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Selection and use of offices

Overarching obligations

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).

Selection of premises and value for money

The Minister is responsible for determining the office accommodation to be provided to you, and, in doing so, must ensure that the expenses that are incurred, or the public resources that are provided, provide value for money. To the extent you have discretion in the provision or use of the office or office resources, your obligation to ensure value for money continues to apply (s27, PBR Act), including in respect of an office refurbishment, extension or relocation.

In relation to office accommodation, value for money includes consideration of:

  • any suitable, available offices leased by the Commonwealth (generally, it is expected that you will occupy the office vacated by your predecessor)
  • lease conditions, costs (such as rent and outgoings) and landlord incentives
  • size and layout of the office, its location in relation to relevant factors, such as a transport hub, the CBD or your home base (which may increase time and cost efficiencies), and accessibility
  • the likelihood of any potential electorate boundary redistributions, change in portfolio or office holder responsibilities (in which case the premises may become over- or under-sized), and re-letting the premises.

The determination of the Minister is required:

  • to relocate an office
  • for an office refurbishment exceeding $20,000 (Ministerial and Parliamentary Services handles fitouts costing less than $20,000).

Any request to refurbish, extend or relocate your office should be directed to your Ministerial and Parliamentary Services State Manager who will explain the procedures involved.

Size and layout of premises

Office sizes vary, but typically second and third electorate offices are smaller than primary electorate offices. In order to accommodate the additional staff allocated to assist with official duties, the offices for Ministers and (where possible) Parliamentary Secretaries and Office Holders are generally larger than primary electorate offices. An office located within a Commonwealth Parliament Office (CPO) may be smaller due to the shared facilities within the CPO.

Office layouts usually include:

  • an entrance that provides adequate equitable access
  • a secure reception counter
  • a personal office for you
  • office space for your staff
  • kitchen facilities
  • toilet and washroom facilities
  • a multi-function room for meetings, interviews and general work
  • a storage and utilities room
  • a second exit, where possible.

Dominant purpose of parliamentary business

Office accommodation must be used for the dominant purpose of conducting your parliamentary business. Offices must not be used for the dominant purpose of providing a personal benefit to you or another person.

You must not use your office for any commercial purposes. Commercial purpose is defined in section 5 Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 as a ‘purpose relating to the derivation of financial gain or reward’. 

Where use of your office could be perceived to provide a (non-commercial) benefit to you or another person (or organisation), consideration should be given as to whether you are prepared to publicly justify the use of your office as being for the dominant purpose of conducting your parliamentary business, and whether the perceived benefit may be difficult to defend publicly, regardless of the parliamentary business being undertaken (see Personal Responsibility - Acting Ethically and in Good Faith).

Any commercial use of offices or office resources means the Commonwealth is not liable to cover expenses relating to the resource; and you will be required to repay the amount of the resource and a 25% penalty loading may apply.

Scenarios Permitted Excluded
Use of your office to conduct a media briefing or meeting on a matter which is your parliamentary business Permitted  
Use of your office for parliamentary business activities (which also support your re-election campaign). Permitted, with limitations by convention – see Election Q&As Permitted  
Display of signs outside or inside the office advertising a local business.   Excluded
Use of your office to undertake fundraising activities   Excluded
Use of your office predominantly for personal purposes.
Note: While your office is provided for the dominant purpose of parliamentary business, limited incidental use is permitted. However, regular personal use (e.g. for unrelated meetings or private functions) may not be defensible.
Use of your office by a business to store merchandise or make business telephone calls etc.
Note: Use of your office for any commercial purpose is not permitted.

Use by community groups

You may allow not-for-profit community groups to use your Commonwealth-funded office facilities for minor non-commercial purposes, such as to make local calls or small amounts of photocopying. You must exercise judgement as to the nature of the community group or individual and what constitutes ‘minor’ use, as excessive use of your office or office resources by community groups or individuals may constitute an actual or perceived improper use of Commonwealth resources or contravene the dominant purpose test.

You remain accountable for all use of resources provided to you at Commonwealth expense, including any charges incurred for use of office equipment and facilities, such as telephones. You should ensure appropriate oversight of the use of your office and resources by community groups. This would include:

  • supervision of the use of office facilities by employees who are familiar with the safe and appropriate operation of the equipment and are able to provide assistance or instruction if required
  • the security of office equipment, facilities and documents.

You should also note that, in addition to your duties to your workers, you have duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of any person is not put at risk from work carried out within your workplace.

Who to contact

Any request to refurbish, extend or relocate your office should be directed to your Ministerial and Parliamentary Services State Manager who will explain the procedures involved.

Ministerial and Parliamentary Services provides guidance and consults with you and the Contracted Property Services Provider on office layout, location and furniture and fittings with the intention of providing the highest practicable degree of compatibility with your office needs, equitable access, security and work health and safety based on current knowledge and standards, and also achieving value for money.

See Responsibilities for Office Issues.

Last updated: 03 February 2020