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House of Representatives Practice, 6th edition – HTML version

5 - Members

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Members’ remuneration and entitlements

Review of Parliamentary Entitlements

The Committee of Review of Parliamentary Entitlements was appointed by the Government in 2009, following a report by the Australian National Audit Office that had been critical of the administration of parliamentary entitlements.[105]

The committee found the existing arrangements to be complex and ambiguous, and made recommendations which aimed to ensure that Members and Senators are given relevant and adequate resources to do their jobs within a simplified, transparent and accountable framework that has regard to contemporary community standards. In its report the committee separated remuneration from ‘tools of trade’ such as office facilities and transport. Among the committee’s recommendations were that remuneration be set by Remuneration Tribunal determination and not be subject to disallowance by the Parliament, that the base rate of electorate allowance be incorporated into parliamentary salary, and that tools of trade entitlements be regulated by a single piece of legislation. It also made specific recommendations in relation to various entitlements.[106]

As noted below, legislation was introduced in 2011 to implement some of the committee’s recommendations. Information in the following paragraphs is likely to be subject to further change as other recommendations are implemented.

Salaries

The authority for payment of salaries to Members of Parliament and Ministers was expressly provided for in the Constitution,[107] which reflected the practice followed by various State Parliaments. Thus, while it was not an innovation, Australia nevertheless preceded in this regard the UK House of Commons which did not make permanent provision for the payment of Members until 1911.[108] For a summary of the earlier history of remuneration arrangements for Members see pages 181–3 of the second edition.

Remuneration of Members of the House of Representatives and Senators is set by the Remuneration and Allowances Act 1990. The Act was amended in 2011 to provide for the parliamentary base salary to be determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, to require the Tribunal to publish reasons for its decisions in relation to parliamentary remuneration and to remove the Parliament’s ability to disallow parliamentary remuneration determinations made by the Tribunal.[109] Information on the current rates of salary can be found on the Remuneration Tribunal’s website.[110]

Ministers and office holders receive an additional salary, and in some cases additional travelling allowance, as well as the basic parliamentary salary and allowance payable to all Members. The Remuneration Tribunal determines the additional salary paid to holders of a number of offices, including the Presiding Officers and their Deputies, Opposition Leaders and their Deputies, whips, shadow ministers, Manager of Opposition Business, members of the Speaker’s panel, and chairs and deputy chairs of parliamentary committees.[111] The Remuneration and Allowances Act 1990 provides that, for the purposes of the provisions, ‘parliamentary committees’ means committees concerned with public affairs rather than the domestic affairs of Parliament, and provides that increases in the rates of additional salary occur at the same time and in the same proportion as increases in the basic salary payable to Members. Where new offices are established or the title of an existing office is varied the additional salary payable is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal.[112] The Remuneration Tribunal advises the Government on the additional salary payable to Ministers.[113]

A Member is paid salary and allowances from and including the day of the election, to and including:

  • the day of dissolution, if not seeking re-election; or
  • the day before the election, if re-nominating but defeated at the election.

A Member who is re-elected is paid continuously.

The additional salary payable to the Speaker continues to be paid until and including the day before the next Speaker is elected, even if the Speaker does not seek re-election at an election as a Member, is defeated at the election or resigns. These payments are continued because certain administrative functions continue to be performed by the Speaker between the date of dissolution or resignation and the election of a new Speaker. For the purposes of exercising any powers or functions under a law of the Commonwealth the incumbent Speaker is deemed to continue to be the Presiding Officer for this purpose under the terms of the Parliamentary Presiding Officers Act 1965.

In the case of the Deputy Speaker, entitlement to additional salary ceases:

  • at the date of dissolution, if he or she does not seek re-election as a Member; or
  • on the day before the election, if he or she is defeated at the election.

If the Deputy Speaker is re-elected as a Member, additional salary continues to be paid until and including the day before a successor is elected, as he or she may also have administrative functions to perform under the Parliamentary Presiding Officers Act.

The additional salary payable to whips, members of the Speaker’s panel and chairs of parliamentary committees ceases at the date of dissolution. The additional salary payable to Ministers continues until a new Ministry is selected and sworn in by the Governor-General.[114]

Electorate allowance and other entitlements

The Remuneration Tribunal determines Members’ electorate allowances and certain other entitlements. The electorate allowance is a special allowance for expenses necessarily incurred by a Member in the performance of parliamentary duties. The rate of electorate allowance is set by the Remuneration Tribunal. Three rates are applicable, depending on the size of a Member’s electorate. A Member’s electorate allowance is not taxed at source; however, amounts not expended for electorate purposes may be assessed as part of a Member’s taxable income.[115]

A travelling allowance is paid to cover expenses incurred in overnight stays away from the electorate on parliamentary business, which includes nights spent in Canberra during the sittings of the House, overnight stays in connection with meetings of parliamentary committees and a limited number of overnight stays within the electorate, the actual entitlement depending on the size of electorate. Travelling allowance is also payable, on a limited basis, for meetings of a Member’s parliamentary party and for meetings of party committees. Members are entitled to a number of other benefits in matters such as travel, telephone and postage services and motor vehicles. Depending on their length of service, Members may also have entitlements to travel at government expense after they cease to be Members of Parliament.[116]

Members are provided with office accommodation in Parliament House and in their electorate and are entitled to employ three full-time staff members, or equivalent part-time staff. One staff member may be located in Canberra. In some of the larger electorates a second office and an additional staff member are provided. Each Member also has a limited budget to employ casual staff. The number and level of Members’ staff, the location and extent of office accommodation outside Parliament House and the nature of office furniture and equipment, including computer services, for these offices are determined by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation. Electorate staff are employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984.

