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Dominant purpose test: parliamentary business

Public resources may only be used for the dominant purpose of conducting your parliamentary business. The activities of parliamentary business fall within four duty streams:

Note: The parliamentary, electorate and party political duty streams only apply to senators and members of the House of Representatives. That is, a person who is not a senator or member of the House of Representatives (such as a Minister whose term has expired in the Parliament but continues to be a Minister) is unable to rely on the specified activities under these streams when claiming any public resources.

The official duties stream only applies to office holders and Ministers of State.

On receipt of a claim, MaPS may request evidence or compliance information from you to determine whether the PBR Act has been complied with (s98, PBR Regulations). This may include the further information about the parliamentary business to which the claim relates. The Commonwealth is not liable to pay an expense or provide a public resource where you contravene your obligation to only claim the expense or public resource for the dominant purpose of conducting your parliamentary business (s29, PBR Act).

Dominant purpose test:

You may only claim an expense or an allowance, and may only use a public resource, for the dominant purpose of conducting your parliamentary business (see s26 of the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017)

  • Parliamentary business’ means an activity determined by the Minister for the purposes of your parliamentary, electorate, party political or official duties as defined in s6 of the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017
  • ‘Parliamentary business’ does not include any activity with the dominant purpose of providing you or another person with a personal benefit, or pursuing your or another person's commercial purposes (see ss6(2) and 26(4) Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017)
  • ‘Commercial purpose’ means a purpose relating to the derivation of financial gain or reward (see s5 Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017

The dominant purpose test asks whether, but for the parliamentary business, you would have undertaken the activity; or incurred or claimed the expense, allowance or other public resource. Where you would have taken the same action without the parliamentary business, the test is not satisfied.

The dominant purpose test would allow an activity to be undertaken or an expense to be incurred by you for more than one purpose, but requires that parliamentary business be the dominant purpose.

Important note:

Certain public resources provided to you must not be used for any commercial purpose regardless of whether the dominant purpose test is satisfied. Such public resources include electorate offices, offices for Ministers and office holders, resources provided for those offices under the PBR Act, and satellite offices. Similarly, office expenses (including printed material and websites) must not include an advertisement pursuing a commercial purpose for any person.

Any commercial use of offices or office resources, or the inclusion of a commercially-purposed advertisement in an office expense means the Commonwealth is not liable to cover any expenses relating to the resource. You will be required to repay the amount of the claimed resource and a 25% penalty loading may also apply.

Things to consider

Before undertaking an activity that may result in a claim, you should consider whether:

  • you would undertake the activity ‘but for’ your parliamentary business; that is, even if you were not conducting the parliamentary business. If so, a claim must not be made (see paragraph 96 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the PBR Act)
  • the activity could be perceived to provide a personal or commercial benefit to you or another person
  • you are prepared to publicly justify your use of public resources as being for the conduct of your parliamentary business
  • the activity has a personal or commercial benefit that is so significant that it would not be publicly defensible to incur any expense, regardless of the parliamentary business being undertaken.

For example:

  • ordering office stationery or equipment specifically for your personal use or the use of a constituent or an organisation such as your political party, a sports club or community group would not be for the dominant purpose of parliamentary business
  • making arrangements for a business to print newsletters, where you have a financial interest in that business would be considered a commercial purpose
  • including information on your webpage to advertise a business or venture from which you or another person could derive a financial gain or reward would be considered a commercial purpose.


Last updated: 21 January 2020