Conditions for claiming

Last updated
04 February 2021

When claiming an expense, allowance or other public resource, you must ensure that you have met all conditions which apply to the resource. These are set by the Parliamentary Business Resources Regulations 2017 (PBR Regulations) and determinations of the Minister.

The Commonwealth is not liable to pay a claim where you contravene any conditions.

Conditions applying to office expenses (office expenses budget)

The PBR Regulations impose specific conditions on the use of office expenses. If you contravene a condition, you are unable to claim expenses for the item.

For example, to claim printing costs, you must meet your overarching obligations to:

  • print the material for the dominant purpose of conducting your parliamentary business
  • be satisfied that the choice, and cost, of printing achieves value for money,

You must also meet the following conditions specific to printing:

  • print on paper weighing no more than 700 grams per square metre or flat magnetised material
  • ensure the printed material does not:
    • solicit a vote for another person (or any political party)
    • solicit subscriptions or other financial support or non-financial support for any parliamentarian, political party or candidate (other than volunteering)
    • solicit applications for or renewals of membership in a political party
    • provide instructions on how to complete a ballot paper
    • include an advertisement pursuing a commercial purpose for yourself or another person (including a business)
  • ensure the claim would not exceed the limit of your office expenses budget (as set by section 67 of the PBR Regulations).

MaPS can provide advice on proposed non-travel related claims under the PBR Act to ensure you meet your obligations through an optional, pre-claim assessment.

Broadcasting on television or radio

Office expenses must not be used to pay for the production or placement of content for broadcasting on television.

If you are a member of the House of Representatives who represents a Rural or Provincial electorate, as determined by the Australian Electoral Commission, you may use your office expenses budget to produce or place electronic material for broadcast on:

  • regional commercial radio services
  • regional community radio services
  • open narrowcast radio services (within the meaning of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992).

Open narrowcast services are broadcast radio services whose reception is limited in some way, such as by location or specific events.

If you are a member of the House of Representatives representing an Outer or Inner Metropolitan electorate, or a senator, you are ineligible to use office expenses to pay for the production or placement of content for broadcasting on radio.

For eligible members of the House of Representatives:

In order for broadcasting services to be met from your office expenses budget:

  • the broadcasting services must be provided by the licensee of a regional commercial radio broadcasting licence, a regional community radio broadcasting licence or a class licence under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 for the provision of an open narrowcasting radio service,

and 

  • the regional licence area of the regional commercial radio broadcasting licence or the community radio broadcasting licence, or the coverage area of the open narrowcast radio service must be at least in part within the boundaries of your electorate, as defined in section 4 of the PBR Regulations, and not in the Australian Capital Territory.

Information on licence areas of commercial radio services is available using Commercial Radio Australia’s Find a Station function. Information on braodcasting licence areas, including for community radio broadcasting licences, is available from the Australian Communications and Media Authority. These websites provide information that may assist eligible members to determine that the licence area of a radio service overlaps the area of their electorate. However, as these websites are national, they also include details of licence areas and radio services that do not intersect with eligible members’ electorates and therefore cannot be claimed as an office expense.

You may use a maximum of one-third of your office expenses budget for all categories of broadcast radio services, including the production of content.

You are not permitted to share the cost of producing or placing broadcast radio content with another parliamentarian.

Content that cannot be broadcast on television or radio may be disseminated online including via your or other websites, podcasts or streaming services, including online commercial television streaming services (subject to satisfying your PBR obligations, including the dominant purpose and value for money tests).

Postage stamps or stamped envelopes

Office expenses must not be used to purchase postage stamps or stamped envelopes.

Instead, you may use:

  • your postage meter at your electorate office
  • the allocation of stamps at Parliament House provided by your parliamentary department (if you request this)
  • an Australian Post charge account (you will need to apply directly to Australia Post for this).

