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A Bill for an Act to amend the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990 and other legislation, and for related purposes
For authoritative information on the progress of bills and on amendments proposed to them, please see the House of Representatives Votes and Proceedings, and the Journals of the Senate as available on the Parliament House website.
Registered 14 Aug 2015
Introduced Senate 13 Aug 2015
Table of contents.

2013‑2014‑2015

 

The Parliament of the

Commonwealth of Australia

 

THE SENATE

 

 

 

 

Presented and read a first time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parliamentary Expenses Amendment (Transparency and Accountability) Bill 2015

 

No.      , 2015

 

(Senator Xenophon)

 

 

 

A Bill for an Act to amend the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990 and other legislation, and for related purposes

  

  


Contents

1............ Short title............................................................................................. 1

2............ Commencement................................................................................... 1

3............ Schedules............................................................................................ 2

Schedule 1—Amendments                                                                                                3

Part 1—Travel entitlements reporting                                                                   3

Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990                                                                     3

Part 2—Ombudsman scrutiny                                                                                 10

Ombudsman Act 1976                                                                                               10

 

 


A Bill for an Act to amend the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990 and other legislation, and for related purposes

The Parliament of Australia enacts:

1  Short title

                   This Act may be cited as the Parliamentary Expenses Amendment (Transparency and Accountability) Act 2015.

2  Commencement

             (1)  Each provision of this Act specified in column 1 of the table commences, or is taken to have commenced, in accordance with column 2 of the table. Any other statement in column 2 has effect according to its terms.

 

Commencement information

Column 1

Column 2

Column 3

Provisions

Commencement

Date/Details

1.  Sections 1 to 3 and anything in this Act not elsewhere covered by this table

The day this Act receives the Royal Assent.

 

2.  Schedule 1

The day after this Act receives the Royal Assent.

 

Note:          This table relates only to the provisions of this Act as originally enacted. It will not be amended to deal with any later amendments of this Act.

             (2)  Any information in column 3 of the table is not part of this Act. Information may be inserted in this column, or information in it may be edited, in any published version of this Act.

3  Schedules

                   Legislation that is specified in a Schedule to this Act is amended or repealed as set out in the applicable items in the Schedule concerned, and any other item in a Schedule to this Act has effect according to its terms.

Schedule 1Amendments

Part 1Travel entitlements reporting

Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990

1  Section 3

Insert:

claim means a claim or request for a benefit in relation to a member, Parliamentary office‑holder or Minister that is made to the Commonwealth, regardless of whether the claim or request is made by the member, Parliamentary office‑holder or Minister personally.

claimant means the member, Parliamentary office‑holder or Minister to whom a claim relates.

designated travel benefit means a benefit in relation to the costs of travel of a claimant, other than travel in Australia for purposes related to:

                     (a)  travel to or from Canberra for the purposes of sitting days of the House of the Parliament of which the claimant is a member; or

                     (b)  travel for the purposes of Parliamentary Committee hearings or meetings.

quarter means a period of 3 months ending on 31 March, 30 June, 30 September or 31 December.

travel benefit means a benefit in relation to a member for the costs of travel, whether the travel is by the member or another person.

2  After section 5

Insert:

5A  Explanatory statement to accompany claim for designated travel benefits

Scope

             (1)  This section applies if, in a calendar month:

                     (a)  a member, Parliamentary office‑holder or Minister is entitled to a benefit under section 4 or 5; and

                     (b)  the benefit is a designated travel benefit; and

                     (c)  one or more claims for such a benefit are made by the claimant during the month.

Statement

             (2)  The claimant must give the Department a statement that sets out the following in relation to which the designated travel benefit was claimed:

                     (a)  the purpose or purposes of the travel;

                     (b)  the proportion of the claimant’s business hours spent on each purpose during the travel period;

                     (c)  the dates, times and locations of the travel;

                     (d)  the number of flights taken (if any);

                     (e)  details of any other means of travel taken;

                      (f)  the number of nights for which accommodation costs were claimed (if any);

                     (g)  the total amount claimed;

                     (h)  the claimant’s declaration that each benefit has been claimed in accordance with this Act and any other relevant law of the Commonwealth.

