Ministers' Office Handbook
In accordance with this Handbook, Ministers and their staff are authorised to travel at public expense for official business. This section of the Handbook is the authoritative source of guidance in respect of such travel. It covers air travel, accommodation, car hire and the use of official motor vehicles.
Travel for private purposes must never be charged to the Minister’s office budget and private expenditure while travelling must not be incurred on an official credit facility.
Approval for Official Travel
Travel in the course of duty by Ministers’ staff must be approved in advance in accordance with office and business practice within the Minister’s office.
Overseas travel by the Minister and Ministers’ staff must be approved by the Premier.
Absence of Ministers when Travelling and Appointment of Acting Ministers
This section deals with absence of Ministers in the course of official business travel. Full details of Ministerial arrangements during absences are set out in Premier’s Memorandum 2014-02.
Ministers need to make arrangements for the appointment of an acting Minister when they:
- will be interstate for a period of two weeks or more; and
- will be overseas, except if the trip will be for a very short period of only a day or two.
Requirements for the Premier’s approval for official business trips overseas are set out later in this Handbook.
Spouse, Approved Relative or Carer
The cost of a Minister’s spouse or approved relative’s travel to accompany the Minister to an official function is paid from the Minister’s office budget.
An “approved relative” means the mother, father, sister, brother or a child of the Minister, who is at least 16 years of age and certified by the Minister as assisting the Minister regularly by carrying out those official duties usually performed by a spouse.
The Minister should nominate an approved relative, in relation to their role as Minister, to the Premier in writing. This process is separate from the nomination of Members’ approved relatives to the Presiding Officers of the Parliament.
Ministers travelling with a dependent child, in connection with official business in Australia and overseas, may be accompanied by a carer in lieu of a spouse or approved relative. The cost of the carer’s travel is paid from the Minister’s office budget. Any additional costs incurred as a result of dependent children accompanying a Minister when travelling on official business must be paid by the Minister as a private expense.
Where the Minister has a spouse or de facto spouse, the travel provisions in this section are not available to any other person, except for a carer for dependent children as described in the preceding paragraph.
The Government uses its volume to negotiate preferential government rates. “NSW Government rates” are only available for official travel booked through the NSW Government’s approved travel management supplier, FCM Travel Solutions.
In regards to air charters, in the event that the FCM is unable to supply an appropriate aircraft or to meet travel timetables other travel suppliers may be engaged.
NSW Government-issued credit cards and official accounts must never be used to make bookings for private purposes in any circumstances, even if it is intended that the cost will be reimbursed at a later date.
All domestic and international travel bookings for official business must be made through the NSW Government’s approved travel management supplier, FCM Travel Solutions.
Travel covered by the NSW Government contract includes: commercial and charter air travel, accommodation, and ground transport (car hire, rail, coach and ferry). Group bookings should also be carried out through FCM Travel Solutions.
The approved supplier may be used to book private travel, but “NSW Government rates” must not be applied to the private travel.
If private travel is booked through the approved supplier as an adjunct to official travel, the private booking must be approved by the Minister’s Chief of Staff.
Financial commitments for travel expenditure from the Minister’s office budget need to be made within office arrangements approved by the Chief of Staff as an authorised financial delegate.
If official business travel by a Minister and/or their staff will include someone travelling privately, the bookings for official and private travel may be made at the same time through the NSW Government approved supplier provided that:
(a) “NSW Government rates” must not be applied to the private travel; and
(b) The private travel must be paid for separately at the time of booking using a private credit card.
If official business travel within Australia by a Minister and/or their staff will involve private travel as an adjunct to official travel, the bookings for official and private travel may be made at the same time through the NSW Government approved supplier in accordance with rules (a) and (b) above.
The ‘lowest logical fare of the day’ (i.e., the cheapest fare available meeting the traveller’s logistical needs) needs to be used for all domestic flights and a Minister or their staff may only specify destination, date and nominated time, and not airlines.