Material that solicits a vote for another person

You may use your work expenses in support of your own re-election, but not to produce, communicate or distribute material that seeks the election or re-election of any other person or to solicit a vote for a political party. This includes the use of printed and electronic material, and material produced either in-house or by a commercial service provider.

In general, material produced, communicated or distributed using your office expenses budget should not mention voting, unless the material expressly requests the recipient to vote for you, or is about participating in an election without soliciting a vote for any person or party.

Statement

Permitted, subject to obligations

‘Vote for Sarah’ (where Sarah is the parliamentarian making the claim).

‘Vote for Joe’ (where Sarah is the parliamentarian making the claim).

✖ 

‘Vote for X1 party’.

✖ 

‘Vote for your local X1 party candidate’.

✖ 

‘Just another reason to vote X1 party at the next election’.

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‘The best way to make sure that doesn't happen is to vote X1 party’.

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‘Joe, a hard working State MP’ (where Sarah is the parliamentarian making the claim and there is no soliciting of a vote for Joe).

‘X1 Party working for you’ (provided there is no soliciting of a vote for X1 Party).

‘Get out and vote at the federal election’.

Material seeks the views or voting preferences of the electorate, e.g. as part of a questionnaire or survey.

1 ‘X’ represents the name of a political party.

Material that includes an advertisement that pursues the commercial purposes of the parliamentarian or another person

Examples of types of printing and communications and phrases or activities that may and may not be included in material produced, communicated or distributed using your office expenses budget are outlined below.

Office expenses must not be used to produce, communicate or distribute any material that includes an advertisement that pursues your commercial purposes or those of another person.

The intention is that no commercial benefit flows from the inclusion of material – for example, in a newsletter. This goes further than the dominant purpose test (because the newsletter could still be for the dominant purpose of your electorate duties, even if a commercial advertisement was placed in the newsletter).

To be eligible to claim office expenses for material produced either by a commercial service provider or in-house, the material must not include an advertisement that pursues the provision of a financial gain or reward for you or another person. This applies even if a payment was not received, nor any request made, to place the advertisement in the material. Consider, for example, if an article might be seen to promote a particular local business, especially if there are similar businesses in the area.

However, parliamentary business supported by office expenses may involve incidental reference to a for-profit business and not contravene either the general dominant purpose requirement or this specific condition concerning ‘commercial purposes.’

Examples of material considered to include or not include a prohibited advertisement for the purpose of claiming expenses under your office expenses budget are outlined below.

Statement

Permitted, subject to obligations

Newsletter/video/website includes an advertisement for ‘Joe Bloggs, Butcher, address and/or phone’.

✖ 

Newsletter/video includes an article/footage about a local event or issue, with text/speech referring to local businessman Joe Bloggs as a person that operates a local butchery.

Newsletter/video includes an article/footage about a local event or issue, with text/speech referring to local businessman Joe Bloggs and the name of his business, Joe Bloggs’ Butcher.

Contact MaPS for a pre-claim assessment if you intend to produce or distribute material which mentions the name of a for-profit business, includes symbols or logos representing a business, otherwise identifies a business, or calls for supporting local businesses.

Parliamentarians should be careful not to promote/advertise (or be seen to promote/advertise) for-profit businesses in any way. Any references to for-profit business should be incidental only.

Newsletter promotes a charity activity or event, sponsored by Big Bank, (e.g. the inclusion of a fun run logo that includes the logo/branding of the Big Bank and/or photos of the event that include logos/branding of the Big Bank that are incidental in nature).

Newsletter promotes a charity activity or event, sponsored by Big Bank, and on several pages of the newsletter has references to ‘the Big Bank and its logo’.

✖ 

Magnetised calendar contains parliamentarian’s office address, emergency numbers etc.

Magnetised calendar contains Parliamentarian’s office address, emergency numbers etc. plus ‘Joe Bloggs Butcher, address and/or phone number’.

