Frequently Asked Questions
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List of Frequently Asked Questions
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When the Tribunal makes a comprehensive determination relating to a category of offices (e.g. part-time offices) it is called a 'principal' determination and entirely replaces any earlier principal determination.
A principal determination usually covers a group of offices within the Tribunal's jurisdiction or a specific subject area (such as recreation leave). The Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 and, for Members of Parliament, the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017, require the Tribunal to make determinations in relation to some remuneration matters (as opposed to some subject areas such as recreation leave) at intervals of no more than a year. This means that many of the Tribunal's principal determinations are in place for no more than 12 months.
All Tribunal determinations are registered on the Federal Register of Legislation (FRL) other than those relating to Secretaries, which are gazetted.
An amending determination inserts changes into a principal determination. Examples are inserting new offices into a principal determination, modifying provisions for access to particular conditions or a change in a remuneration amount for an office. An amending determination can include a number of changes to provisions in different principal determinations.
Where an amending determination has been issued, a consolidated determination needs to be made. A consolidated determination, also known as a compilation, is essentially a principal determination updated to include the provisions of any amending determinations. The consolidation records the reference number of the amending determination and includes the date of effect of the amended provision. As most amending determinations must be registered on FRL before a consolidated determination can be made (and then also registered with FRL), there is a usually a delay of between 1 and 2 weeks between the time the Tribunal signs an amending determination and the registration of the consolidated determination.
Determinations on the Tribunal’s website
The determinations that contain the current remuneration and conditions for each group of office holders are listed on the relevant office page. This could include either a consolidated determination (if there have been amending determinations) or a principal determination (where there have been no changes made). As it usually takes a week or two for a consolidated determination to be made, at times an amending determination may also display on the office page. Once the amendment has been incorporated into a consolidated determination, the amending determination will be moved to the Document Library on the Tribunal’s website.
The Tribunal is required to determine remuneration for offices that meet the definition of "public office" in sub-section 3(4) of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 (the Act) along with a range of other offices and appointments such as Departmental Secretaries, Principal Executive Offices and Members of Parliament. All offices established by a Commonwealth law (also known as statutory offices) and appointments made under a Commonwealth law are ‘public offices’ unless the relevant legislation provides otherwise. Legislation that establishes the office, board or committee will generally indicate how remuneration is to be determined. It may be necessary for administering agencies to seek legal advice on whether an office is in the Tribunal's determinative jurisdiction.
Some offices that are not automatically in the Tribunal's jurisdiction (because they are not created in legislation) can be placed in the Tribunal's jurisdiction. These are most commonly appointments made by the Governor-General or a Minister of State.
This process is commonly known as ‘referral-in’. Referral-in occurs when the Minister responsible for the Tribunal (the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) writes to the Tribunal President specifying that the Tribunal must determine remuneration for that office. This would usually occur as the result of a request to that Minister from the Minister with portfolio responsibility for the office.
The Tribunal does not determine its own remuneration, that is a matter for Government.
The Part-time Office determination defines authority business, which can be:
- any authorised work that is not a formal meeting (it can be performed on the same day that a formal meeting is held). This list isn't exhaustive, but it could include:
- sub-committee work (including meetings and preparation for those meetings);
- stakeholder engagement;
- representational work;
- out-of-session consideration of funding/grant applications;
- official travel on a non-meeting day;
- comments and feedback provided on papers, policies, strategies;
- inspections or visits where this is part of the work of the authority; and
- general correspondence, emails and phone calls that relate to the office holder's work for the body/entity.
- excessive time spent preparing for a formal meeting (normal preparation time is not considered authority business and does not attract additional payment). A decision on whether preparation time is excessive is a matter for the Chair.In order to establish an entitlement to payment an office holder must spend a minimum period of at least one hour on authority business. Shorter periods do not attract payment. The maximum payment that may be made to an office holder for work performed on a day is one daily fee.
The Official Travel determination provides for the payment of an allowance to the office holder to cover reasonable expenses associated with official travel, i.e. accommodation, meals and incidentals, and it is a matter for the office holder as to how that allowance is to be used. An office holder’s TA must be paid in full.