The approved supplier must be advised of any cancellations to bookings prior to travel to enable appropriate credit to be claimed. Any hardcopy ticket(s) already obtained need to be returned immediately on cancellation.
Cars may be hired for official business purposes in Australia and overseas. All car hire bookings should be made through the approved travel management supplier.
For combined driver and car hire services there isn’t a government contract. These services can be sourced from any supplier that fulfils the business need or booked through the approved travel management supplier.
Please refer to Air transport, accommodation and ground transport for full travel booking rules.
Bookings for official rail transport should be made through the approved travel management supplier. Discretion may be used for short journeys.
Please refer to Air transport, accommodation and ground transport for full travel booking rules.
Loyalty Schemes and Airline Lounges
Benefits from airline, car or hotel loyalty schemes or lounge memberships may be accepted, but are not to influence travel decisions.
If a Minister or their staff accrue any airline loyalty points for official business trips at NSW Government expense, these points may be used to pay for further official business trips. Airline loyalty points must not be used to pay for private benefits.
Any outstanding points accrued from official business trips at NSW Government expense must be sacrificed in writing by the account holder to the airline(s) concerned as follows:
- For Ministers - when their appointments end;
- For Ministers’ staff - when their employment is terminated.
Processing Travel Claims
Claims for official travel expenses by Ministers and their staff need to be lodged with GovConnect within one month of the last day of the official travel. Travel expense claims should be supported by written documentation (e.g., air tickets, boarding passes, receipts and approvals).
Official Business Trips Within Australia
Travel Rules and Costs
Ministers may approve their own official business trips within Australia. The cost of these business trips is paid from the Minister’s office budget.
When a Minister travels within Australia on parliamentary business in their capacity as a Member of Parliament, parliamentary rules apply. Costs are paid by Parliament.
When the trip is a combination of parliamentary and Minister’s business, a primary purpose test should be applied to decide the source of funds for the entire trip or segments of the trip.
Official business trips within Australia by Ministers’ staff must be approved by the Minister or Chief of Staff. The cost of these business trips is paid from the Minister’s office budget.
Where agency employees accompany the Minister, their costs need to be paid by the relevant agency and must not be paid from the Minister’s office budget.
Class of Air Transport
While economy class is to be used for all official travel in Australia generally, business class or premium economy may be used by Ministers and their staff to fly between NSW and Western Australia or the Northern Territory. Where Ministers’ staff accompany the Minister on the same flight, they may use the same class of transport if required to do so by the Minister.
Ministers are strongly encouraged to use scheduled airline services where possible.
Subject to financial delegations, light aircraft or helicopter services may be chartered in special circumstances to assist Ministers to meet official commitments (e.g., when scheduled air services or alternative means of transport are unsuitable for the Minister’s specific transport needs).Costs are paid from the Minister’s office budget.
Air Charters should be booked through the NSW Government approved supplier for travel management services, FCM Travel Solutions.
Safety must be the principal factor when selecting a charter service. Other factors are flight regulations, distance to be travelled, Minister’s timetable, capacity of landing field, availability of suitable aircraft (especially at short notice) and cost. Having regard to these factors, the Minister may specify the following charter service features:
- Fixed wing aircraft or helicopter
- Number of seats
- Piston or jet engines
- Single or twin engines
- One or two pilots
- Qualifications and experience of crew
- Certification of maintenance standards
- Quality assurance systems, maintenance facilities and age of aircraft
The use of aircraft owned by government sector agencies should be considered where they are available for charter, suitable for the Minister’s needs, meet the Minister’s charter service preferences and are cost competitive with other suppliers.
Air Charter and Car Hire in Country Areas
The Minister may use light charter aircraft in country areas if this is regarded as essential to carry out official inspections effectively, or to fulfil the Minister’s commitments, when it is considered inappropriate to use commercial airline facilities, the Minister’s official vehicle or other available forms of public transport. Car hire services may be used as an alternative.
Air Charter and Non-Official Passengers
Ministers may approve non-official passengers travelling on chartered aircraft.