✖ 

Material that solicits subscriptions, other financial support or non-financial support (other than volunteering) for a parliamentarian, political party or candidate

Office expenses must not be used to produce, communicate or distribute material that solicits subscriptions, other financial support, or non-financial support (other than volunteering) for a parliamentarian, political party or candidate. This includes provision of support in kind, such as donation of goods and services.

Broad positive statements about the parliamentary or electorate contribution of your parliamentary colleague, political party or an election candidate may be permitted where the material meets your PBR obligations. In particular, that the material is for the dominant purpose of your parliamentary business and not that of your parliamentary colleague, political party, or an election candidate.

Statements requesting support (other than volunteering or a vote for yourself) are not permitted – for example, requests for donations of money or items.

This preclusion applies to all office expenses including printed and electronic material, and material produced either by a commercial service provider or in-house.

Examples of types of printing and communications and phrases or activities that may and may not be included in material produced, communicated or distributed using your office expenses budget are outlined below.

Statement

Permitted, subject to obligations

Newsletter or website refers the recipient/user/audience to a website and that website includes a link to a webpage which seeks donations for a parliamentarian, political party or candidate, e.g. ‘find out more about the election/X1 Party at the X1 Party website [which has a ‘donate here’ link amongst other information and links]’.

Note: material that includes a link which refers the recipient/user/audience directly to a webpage which seeks donations for a parliamentarian, political party or candidate is not permitted.

‘If you would like to volunteer for my campaign, contact my office’.

‘I ask for your support at this election’.
‘I now seek your support to continue to represent you in this capacity’.
‘[X party] and I ask for your support at this election’.
‘Get out and support the [X party] at this election’.
‘I ask that you support [candidate] at this election’.
‘Contact [candidate] for ways in which you can support them at this election’.
‘Contact [X party] for ways in which you can support it at this election’

An invitation to a function you are hosting where cost recovery occurs - e.g. a town hall community meeting where light refreshments are provided for a ‘gold coin’ donation, or a breakfast with a small cover charge to cover costs (and no profit).

‘Please donate [money, corflutes, signage, printing, etc.] to [my re-election campaign]/[to the [X1 Party]]/[to [candidate’s] election campaign]’.

✖ 

Website has a ‘donate here’ link.

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‘Donate to the X1 party’.

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‘Follow this link to donate to the X1 party’.

✖ 

1 ‘X’ represents the name of a political party.

Material that solicits applications for or renewals of membership in a political party

Office expenses must not be used to produce, communicate or distribute material that solicits applications for or renewals of membership in a political party. This includes printed and electronic material, and material produced either by a commercial service provider or in-house.

Examples of types of printing and communications and phrases or activities that may and may not be included in material produced, communicated or distributed using your office expenses budget are outlined below.

Statement

Permitted, subject to obligations

‘To join or renew your membership in the X1 Party, see our website’.

✖ 

Newsletter or website refers the recipient/user/audience to a website and that website includes a link to a webpage which seeks party memberships, e.g. ‘find out more about the election/X1 Party at the X1 party website [which has an ‘apply here’ link amongst other information and links]’.

Note: material that includes a link which refers the recipient/user/audience directly to a webpage which seeks party memberships is not permitted.

‘Join the X1 Party’.

✖ 

1 ‘X’ represents the name of a political party.

Material that provides instructions on how to complete a ballot paper

Office expenses must not be used to produce, communicate or distribute material that provides instructions on how to complete a ballot paper.

Examples of phrases that may and may not be included in material produced under the office expenses budget are outlined below.

Statement

Permitted, subject to obligations

‘Vote for Sarah’ (where Sarah is the parliamentarian making the claim).

 ‘If you would like to support my re-election, place a 1 in the box beside my name on the green ballot paper and number every other square in the order of your preference’.

✖ 

‘Vote 1 for the X1 Party’.

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‘Vote 1 Sarah’.

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‘How to vote for Sarah - Vote 1 Sarah then number every box in order of your preference’.

✖ 

1 ‘X’ represents the name of a political party.

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