The Parliamentary Business Resources framework (PBR framework) is the principles-based framework governing parliamentarians' work expenses.
The PBR framework is made up of the:
- Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 (PBR Act)
- Parliamentary Business Resources Regulations 2017 (PBR Regulations)
- Determinations made under the PBR Act.
Under the PBR framework, parliamentarians must ensure that work expenses for parliamentary business are consistent with the obligations under the PBR Act: value for money, dominant purpose, conditions, good faith and personal responsibility and accountability.
Value for money
A parliamentarian must use public resources for parliamentary business in a way that achieves value for money.
Value for money means using public money efficiently, effectively and economically. Value for money requires consideration of both financial and non-financial costs and benefits.
For example, value for money is met by selecting the lowest cost travel option that will best meet the parliamentarian’s operational needs.
A parliamentarian must ensure that any expenses incurred are for the ‘dominant purpose’ of conducting parliamentary business.
The ‘dominant purpose test’ governs when a parliamentarian may access public resources. Where the parliamentarian’s main reason for undertaking the activity is parliamentary business, they will have satisfied the dominant purpose test.
The test is whether the parliamentarian would have undertaken the travel or incurred the expense 'but for' the parliamentary business, which must be the 'prevailing' or 'most influential' purpose of the travel. Any personal matters during parliamentary business travel must be incidental to the trip. Expenses should not be claimed if they are for the dominant purpose of personal or commercial activities.
A parliamentarian must not make a claim, or incur an expense, in relation to a public resource if they have not met ALL of the conditions for its provision.
Conditions may include imposed limits and can be specific to individual work expenses. They are set out in the PBR Regulations and in Determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal and the Special Minister of State.
A parliamentarian must act ethically and in good faith when using, or accounting for the use of, public resources.
Parliamentarians must not seek to disguise their personal or commercial business as parliamentary business.
Acting in good faith requires that parliamentarians act honestly and consider all of the reasons for claiming or using public resources in each circumstance.
Personal responsibility and accountability
A parliamentarian is personally responsible and accountable for their use of public resources and must consider how the public would perceive their use of those resources for travel in particular circumstances.
Personal responsibility extends to the use of public resources in the parliamentarian’s name by others who may be authorised to incur expenses within their office or for family reunion purposes.
If a parliamentarian is publicly questioned over their use of work, including travel, resources they are expected to publicly justify their use of those resources.
Simply stating that a parliamentarian’s use of expenses in the circumstances in question was consistent with the rules may not be enough to meet the obligations of the framework.
What is parliamentary business?
There are four categories that make up parliamentary business.
- Parliamentary duties: a parliamentarian’s activities that relate directly to their role as a member of Parliament.
- Electorate duties: a parliamentarian’s activities that support or serve their constituents.
- Party political duties: a parliamentarian’s formal activities that are connected with their political party.
- Official duties: a parliamentarian’s duties that relate to their role as an office holder or minister.
In a parliamentarian’s capacity as a member of the Parliament, parliamentary duties include:
- preparing for, participating in and attending to business arising from proceedings of the Parliament, whether by committee of the whole or otherwise
- developing, reviewing or amending legislation or proposed legislation, and activities engaged in for that purpose
- undertaking research, communication (including with stakeholders) or administration connected with the business of the Parliament, the member’s policy portfolio, or their role as a member
- preparing for, participating in, or attending to matters arising from an official government, parliamentary or vice regal meeting, event or function
- preparing for, participating in, or attending to matters arising from a meeting (including with stakeholders), event or function for the purposes of their role as a member, including in relation to the member’s policy portfolio
- preparing for, participating in, or attending to matters arising from a non-Parliamentary committee, taskforce or other formal group in which the member participates
- representing the Parliament, in accordance with an approval of the Parliament or a House of the Parliament, and engaging in associated activities for that purpose
- representing a minister or office holder in their official capacity, at the request of that minister or office holder, at a meeting, event or function
- representing the Government or Australia, with the approval of the Prime Minister.
Did you know? For ministers representing the Government or Australia in their capacity as a minister, it is considered part of their official duties.
In a parliamentarian’s capacity as their constituents’ elected representative, electorate duties may include:
- facilitating and participating in debate, discussion, a meeting, event or function, or undertaking research or administrative functions relating to matters of importance or interest to constituents (including matters that do not relate exclusively to constituents, such as matters of national importance)
- otherwise communicating with constituents
- representing the views and interests of constituents.
In a parliamentarian’s capacity as a member of a political party, political duties may include:
- formal meetings of the political party (including a meeting of the party executive, a committee or a subcommittee)
- national, state or territory conferences.
In a parliamentarian’s official capacity as a minister or office holder, official duties may include:
- exercising the powers or functions, or performing the duties, of the parliamentarian’s office, or activities engaged in for the purposes of doing so
- attending an event to which the parliamentarian has been invited in their official capacity
- other activities directly related to, and engaged in for the purposes of, performing the parliamentarian’s official role.
A ruling is a written determination establishing whether a parliamentarian has acted in accordance with the dominant purpose, value for money and specified conditions requirements of the PBR Act. A parliamentarian may request a ruling regarding a travel claim relating to them, or one may be initiated by IPEA.
Staff supporting parliamentarians are covered by the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 (MOP(S) Act). Under the MOP(S) Act, Determination 2020/15, Staff Travel and Relief Staff Arrangements sets out the travel arrangements for the staff of parliamentarians.
General requirements include:
- staff may only travel as directed by their employing parliamentarian within Australia on official business
- electorate staff travel is subject to available funds in the parliamentarian's electorate support budget (ESB)
- staff may only travel by the most efficient direct route available
- staff must not travel at Commonwealth expense for their personal benefit.