The term non-official passenger refers generally to passengers who are not:
- public officials whose remuneration and/or transport expenses are paid from public funds; or
- a passenger travelling in accordance with this section of the Handbook (e.g., an approved relative).
Non-official passengers carried at public expense may include representatives of the media where the travel would extend understanding of government policies and be in the public interest. However, non-official passengers must not be carried at public expense for party political purposes.
If the cost of each non-official passenger is to be recovered, the amount to be recovered should be either:
- the scheduled commercial economy class fare equivalent; or
- the pro rata cost of the passenger’s travel if that is less than the scheduled service fare; or if there is no scheduled commercial service. The pro rata cost should be calculated on the total invoice cost.
Insurance coverage for injury to passengers is included in the price of aircraft charters in Australia. This is a requirement of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority which issues airlines with certificates of insurance coverage.
Ministers’ Expenses for Official Business Trips within Australia
Indicative upper limits for Ministers’ actual expenses for official business trips within Australia are determined by the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal (PRT) each year and may change. Current determinations are available on the Tribunal’s website at http://www.remtribunals.nsw.gov.au/parliamentary/prt-determinations with rates effective 1 July each year.
For official business trips within Australia:
- Ministers may claim reasonable actual expenses for overnight absences from Sydney or their electorate/principal home residence. Where an overnight absence is not required, Ministers may claim reasonable actual meal expenses.
- The PRT has set the rates for claims as indicative upper limits for actual expenditure. It is not intended that Ministers claim indicative upper limits in full where actual expenditure has been lower than the indicative upper limit.
- Actual expenses will be paid (either lower than or higher than the indicative upper limits) subject to the production of tax invoices/receipts relating to accommodation, meal and other incidental expenses by the Minister.
Ministers’ expenses for official business trips within Australia are paid from Ministers’ office budgets.
Allowable travel claims are intended to meet accommodation costs and incidental expenses such as meals, etc., while Ministers are away from their headquarters on official business. For this purpose, Sydney is regarded as the headquarters of all Ministers and the policy on reimbursement of actual expenses for official business trips does not apply in respect of any functions undertaken by Ministers in the Sydney metropolitan area.
Ministers are entitled to receive reimbursement of actual costs for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses while on overnight absence from Sydney on official business. Reimbursements will be paid, provided receipts are presented, for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses such as laundry and dry cleaning, taxi fares other than for official business, newspapers and magazines, and private telephone calls.
Where a Minister represents an electorate outside the metropolitan area, or, in the case of a Minister in the Legislative Council, maintains a principal place of residence outside Sydney, the policy on reimbursement of actual expenses for official business trips does not apply in respect of a visit to the electorate or area in which the Minister maintains the residence, when the Minister undertakes an official function in the vicinity of the Minister’s home.
Where a Minister’s spouse/approved relative accompanies the Minister to a State or other business function and the Minister consequently incurs expenses in respect of meals and accommodation exceeding the indicative upper limit of expenses for the Minister, the Minister is entitled to reimbursement of the additional expenses associated with the spouse/approved relative. All such claims should be certified by the Minister and contain, above the signature, the following certification: “I certify that the expenses claimed above were incurred on behalf of my spouse (or approved relative) when he/she accompanied me to official functions as shown”.
Travel Expenses for Ministers’ Staff on Official Business Trips within Australia
Ministers’ staff may be reimbursed for the actual travel expenses (with receipts) incurred on official business trips within Australia.
Where Ministers’ staff do not require overnight accommodation, they may claim reasonable actual meal expenses (with receipts). Where the trip involves an overnight stay, staff may be reimbursed for accommodation, meals and incidental expenses (with receipts). Any costs charged to an account (e.g., accommodation) need to be included in the total approved costs for the trip.
The indicative upper limits are issued annually by NSW Treasury. The rates are available at Treasury Circular NSWTC16-10. The Treasury website should be checked for the latest rates. Different daily indicative upper limits are specified by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO Determination TD 2016/13) for staff in three different cash salary ranges.
