Ethical obligations

Last updated
04 February 2021

The Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 (PBR Act) imposes a set of ethical obligations on you when you use public resources for conducting your parliamentary business.

Failure to meet your ethical obligations does not remove the Commonwealth’s liability to provide you the expenses, allowances or public resources you claim. However, acting inconsistently with these obligations may not meet community expectations. The public resources you claim and how you use them attract close media attention and from time to time criticism. Use of public resources is frequently the subject of applications received by the Department of Finance under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

In the event that a provision of the framework is open to more than one interpretation, you should act in a way that is consistent with and gives best effect to these obligations as they underline the object and purpose of the framework.

Personally responsible and accountable, and prepared to publicly justify

You are personally responsible for ensuring that a public resource which you claim under the PBR framework:

If you direct or authorise your staff member to make arrangements on your behalf in relation to your work expenses – for example, ordering office expenses – you remain personally responsible and accountable for the expenditure and use of those resources. You must be satisfied that your instructions take into account your obligations to only claim expenses for the dominant purpose of your parliamentary business, ensure value for money and meet all conditions for claiming.

You must be prepared to publicly justify your use of public resources for conducting your parliamentary business. It is important to take extra care to avoid creating grounds for criticism which even if ill-founded can damage your reputation. Being prepared to publicly justify your use of public resources means that you should bear community expectations in mind as your use will be measured against these.

In deciding whether to claim public resources or incur expenses, you can adopt a risk assessment approach by asking yourself:

Is it within the framework?

How would it look? Is it justifiable?

What is the overall risk?

Clearly yes

Fully defensible

Low risk

Technically yes

Some difficulty in defending publicly

Medium risk

Arguably yes

May/would attract criticism

High risk

Clearly no

Would certainly attract criticism and is completely unjustifiable


Act ethically and in good faith

You must act ethically and in good faith in using and accounting for your use of public resources.

Acting ethically and in good faith requires you to make sincere efforts to carefully use and account for your use of public resources. You should also consider any actual, potential and perceived conflicts of interest.

Acting ethically and in good faith means that you do not seek to disguise your personal or commercial business as parliamentary business, but act honestly and consider your reasons for claiming or using public resources.


1. Are you making your claim ethically, in good faith, and bearing in mind what may be publicly justifiable?

Example: Are you arranging your parliamentary business (or characterising an activity as ‘parliamentary business’) to justify actions that are for your personal benefit or to provide a commercial benefit to yourself or someone else?

2. Is there any real or perceived favouritism or conflict of interest if you select a particular provider of goods or services? Is the provider related to you in some way, presenting a risk of a conflict of interest?

Example: Even if the dominant purpose is to conduct your parliamentary business, and the provider represents value for money, is there a conflict of interest?
What if you repeatedly procure the goods or services from the same business? Can another business meet your requirement and provide the same, similar or better value for money taking into account factors such as quality, timeframe and cost?

3. Are you prepared to publicly justify your expenditure decision?

Example: Are you able to demonstrate that an expense provides value for money for taxpayers? Did you obtain several quotes or explore different options? Is there evidence of this?
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