             (3)  For the purposes of paragraph (2)(a), the purpose of the travel may be listed as confidential if the statement also includes a declaration by the claimant that if the purpose of the travel is stated there is likely to be a risk of prejudice to national security.

             (4)  The statement must:

                     (a)  be given within 7 days of the end of the calendar month; and

                     (b)  be in a form or forms approved by the Minister.

Department must publish statements

             (5)  The Department must publish the statement on its website within 14 days of receiving the statement.

Section applies where travel is for multiple purposes

             (6)  To avoid doubt, this section applies, if:

                     (a)  travel is for more than one purpose; and

                     (b)  a designated travel benefit is claimed in relation to one of those purposes.

5B  Explanatory statement for charter transport benefits

Scope

             (1)  This section applies if, in a calendar month:

                     (a)  a member, Parliamentary office‑holder or Minister is entitled to a benefit under section 4 or 5 for charter transport; and

                     (b)  one or more claims for such a benefit are made by the claimant during the month.

Statement

             (2)  The claimant must give the Department a statement that sets out:

                     (a)  the purpose or purposes of the travel; and

                     (b)  the reasons why it was necessary or desirable to take charter transport.

             (3)  For the purposes of paragraph (2)(a), the purpose of the travel may be listed as confidential if the statement also includes a declaration by the claimant that stating the purpose of the travel is likely to be a risk of prejudice to national security.

             (4)  The statement must:

                     (a)  be given within 7 days of the end of the calendar month; and

                     (b)  be in a form or forms approved by the Minister.

Department must publish statements

             (5)  The Department must publish the statement on its website within 14 days of receiving the statement.

5C  Explanatory statement for family travel benefits

Scope

             (1)  This section applies if, in a calendar month:

                     (a)  a member, Parliamentary office‑holder or Minister is entitled to a benefit under section 4 or 5 for costs of travel for a dependent child or spouse; and

                     (b)  one or more claims for such a benefit are made by the claimant during the month.

Statement

             (2)  The claimant must give the Department a statement that sets out:

                     (a)  who the costs of travel were in relation to; and

                     (b)  the dates, times and locations of the travel; and

                     (c)  the costs of travel claimed.

             (3)  The statement must:

                     (a)  be given within 7 days of the end of the calendar month; and

                     (b)  be in a form or forms approved by the Minister.

Department must publish statements

             (4)  The Department must publish the statement on its website within 14 days of receiving the statement.

3  After section 7

Insert:

7A  Claims must not be made in excess of entitlement

                   A person must not make a claim for a benefit that is wholly or partly in excess of entitlement.

Note:          If a person contravenes this section in relation to a travel benefit, a penalty may apply: see section 7B.

7B  Loading in respect of contraventions of section 7A for travel benefits

Scope

             (1)  This section applies if:

                     (a)  a claimant makes a claim for a travel benefit in contravention of section 7A; and

                     (b)  the Commonwealth pays an amount, or provides goods, services or facilities, purportedly by way of travel benefit pursuant to the claim; and

                     (c)  either:

                              (i)  the amount of the payment exceeds the amount (if any) to which the recipient was entitled; or

                             (ii)  the Commonwealth’s costs of providing the goods, services or facilities exceed what they would have been if the goods, services or facilities (if any) to which the recipient was entitled had instead been provided; and

                     (d)  the excess was not attributable, to any extent, to administrative error within the Department.

Loading payable as a penalty for the contravention of section 7A

             (2)  If:

                     (a)  the claimant contravenes section 7A in relation to a travel benefit; and

                     (b)  the claimant has either:

                              (i)  not previously contravened that section in relation to a travel benefit; or

                             (ii)  previously contravened that section in relation to a travel benefit once in the preceding 12 month period;

the claimant is liable to pay the Commonwealth, by way of penalty for the contravention, an amount equal to 200% of the amount to which this section applies.