In circumstances where costs unavoidably exceed the indicative upper limits (e.g., limited availability of accommodation, direction by the Minister to stay in the same accommodation as the Minister), reimbursement of actual expenses incurred (with receipts) may be approved on a case-by-case basis.
Actual travel expenses are paid from the Minister’s office budget.
Official Business Trips Overseas
The Premier’s approval in-principle must be obtained before a Minister enters into any firm commitments for an official business trip overseas. Ministers’ proposals will be considered on their merits having regard to factors such as the NSW Government’s International Engagement Strategy. .
Cabinet Secretariat facilitates the process for the Premier’s approval of overseas travel by Ministers and their staff.
Official business trips to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea by Ministers are classified as overseas trips, requiring the Premier’s approval as an official visit before the Minister enters into any firm commitments to visit these localities.
The initial approach to the Premier should be made well in advance of the anticipated departure date. The following information should be provided:
- Reasons for the proposed visit
- Specific objectives relating to the Minister’s portfolio, and arrangements proposed for inter-Government consultations and/or industry representative discussions
- Advice to the Premier from the relevant Secretary explaining how the Minister’s proposed overseas program is aligned with agency business objectives and designed to achieve the best possible benefits for the State
- Period of expected absence from Australia
- Name of Minister available to act during the absence
- Name and title of any Minister’s staff and other staff accompanying the Minister, along with a statement of where travel expenses will be paid from
- Name and relationship of any person(s) accompanying the Minister in a private capacity, including a spouse or approved relative, irrespective of the funding source
Note: If a person accompanying the Minister is travelling for private purposes, all additional costs are paid as a private expense (e.g., the cost of accommodation shared by the Minister and their spouse is treated as a business expense if the cost is the same as for the Minister alone, but any additional accommodation costs, and the cost of food and incidental expenses for the Minister’s spouse, are paid as private expenses).
- Country or countries to be visited
A copy of the detailed itinerary should be referred for the Premier’s consideration and approval well before the date of departure.
During overseas missions Ministers should consider weekends and public holidays as normal working days. Every effort should be made to utilise time towards the overall mission.
Travel Rules and Costs
When the Minister is required to travel overseas on official business in their capacity as a Minister, Ministers’ travel rules apply. Costs are paid from the Minister’s office budget.
When a Minister travels overseas on parliamentary business in their capacity as a Member of Parliament, parliamentary rules apply. Costs are paid by Parliament.
If a Minister travels overseas for private purposes while in office, costs are paid by the Minister as a private expense.
Costs of Minister’s staff required to accompany the Minister on official business overseas are also paid from the Minister’s office budget.
Spouses, Approved Relatives or Carers
As a general rule, spouses or approved relatives, or carers in lieu of a spouse or approved relative, should not attend at State expense. Any circumstances warranting official travel by the Minister’s spouse/approved relative (e.g. an invitation to an official function where there is an expectation that the Minister and spouse would attend), should be included in the Minister’s proposal to the Premier regarding the overseas trip.
The Premier’s spouse plays an ambassadorial role for the State and this provides direct benefit to NSW. If the Premier’s spouse is travelling overseas with the Premier and if their participation is substantially in an official capacity (i.e., they attend official events, meetings, site visits, etc.), the cost of travel may be paid for by the State. This includes the cost of flights, accommodation, security protection, protocol support and logistics and ground transportation. If there is a component of travel in a private capacity, then the Premier’s spouse should pay for that part privately.
Where agency employees accompany the Minister, the costs in relation to those employees should be paid by the relevant agency and must not be paid from the Minister’s office budget.
Invitations at the Expense of another Government
For visits at the invitation and expense of another Government, the Minister only is to attend.
Attendance at Functions, etc.
For attendance at international functions, openings of Government offices overseas, important conferences, trade missions or trade related matters, visits significant to the future development of the State, reciprocal visits, the Minister is to attend and senior portfolio agency official(s) where appropriate. Each proposal will be considered on its merits.
