Members’ remuneration and expenses


The authority for payment of salaries to Members of Parliament and Ministers was expressly provided for in the Constitution,[125] 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.[126] 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 determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, pursuant to the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017. The remuneration includes an annual allowance known as ‘base salary’ payable for the purposes of section 48 of the Constitution, an electorate allowance, and in the case of an office holder, an office holder’s salary.[127] There are three rates of electorate allowance, depending on the size of a Member’s electorate. The office holder’s salary is the additional salary paid to holders of a number of parliamentary offices,[128] 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.[129] Ministers also receive an additional salary, as well as the basic parliamentary salary and electorate allowance.[130] As part of their remuneration Members may be provided with a vehicle, or an allowance in lieu of a vehicle, and an allowance or expenses in relation to internet or telephone services at their private residence.[131] Information on the current rates of remuneration can be found on the Remuneration Tribunal’s website.[132]

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.[133]

Parliamentary work expenses framework

In 2015 a review committee to consider an independent parliamentary entitlements system was established by the Government. Following the committee’s report in 2016[134] the Government announced that it accepted all the committee’s recommendations in principle.[135]

Parliamentary Business Resources Act

The Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 established a new framework for remuneration, business resources and travel resources for current and former members of the federal Parliament in a single legislative authority.

Consequential amendments were made to relevant legislation, including the repeal of the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990 and the Parliamentary Allowances Act 1952, and the repeal of provisions in the Ministers of State Act 1952, Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973, and the Remuneration and Allowances Act 1990.[136]

Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority

In 2017 the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA) was established to audit and report on parliamentarians’ work expenses, provide advice, and monitor and administer claims for travel expenses and allowances by parliamentarians and their staff.[137]

Work expenses and use of public resources

Members are personally responsible and accountable for, must be prepared to publicly justify, and must act ethically and in good faith in using and accounting for, their use of public resources for conducting their parliamentary business.[138] Members must not claim expenses, an allowance or any other public resources unless the expenses are incurred, or the allowance or resources are claimed, for the dominant purpose of conducting a Member’s parliamentary business.[139] Members must ensure that expenses incurred, or allowances or resources claimed, provide value for money.[140]

Members are paid travel expenses and allowances, and other work expenses, and provided with public resources, as prescribed by regulations or as determined by the Minister for Finance.[141] Rates of travel allowance are determined by the Remuneration Tribunal.[142] Travel 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 amount depending on the size of electorate. Travel allowance is also payable, on a limited basis, for meetings of a Member’s parliamentary party and for meetings of party committees. Former Prime Ministers have limited entitlements to travel at government expense after they cease to be Members of Parliament.[143]

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. Electorate staff are employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984.

Compensation for Members in the event of death or injury in connection with official business is covered by a parliamentary injury compensation scheme which provides similar benefits to those received by Commonwealth employees under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988.[144]

Superannuation benefits

TheParliamentary 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.[145]

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.[146] Under the Crimes (Superannuation Benefits) Act 1989 a similarly restricted entitlement may apply to a Member convicted of certain offences committed while a Member, including a Member so convicted after resignation.[147]