However, in the event that the cost of accommodation is met by an entity other than the office holder, only the meals and incidentals component of TA is payable. An example of this might include where an office holder attended a conference and the cost of accommodation was met by the Commonwealth as part of the conference package.
In applying the provisions of the Official Travel determination, office holders and agencies should have regard to the set of general principles included in that determination.
It would be appropriate to reduce the reasonable daily overseas meal allowance amounts determined by the Australian Taxation Office by 50 per cent where dinner has been provided or paid for by an entity other than the office holder, or 25 per cent in the case of either breakfast or lunch. Alternatively, it would also be permissible for office holders to comply with any relevant administrative guidelines put in place for employees in their agency where these are not inconsistent with the Official Travel determination.
Rates for meals and incidentals are equivalent to the overseas meals and incidentals rates in the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) determination dealing with reasonable travel and overtime meal allowance expense amounts. The relevant ATO determination is specified in the Tribunal’s Official Travel determination.
The rate of overseas TA payable to an office holder depends on the Travel Tier determined for the office. Accommodation should be provided at a standard reasonably equivalent to that provided for the office holder in Australia.
Class of travel is also dependent on the Travel Tier determined by the Tribunal, i.e.
Tier 1 = First Class or Business Class
Tier 2 = Business Class
Tier 3 = Economy Class
An office holder who is entitled to travel Economy Class may upgrade to Business Class where the duration of the flight exceeds five hours.
Where there are significant changes to the role or responsibilities of an office that warrant reconsideration of remuneration, a submission should be made to the Tribunal as soon as possible. Comprehensive submission guidelines are available on the Tribunal’s website.
You may also contact the Tribunal’s Secretariat for advice on your particular submission. Where time permits, the Secretariat can also provide feedback on draft submissions.
Factors that might be considered include:
- the desirability of having remuneration determined by an experienced, independent authority;
- whether the office will be established for a short or a long time; and
- the significance of the role and responsibilities of the office.
Electorate Allowance is an expenses of office allowance payable to MPs, including Ministers and Parliamentary office holders, to cover the costs necessarily incurred in providing services to their constituents. Any part of the allowance that is used for allowable electorate expenses, as decided by the Commissioner of Taxation, is not subject to income tax.
The Members of Parliament determination, available on the Parliamentary Offices page of the Tribunal's website, sets out the current rates of Electorate Allowance.
For members of accumulation schemes the Employer Superannuation Contribution is the amount of compulsory superannuation contribution that must be paid to the relevant fund. Additional salary sacrifice contributions are not included in the definition of the Employer Superannuation Contribution.
PSSAP members - who are holders of part-time offices
The superannuation salary for holders of part-time offices who are members of the PSSAP is the office holder’s fortnightly contribution salary (FCS). Note that holders of full-time office who are working part-time are subject to the same rules as other holders of full-time offices.
PSSAP members - other than holders of part-time offices
The PSSAP requires the Employer Superannuation Contribution to be calculated at the rate of 15.4% of salary for superannuation purposes.
The Tribunal’s determinations provide that the salary for superannuation purposes for a PSSAP member will be the person’s Ordinary Time Earnings (OTE).
Members of other schemes
The Employer Superannuation Contribution will be the compulsory (i.e. minimum) amount required to meet the employer’s obligations under the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 (Super Guarantee Act), i.e. 9.5% of OTE.
OTE is essentially the earnings that can be attributed to ‘ordinary hours of work’ so that the minimum Employer Superannuation Contribution can be calculated. Under the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 (the Super Guarantee Act) remuneration as an office holder is considered ‘salary or wages’ for this purpose.
ATO Superannuation Guarantee Ruling 2009/02 provides information about payments that are excluded from the definition of salary and wages (such as fringe benefits)
For an office holder remunerated on a total remuneration basis, the salary for superannuation purposes on which the Employer Superannuation Contribution is calculated is the taxable amount being received by the office holder.
