Printing, production, distribution and communication
The Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 imposes overarching obligations.
The dominant purpose and value for money tests and specified conditions must be met. See s25, 26, 27, 28.
The Commonwealth is not liable to pay an expense or provide a public resource where you contravene any of these obligations (s29, PBR Act).
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For the conduct of your parliamentary business, and subject to the limit of your annual budget for office expenses, you may use your budget for:
- printing, production, communication and distribution of material in hard copy, electronic and audio poster format, and establishing and maintaining websites, and
- printing and distributing postal vote applications, including reply paid envelopes.
You must comply with:
- your overarching obligations imposed by the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017, and
- specific restrictions imposed by Parliamentary Business Resources Regulations 2017.
For detailed information on restrictions see Office expenses – restrictions.
To be an eligible office expense, printing must:
- be on paper that does not weigh more than 700 grams per square metre, or flat magnetised material
- comply with your overarching obligations, and
- not contravene any restrictions.
Provided all overarching obligations and conditions are met, your annual budget for office expenses can be used to pay for commercial products or services for creating matter for inclusion in printed or electronic material or audio posters, including translation, design, artwork, photography and video and sound recordings. This includes:
- graphic design costs for printed or electronic material, but excludes costs to design a social media strategy or communications/engagement strategy
- the costs for hire of a photographer, a professional operator of a small unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) and/or photography equipment such as lighting or camera tripods.
- video production for inclusion in electronic communications (such as on social media platforms). Costs must be directly associated with creating the content of the electronic material (for example, costs for a videographer, voice-overs or subtitles). Costs not directly associated with creating the content of the electronic material, for example, hair styling and makeup, cannot be met as an office expense.
You should follow the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet's Guidelines for using the Commonwealth Coat of Arms if you wish to include it in printed or electronic material. For example, the Commonwealth Coat of Arms must not be used with political logos.
There is no prescribed limit on the number of postal vote applications (PVA) and reply paid envelopes for PVAs that may be printed for a federal election using your annual budget for office expenses. However, you must take into account your overarching obligations. This would include, for example, consideration of the number of PVAs required for your constituents. ‘Constituent’ is defined in section 5 Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 as a person enrolled to vote or resident in your electorate (State/Territory for a Senator).
Your annual budget for office expenses must not be used to produce, communicate or distribute material, including a postal vote application, which solicits a vote for a person other than yourself, or which provides instructions on how to complete a ballot paper.
You must ensure that reply-paid envelopes for the return of PVAs produced from your annual budget for office expenses are for the dominant purpose of your parliamentary business. It is therefore expected that the delivery address for a reply paid envelope for PVAs would be your electorate office, Parliament House office, Ministerial/Office Holder office (if applicable) or a Post Office Box associated with such offices.
The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 requires a postal vote application to be in the approved form, i.e. as approved by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) by notice published on the AEC’s website. See AEC Guidelines for the Reproduction of PVAs.
Section 184AA of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 provides that a postal vote application may be physically attached to, or form part of, other written material issued by any person or organisation.
To be an eligible office expense (even if the website is partly funded from sources other than the annual budget for office expenses), your website must:
- be identifiable as your website
- comply with your overarching obligations, and
- not contravene any restrictions nor contain direct links for ineligible purposes, such as a ‘donate here’ or a ‘contribute to my campaign’ link. However, it is acceptable for a website established and/or maintained using the annual budget for office expenses to contain a link to your party website.
Your website may contain a party emblem or logo (see Use of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms above for information on the use of the Coat of Arms).
Examples of costs for commercial services associated with the establishment and maintenance of websites include:
- design services
- website construction
- domain renewals
- upgrades, and
- website maintenance.
Costs related to professional networking website memberships cannot be covered by your annual budget for office expenses.
Website hosting may be paid up to 12 months in advance. Domain name registration may be paid up to 24 months in advance. In each case, this must comply with your overarching obligations, especially value for money. Considerations should include comparing the proposed period of hosting or registration (for example, one, two or three years) against the expected duration of your current parliamentary term. Progressive payments may be made for website development, redevelopment or design.
Social media costs may be met from your annual budget for office expenses, provided the expense complies with your overarching obligations, and does not contravene any restrictions. Costs that may be covered include:
- advertising on social media platforms
- social media monitoring - where your website allows comments to be posted, or includes a social media or RSS feed, the cost to monitor and manage the content on your website may be met.
- email services
- online survey tools (e.g. to gauge the views and opinions of constituents).
Expenses relating to social media consultancy and marketing services cannot be met from your annual budget for office expenses.
Communication and distribution products and services that may be accessed under this provision include:
- postal services from Australia Post (including credits to postage meters)
- other mail distribution services (including letter box drops in the electorate)
- courier services
- the placement of material in printed and electronic publications produced and distributed by third parties (including local and national newspapers)
- data products and data validation services for the purposes of communicating with your constituents
- other services for distributing information in hard copy or electronically (including the establishment and maintenance of websites).
However, your annual budget for office expenses must not be used to purchase stamps or stamped envelopes.
Whether produced in-house or commercially, material for communication or distribution must comply with your overarching obligations and any restrictions.
With the exception of website hosting, no prepayments or progressive payments can be made concerning the above printing, production, distribution and communication items as Ministerial and Parliamentary Services (MaPS) must be satisfied that a service has been delivered prior to payment.
For all good and services purchased from the annual budget for office expenses, tax invoices must meet the requirements as per guidance issued by the Australian Tax Office.
Claims for payment for items from your annual budget for office expenses should be sent to MaPS electronically via the Parliamentary Expenses Management System (PEMS). PEMS provides efficient, digital claims processing at any time of the day or night. However, if PEMS is unable to be used, complete a ‘Certification and request for payment - printing, communications and software’ form.
Cost sharing for printing and distribution
You may apportion the cost of printing and/or distribution of material produced jointly with another Commonwealth or State parliamentarian provided that the material meets all requirements for office expenses. Likewise, when distributing material using your annual budget for office expenses, you may include material that has been produced by a State parliamentarian or local government representative, provided the inclusion complies with all requirements for office expenses.
You should especially take care to ensure that the dominant purpose of producing and/or distributing the material is your parliamentary business. Expenses of one parliamentarian cannot be bestowed upon another solely for the benefit of the other. For example, a member of the House of Representatives cannot meet the full costs of production and distribution of a publication under his or her office budget on behalf of a senator, even if the senator and member share a constituency, and vice versa.
In addition to value for money, you must ensure expenditure from your annual budget for office expenses is not used to produce, communicate or distribute material that
- a vote for a person other than yourself;
- a subscription or other financial or non-financial support (other than volunteering) for yourself, a political party or a candidate;
- an application for or renewal of membership in a political party; or
b. provides instructions on how to complete a ballot paper.
For further information, see Office expenses - restrictions.
Last updated: 09 April 2020