to attend party meetings. Any such attendance does not count as hours of work.
Can I ask my employees to work late nights and weekends during the election period?
You may ask your employees to work reasonable additional hours. Negotiation of what is reasonable would be between you and the individual employee.
You should take into account the personal needs of the employee when making the request, including any specific risks to their health and safety, and ensure that there will be sufficient and reasonable meal and/or rest breaks within and between periods of normal duty and additional hours.
Where electorate staff allowance (ESA) and parliamentary staff allowance (PSA) is paid in recognition of reasonable additional hours of work, there is an expectation that the additional hours will be proportionate to the rate of ESA and PSA paid.
Employees who are required to work additional hours and are not in receipt of an allowance may access time off in lieu (TOIL) at a time agreed to by yourself and the employee.
You are responsible for providing a safe working environment for all workers in your office, including MOP(S) Act employees and volunteers. This includes not directing workers to undertake risky activities, and you being mindful of fatigue management for your employees. Further information on WHS risks during the election period is available.
One of my employees is a candidate for the Federal election. What are the implications?
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) provides advice to candidates in the nomination guide for candidates. 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). Paragraph 39 of the Electoral Backgrounder states:
[All] Federal and State public servants and serving members of the Australian Defence Force would be disqualified from standing for election. This appears to apply even if the person is "unattached", or on leave without pay, and not currently in receipt of remuneration.
If your employee has any doubts as to his or her qualifications under the Constitution, the AEC recommends that they seek their own legal advice. The AEC does not provide legal advice to prospective candidates.
There is no provision in the MOP(S) Act for an employee who resigns to contest an election, and is unsuccessful, to have their employment automatically reinstated.
Resources provided to you must not be used to campaign for the election or re-election of any other person, including the employee. It would therefore not be possible for a MOP(S) Act employee to undertake campaigning for their own election during normal working hours. Further information on employees who stand as a candidate is available.
Are volunteers and work experience students covered in the case of an accident in the office or elsewhere?
For information on risks affecting volunteers and other unpaid workers, refer to WHS risks during the election period.
Do I need to report WHS incidents involving my employees and/or volunteers?
Yes. Any incident that involves a volunteer working for you must be reported to the WHS and occupational rehabilitation services provider immediately.
Some serious work-related incidents involving volunteers are notifiable under the WHS Act, and must be reported to Comcare immediately on 1300 366 979. The notifiable incident flowchart is available to assist in assessing whether an incident must be notified directly to Comcare.
Office accommodation and resources
The Commonwealth provides offices (including reimbursement of eligible costs for satellite offices) and resources for offices (such as equipment and facilities) to parliamentarians for the conduct of their parliamentary business. This includes providing a service to all constituents.
It is not appropriate for a Commonwealth-funded office to be used as, or be perceived to be, a campaign headquarters.
You should exercise careful judgement to ensure that offices, equipment and facilities provided or reimbursed at Commonwealth expense are used in accordance with the Parliamentary Business Resources framework.
Can I use my office as a campaign headquarters?
No. Commonwealth-funded offices, including satellite offices, must not be used as a campaign headquarters.
Can I display campaign material on or inside my office?
Political or election campaign material must not be displayed:
- on the exterior walls, windows, fences etc. of a Commonwealth-funded office (including a satellite office); and/or
- inside the office where it is clearly visible from outside the office.
It is acceptable to display material inside the office that is not clearly visible from the outside. However, if you display material inside your office:
- you should take care to avoid the perception that your office is being used as a campaign office; and
- the display of material must conform to the terms of your office lease and any local and/or State government requirements.
Can I place campaign material on the public/pedestrian area outside my office?
This a matter of judgement and decision by you, taking into account lease conditions and any local and/or State government regulations that may apply. Your MaPS state or territory manager can be contacted for further assistance.
Is there anything I should be taking into account regarding increased use of my office during the election period?
You should arrange for Commonwealth-funded office equipment to be serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and for general repairs and maintenance to be undertaken. Should any Commonwealth-funded office equipment malfunction, please contact the MaPS state or territory office and they will arrange repairs as soon as possible.
For Commonwealth-funded IT equipment, such as PCs, laptops, tablets and printers, please contact the Department of Parliamentary Services' 2020 Service Desk.
It is your personal responsibility to service, repair and maintain any office equipment, including IT equipment, that is leased or hired by you for operating your satellite office.
If the office will be used regularly after normal working hours, advise your security monitoring company. If working late at night, staff should be encouraged to move their vehicles closer to the office and/or arrange to walk to their vehicles with a colleague.
If there will be an increase in the number of visitors to the office, care should be taken to ensure that adequate security arrangements are in place, including ensuring that:
- you or a staff member are present at all times when the office is open
- visitors are supervised whilst in the office
- papers, documents and data storage devices are locked away when not in use
- personal items (handbags and wallets) and portable and attractive items (cameras, data projectors, voice recorders, laptops, mobile telephones, tablets, remote access tokens and mobile broadband cards) are kept in a secure place when not in use
- computers are logged off while unattended.
Work health and safety
You will need to take into account your duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act). You have the same duties under the WHS Act towards volunteers who carry out work for you in any capacity in your office as you have towards MOP(S) Act employees.
You must ensure that volunteers are consulted about any aspect of their work that could affect their health and safety, and are trained in the safe operation of equipment.
You should pay particular attention to aspects of work within your office that could increase risks to the health and safety of workers during the election period. Risk factors might include, but are not limited to:
- overcrowding within the office
- increased work hours
- increased travel
- increased contact with members of the public
- increased work outside the office environment
- unclear expectations of MOP(S) Act employees and volunteers.
For information on risks affecting employees, volunteers and other unpaid workers, refer to WHS risks during the election period.
What effect will the announcement of the Federal election have on my remuneration?
Senators for a state are ordinarily paid remuneration until the end of the last day of their term of service as a senator.
Can I use my private-plated vehicle during the election period?
Yes. There are no changes as a result of this election.