However, OTE does not require a superannuation contribution to be made on all earnings related to the ordinary hours of work – there is an upper earnings limit for each quarter in the financial year. Earnings above this limit are not considered to form part of OTE. The limit is the ATO’s ‘maximum contribution base’ which is varied each financial year. Employers are not required to provide superannuation support for earnings above the maximum contribution base.
Read more about OTE and the maximum contribution base on the ATO website
The Employer Superannuation Contribution for PSSAP members is therefore 15.4% of OTE or 15.4% of the maximum contribution base (whichever is lower). The Employer Superannuation Contribution for members of other schemes is therefore 9.5% of OTE or 9.5% of the maximum contribution base (whichever is lower).
Where the office holder is also salary sacrificing to the PSSAP or another fund the usual salary sacrifice requirements apply.
For a member of a defined benefit scheme, the value of the Employer Superannuation Contribution for the purpose of calculating the cash component of total remuneration (TR) is a notional amount calculated as 15.4% of the office holder’s superannuation salary.
Note that the value may be less than 15.4% for Principal Executive Offices (PEOs) in some circumstances – see the PEO determination for more information.
The Employer Superannuation Contribution for TR purposes needs to be recalculated immediately upon any change in TR for the office. This will result in a change to the office holder’s cash salary.
However, the office holder’s superannuation contributions salary remains subject to the rules of the scheme, i.e. is updated on the office holder’s birthday.
Note that actual employer payments made by a Department or agency to the superannuation scheme in respect of an office holder’s superannuation (based on advice from the Superannuation Branch of the Department of Finance) vary according to demographics and scheme membership in the particular Department or agency. Because of this the Tribunal has determined that a standard notional contribution rate (15.4%) should apply to all office holders who are members of defined benefit funds (and that it should apply immediately on adjustment, rather than from the office holder’s birthday). Any enquiries about superannuation liabilities should be directed to the Superannuation Branch in the Department of Finance ( email@example.com ) or the Australian Tax Office. Enquiries on the superannuation arrangements for the Federal Judiciary can be directed to JudicialSchemes@finance.gov.au .
The website’s search facility enables users to find answers to questions about the Tribunal's functions and offices. Where there is a FAQ containing the search term the website provides suggestions as text is entered. Paying agencies and other frequent visitors to the site are encouraged to sign up to receive an email alert when changes are made to the website.
Each category of office has a dedicated launch page that provides a background on the office and relevant FAQs. Current determinations, together with current applicable guidelines, statements and reports, display on the launch page. The current determinations could include either consolidated determinations or principal determinations (see the FAQ “What are principal determinations, compilations and amending determinations” for more information).
Most determinations (including associated explanatory statements and if applicable, reasons for determinations) and other statements and reports from 2004 can be found in the Document Library by conducting a filtered search (by office, year and/or document type). Should access be required to historical documentation (generally from 2003 or earlier years) a request can be made to the Remuneration Tribunal Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Tribunal is also keen to receive feedback about the website. You are welcome to email your suggestions and comments to email@example.com.
Where the entity includes a Deputy Chair, the Tribunal may set a specific rate for the Deputy Chair where the responsibilities of an office warrant remuneration in excess of that provided to a Member. This could involve particular statutory functions set out in the legislation or significant ongoing responsibilities, for example as Chair of sub-committee/s or with carriage of strategic or risk management aspects of the body. The Tribunal will not usually set a specific Deputy rate where the Deputy role is limited to chairing meetings and taking on some chair responsibilities in the absence of the Chair or assisting the Chair on an ad hoc basis.
In its October 2013 report ‘Review of Remuneration - Part-time Offices’ the Tribunal noted that where a separate Deputy Chair rate is justified it would generally be set at 75 per cent of the Chair for annual fee recipients and at the mid-point between the Chair and Members for daily fee recipients.
The Tribunal does not 'automatically' set Deputy Chair fees; a submission is required specifically addressing the role in order for the Tribunal to consider a separate rate. If it is considered that a different Chair/Deputy Chair/Member ratio is warranted than that recommended by the Tribunal, then this should be addressed in the submission.