             (3)  If:

                     (a)  the claimant contravenes section 7A in relation to a travel benefit; and

                     (b)  the claimant has previously contravened that section in relation to a travel benefit more than twice in the preceding 12 month period;

the claimant is liable to pay the Commonwealth, by way of penalty for the contravention, an amount equal to 400% of the amount to which this section applies.

             (4)  The amount of the penalty:

                     (a)  is a debt due to the Commonwealth by the claimant; and

                     (b)  may be recovered by action in a court of competent jurisdiction.

7C  Department must publish details of penalties paid under section 7B

             (1)  The Department must, as soon as practicable after the end of each quarter, prepare and publish on the Department’s website a report on any penalties paid under section 7B during the quarter.

             (2)  The report must include:

                     (a)  the number and value of any penalties paid during the quarter; and

                     (b)  the claimant who paid the penalties.

7D  Reports on contraventions of section 7A

             (1)  The Secretary of the Department must, as soon as practicable after the end of each quarter, give the Commonwealth Ombudsman:

                     (a)  a copy of the report prepared under section 7C for the quarter; and

                     (b)  a report on the circumstances of each contravention of section 7A to which the report relates; and

                     (c)  a report on the circumstances of any other contraventions, or suspected contraventions of section 7A during the quarter.

             (2)  Without limiting paragraph (1)(b), the report must include any matters specified in regulations made for the purposes of this subsection.

7E  Commonwealth Ombudsman to give Minister assessment of section 7A contraventions

             (1)  The Commonwealth Ombudsman must, as soon as practicable after receiving a report under section 7D, give the Minister an assessment of the circumstances of:

                     (a)  each contravention of section 7A included in the report; and

                     (b)  each suspected contravention of section 7A included in the report.

             (2)  The assessment may include any recommendations the Commonwealth Ombudsman considers appropriate.

             (3)  The Minister is not bound by any recommendations the Commonwealth Ombudsman makes.

             (4)  The assessment must also include a statement, for the purpose of tabling in Parliament, that sets out or paraphrases so much of the content of the assessment as the Commonwealth Ombudsman considers can be tabled without adversely affecting the privacy of any person.

7F  Minister to table statement from Commonwealth Ombudsman

                   The Minister must cause the statement included in an assessment as mentioned in subsection 7E(4) to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the Minister receives the assessment.

7G  Application of Ombudsman Act 1976

             (1)  Subject to sections 7D to 7F, the Ombudsman Act 1976 applies in relation to the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s preparation of an assessment under section 7E (including his or her consideration of the report under section 7D to which the assessment relates), as if the preparation of that assessment were an investigation under that Act.

             (2)  The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s functions include the functions conferred on the Commonwealth Ombudsman by sections 7D to 7F.

Part 2Ombudsman scrutiny

Ombudsman Act 1976

Subsection 3(1)

Insert:

Finance Department means the Department administered by the Minister administering the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.

5  Paragraph 5(2)(a)

Before “action”, insert “subject to section 5B”.

6  After section 5A

Insert:

5B  Parliamentary entitlement functions of Ombudsman

             (1)  For the purposes of this Act, a claim that is made for a benefit under the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990 is taken to be an action that relates to a matter of administration.

             (2)  For the purposes of the application of this Act to the action:

                     (a)  the claimant (within the meaning of the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990) is taken to be a prescribed authority; and

                     (b)  the action is to be treated as if it were action taken by the prescribed authority.

             (3)  It is immaterial whether the entitlement relates to a period that occurred before or after the commencement of this section.

7  After section 15

Insert:

15A  Additional reporting obligations in relation to parliamentary entitlement functions

             (1)  If:

                     (a)  the Ombudsman has prepared a report under section 15 in relation to a claim for a benefit under the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990; and

                     (b)  the report includes a recommendation in relation to a claimant (within the meaning of that Act);

the Ombudsman must:

                     (c)  give a copy of the report to the Finance Department; and

                     (d)  publish the report on its website.

             (2)  The Ombudsman must not publish a report under subsection (1) unless the claimant:

                     (a)  has been given notice, in writing, that the report will be published; and

                     (b)  has been invited to make submissions on the content of the report.