Compensation for Members (and their families) in the event of death or injury in connection with official business is by means of ex gratia cover. Payments have paralleled the entitlements Commonwealth employees receive under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988.[117]

Superannuation benefits

The Parliamentary Superannuation Act 2004 introduced new parliamentary superannuation arrangements for persons who first became members of the Federal Parliament, or returned to the Parliament after a previous period in Parliament, at or after the 2004 general election. Under these arrangements employer contributions of 15.4% of total parliamentary salaries (but not including certain allowances such as electorate allowance) are paid into a superannuation fund or retirement savings account nominated by the Member or Senator. These Members also have access to salary-sacrifice arrangements in respect of superannuation contributions.

Members and Senators who were sitting members of Parliament immediately before the 2004 general election were not affected by the new arrangements while they continued to remain in Parliament and remained covered by the former defined benefits scheme described in earlier editions, established by the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1948.[118]

A Member whose place becomes vacant through the operation of section 44 paragraph (i) of the Constitution, concerning allegiance to a foreign power, or paragraph (ii) concerning treason or conviction for an offence, or through section 45 paragraph (iii) as it relates to services rendered in the Parliament, is entitled to a refund of employee contributions only.[119] Under the Crimes (Superannuation Benefits) Act 1989 a similarly restricted entitlement may apply to a Member convicted of certain offences, including a Member so convicted after resignation.[120]


105. Australian National Audit Office, Administration of Parliamentarians’ Entitlements by the Department of Finance and Deregulation, Performance audit report no. 3, 2009–10.
106. Committee of Review of Parliamentary Entitlements, Committee Report, April 2010.
107. Constitution, ss. 48, 66 (in s. 48 the payment to Members and Senators is referred to as an allowance).
108. May, 24th edn, p. 52.
109. Remuneration and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2011. These changes implemented a major recommendation of the Committee of Review of Parliamentary Entitlements. Prior to these changes Members and Senators received a base salary linked to a reference salary (that of Principal Executive Officer Band A) as determined by the Remuneration Tribunal. However, the effect of the determination on the parliamentary base salary could be modified by regulation, as was done to override the increase in salary for the 2008–09 year.
110. www.remtribunal.gov.au.
111. See also section on ‘Leaders and office holders’ in Ch. on ‘House, Government and Opposition’. Additional salaries for shadow ministers and the Manager of Opposition Business commenced in 2011, see Remuneration Tribunal, Review of the remuneration of Members of Parliament: initial report, December 2011.
112. Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973, subsection 7(1).
113. Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973, ss 6, 8. See section on ‘Ministerial salaries’ in Ch. on ‘House, Government and Opposition’.
114. Pursuant to s. 64 of the Constitution a Minister may continue in office (for up to 3 months) although no longer a Member.
115. For latest details of entitlements and rates of allowances reference should be had to the most recent relevant Remuneration Tribunal determinations (available on the Tribunal website at www.remtribunal.gov.au) and Parliamentary Entitlements Regulations (SR 1997 No. 318 as amended). For details of certain statutory provisions see Parliamentary Allowances Act 1952. The High Court has held that the Executive Government does not have the power to increase an allowance beyond that determined by the Remuneration Tribunal pursuant to the Act, Brown v. West (1990) 64 ALJR 204. Following this decision the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990 was passed, providing a statutory framework for the provision of benefits. It identified various entitlements and provided that Members, office holders and Ministers were entitled to such additional benefits as may be determined by the Remuneration Tribunal or prescribed by regulations, although this does not extend to benefits in the nature of remuneration (s. 5).
116. For details see Remuneration Tribunal determinations and Members of Parliament (Life Gold Pass) Act 2002. At the end of 2011 the travel entitlements of former Members were under review, see Remuneration Tribunal, Review of the remuneration of Members of Parliament: initial report, December 2011.
117. Coverage of Members and Senators by a workers’ compensation scheme has been proposed, see Remuneration Tribunal, Review of the remuneration of Members of Parliament: initial report, December 2011.
118. See 4th edn, pp. 151–2. However, when determining current salaries, the Remuneration Tribunal can now determine that a proportion is not to be counted for the purposes of the 1948 Act.
119. Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1948, s. 22.
120. The provision was relevant in respect of Mr A. Theophanous, a former Member convicted of corruption committed while a Member (on 22.5.2002).