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What is the definition of a 'formal meeting' in relation to payment of daily fees?

The diversity of bodies within the Tribunal's jurisdiction, together with the work undertaken, means that a formal meeting of the body can take many guises. For this reason the Part-time Office determination isn't definitive about what constitutes a 'formal meeting'.

In general a formal meeting includes all members of the body (formal apologies aside) being called to meet for a specific purpose which encompasses the main work of that body. There may also be other attendees. It would include instances where office holders remotely access the meeting (e.g. via teleconferencing or video conferencing facilities). Often there is a formal agenda with minutes recorded and a requirement for office holders to undertake some prior reading of agenda papers or other preparation.

However not all meetings/gatherings will be a 'formal' meeting. Where there is a requirement for some members of the body to get together, for example, members of a subcommittee or to meet with stakeholders, this would be considered authority business. Payment for authority business is calculated in accordance with Table B2 of the Part-Time Office determination.

What is authority business?

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.
What do Federal Members of Parliament get paid?

The remuneration of Members of Parliament (MPs) – i.e. all senators and members of the House of Representatives, including Ministers and Parliamentary office holders – is made up of several components:

Base salary

All MPs receive a base salary. The current rate of the base salary is in the Tribunal’s Members of Parliament determination which is available on the Parliamentary Offices page of the Tribunal’s website.

Additional Salary

Additional salary may be payable to MPs who are also Ministers or office holders. Additional salary is expressed as a percentage of base salary.

The Tribunal makes recommendations to the Government on Ministers' additional salary, and the Government may accept or reject the Tribunal's advice. The Tribunal’s most recent report on Ministerial salaries is available on the Parliamentary Offices page of the Tribunal’s website.

Additional salaries determined by the Tribunal for office holders are set out in the Tribunal’s Members of Parliament determination.

Other remuneration and allowances

The Tribunal also determines a range of remuneration related provisions (such as private plated vehicles) and allowances (including electorate allowance) for MPs, as well as provisions for former MPs (such as post-retirement travel). The current provisions are in the Tribunal’s Members of Parliament determination.

Superannuation

Superannuation is not determined by the Tribunal but is governed by the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1948 and the Parliamentary Superannuation Act 2004. All questions on parliamentary superannuation should be directed to the Department of Finance.

Expenses

While not part of remuneration, MPs may also be paid expenses incurred in the course of conducting their parliamentary business, such as travel and transport costs.  This includes some travel expenses associated with family reunion in recognition of the extensive travel undertaken by MPs. From 1 January 2018 MPs’ work expenses are prescribed in the Parliamentary Business Resources Regulations. At least once each year, the Tribunal will inquire into and report to the Special Minister of State on matters relating to travel expenses and travel allowances for MPs. The actual travel allowance rates will be determined by the Tribunal and published in the Members of Parliament determination.

Who is the Nominated Presiding Officer at a meeting?

In the absence of a Chair, the Nominated Presiding Officer is the person responsible for chairing the meeting. It could be a Deputy Chair or any other member of the body. The decision on who may be an appropriate person to authorise attendance is a matter for the authority/body having regard to the particular operating requirements of the individual authority/body.

The sole responsibility of the Nominated Presiding Officer, in terms of the Part-time Office determination, is to certify the hours of attendance of office holders (and any associated reasonable official travel) at a formal meeting, i.e. they are simply certifying that someone attended the meeting and as such has an entitlement to fees.

What is the difference between "normal" and "excessive" preparation time for a formal meeting?

In the normal course of business, commitment to meetings may fluctuate in terms of the size of the agenda or the complexity of the items considered. This may impact on the preparation time required of an office-holder.

Regardless of this fluctuation, time spent preparing for a formal meeting does not ordinarily attract a separate payment. The fee that is payable on a meeting day has already been determined to take account of the time spent preparing for a meeting.

The Part-time Office determination does provide that "Time spent by the office holder preparing for a formal meeting that the Chair considers is excessive to normal preparation time may be treated as 'authority business'". This means that only where preparation time goes well beyond what is normally required of the office holder could it be considered excessive.

The Tribunal does not envisage circumstances where this would be a regular occurrence. Where office holders do regularly spend excessive time preparing for meetings, the authority may wish to consider whether another remuneration rate, or model, may better suit the functions of the office. Any change would require a submission to the Tribunal.

Does the Tribunal determine fees for audit committee members?

The Tribunal can only determine remuneration for offices within its determinative jurisdiction.  Where office holders within the Tribunal's jurisdiction are also audit committee members the Tribunal may determine additional fees dependent on the circumstances. This would require a case to be made, via a submission, to the Tribunal.

What is Electorate Allowance?

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.

Accessing documents on the Tribunal's website

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 enquiry [at] remtribunal.gov.au.

The Tribunal is also keen to receive feedback about the website.  You are welcome to email your suggestions and comments to enquiry [at] remtribunal.gov.au.

When does the Tribunal determine additional fees for sub-committees?

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.
What are the overseas TA rates?

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.

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