With the exception of the determinations relating to Departmental Secretaries, Tribunal determinations are legislative instruments, which means that, under sub-section 38(1) of the Legislation Act 2003, they are required to be tabled in both houses of Parliament by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel within 6 sitting days after the determination has been registered on the Federal Register of Legislation.
No - The FBT on accommodation allowance is an expense to the agency, not the office holder, so it is not to be deducted from total remuneration.
The Tribunal does not routinely set fees for sub-committee work. Often sub-committees are simply one way that boards and other entities choose to allocate the workload in relation to the primary functions of that entity.
The Tribunal has set audit fees for some bodies recognising that there are often significant responsibilities and additional commitment related to these committees. The Tribunal has also set additional fees for a small number of other sub-committees of governing boards which undertake or support a key component of the board’s governance responsibilities.
Where it is considered that additional fees are warranted a submission can be made to the Tribunal. The submission would need to comment specifically on why the Tribunal should not consider the functions of the sub-committee to be part of the entity/board's usual functions.
The following points should be addressed in a submission, i.e. whether:
- the committee has formal ongoing governance functions;
- the committee’s work represents a key component of the board’s governance responsibilities;
- the committee’s work has a significant impact on organisational strategy and viability;
- the fee paid to board members is insufficient compensation for the level of responsibility and commitment required of sub-committee members; and
- additional fee arrangements are currently in place, or proposed, for audit committee members.
All Tribunal determinations are disallowable instruments except those relating to Departmental Secretaries and Members of Parliament.
Either House of Parliament may, within 15 sitting days after a determination has been tabled, pass a resolution 'disapproving' the determination. If a determination that is disapproved (disallowed) has already come into operation, the determination does not have any force or effect on or after the day on which the resolution was passed. However, disallowance does not apply retrospectively. This means, for example, that affected office holders who have already received a pay rise do not have to repay any additional remuneration they have already received. However, from the date of disallowance, their pay would revert to what it was previously.
Special arrangements apply for Judicial Offices within the Tribunal’s determining jurisdiction. Determinations for Judicial Offices do not come into effect until after the 15 sitting days disallowance period has passed. This means, for example, that if the Tribunal determines a remuneration increase for Judges, they will not receive their increased pay until after the disallowance period. Any remuneration increase would be backdated to the date of effect specified in the determination. These arrangements are necessary due to sub-section 72(iii) of the Constitution, which expressly prohibits diminution of a Judge's remuneration while the Judge remains in office.
Commonwealth defined benefits scheme rules provide that an office holder's salary for superannuation purposes will be grandfathered at the highest rate applying in the year to the member's last birthday, increased annually in accordance with changes to the Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings (AWOTE) unless a higher superannuation salary is applied.
To ensure an office holder’s superannuation salary conforms with scheme requirements, the Tribunal will, upon request, agree to a higher personal superannuation salary rate for the office holder. A request to the Tribunal can be included in a remuneration submission by a Minister or employing body or notified to the Tribunal’s Secretariat by a relevant senior officer of the agency with access to the officer holder’s superannuation salary history.
A public office holder who holds an office that has had remuneration determined for it by the Tribunal has a legal entitlement to that remuneration, unless specifically excluded in legislation from receiving payment (e.g. a full-time Australian Public Service employee). It is the Tribunal's understanding that generally an office holder would not be able to give a legally binding waiver of their entitlement to remuneration, or have it paid to another person or body.
How the fee determined by the Tribunal for an office is paid is a matter between the paying agency and the office holder.
Any taxation withholding obligation must be met from the fee payable in respect of the office. If the payer is not certain how the office holder's preferred method of payment affects taxation obligations, he or she should seek the advice of the Australian Taxation Office.
In monetary terms, an office holder is entitled to the fees determined by the Tribunal in the Part-time Office determination plus travel allowance (TA) where an overnight stay is necessary.
The rate of TA varies depending on the Travel Tier assigned to the office, or, in some cases, the office holder. Current rates and conditions are set out in the Official Travel determination.
Office holders may also have an entitlement to superannuation under separate superannuation legislation.
The Tribunal has no role in determining what should be provided to office holders with respect to business support. This is a matter for employing bodies.