Ministers should not accept, for themselves or their families, offers of sponsored overseas visits where costs would be paid by a private/commercial organisation, whether connected directly with their responsibilities or not.
Class of Air Transport
Ministers may use premium economy or business class air transport for overseas business trips.
Ministers’ staff and agency employees may use the same class of transport as the Minister when they accompany the Minister on the same flight, if required to do so by the Minister.
Whether it is appropriate for a member of the Minister’s staff to travel overseas on official business must be considered by the Minister on a case-by-case basis.
Generally, Ministers’ staff should not undertake official business trips overseas unless accompanying the Minister. However, it is recognised that there may be circumstances where such trips would provide benefits to the State. In these circumstances, such trips may be allowed where the Minister identifies the benefits to be gained in a written submission to the Premier for consideration.
Requests for Private Leave
Requests by Ministers’ staff to take private leave while undertaking official business trips overseas, or conversely extending private overseas trips for official purposes, should not be encouraged.
For information on the use of NSW Government-issued credit cards and private credit cards see Credit Cards under Finance Practices in SECTION 2.
Out of Pocket Expenses
Ministers may be reimbursed for the actual cost of reasonable out of pocket expenses such as laundry and dry cleaning, taxi fares other than for official business, newspapers and magazines, and private telephone calls. Reimbursements will be paid by GovConnect, provided receipts are presented.
Protocol in Overseas Destinations
It is important that the correct protocol is observed at all times in connection with official business trips overseas and that requests to government authorities of other countries for assistance (e.g., in arranging appointments, transport, etc.) are made through established diplomatic channels. To do otherwise may give rise to difficulties and be counter-productive.
Foreign governments should not be approached directly by a State Minister or official seeking the provision of any form of assistance relating to overseas visits. This applies even if an established liaison already exists with a representative of the foreign government or one of its departments.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is prepared to assist with arrangements overseas, especially in arranging appointments for Ministers, Members of Parliament and senior officials. See DFAT NSW State Office below for details.
Contact with Commonwealth authorities should not precede the Premier’s approval of the Minister’s official business trip overseas.
It is essential that the DFAT NSW State Office is notified of proposed overseas trips as early as possible so they can discuss the required level of assistance well before departure. As much information as possible should be provided, including:
- Details of the travelling delegation, including names and position titles
- The proposed travel itinerary including flight and accommodation details
- An outline of the general objectives of the visit
- The nature of any assistance requested
- If appointments are sought, the range of topics to be discussed and CVs of any parliamentarians
The extent to which DFAT is able to assist varies from country to country with the size of the overseas post and the scope of available resources. Where a NSW Government office exists in the destination country, that office would normally manage the visit, including identifying potential contacts and making appointments.
Where a trip involves NSW Government Ministers and/or Parliamentarians, it is essential to contact the DFAT NSW State Office so overseas posts are alerted to the presence of the party in their consular regions. Visits by the Premier or the Governor will involve the DFAT Head of Mission and require a more advanced level of involvement.
Contact details for the DFAT NSW State Office in Sydney are at: www.dfat.gov.au/sydney/
NSW Trade and Investment International Network
NSW has representation in the following locations: China (Shanghai and Guangzhou), India (Mumbai), Japan (Tokyo), the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi), the United States of America (San Francisco), Republic of Korea (Seoul), United Kingdom (London), Indonesia (Jakarta), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) and Singapore. Ministers should contact the Office of International Engagement, DPC, before contacting the international representatives if they plan to access these offices. NSW International Network is managed by Department of Industry. For matters relating to investment attraction, export promotion and other international business commercial matters please contact this Branch in DPC.
Contact details for NSW international offices are at: http://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/contact-us/international-network
Contact details for Destination NSW overseas offices are at: www.destinationnsw.com.au/contact-us/key-contacts.
NSW Government representatives may require a visa when travelling. Visas should be arranged directly with the relevant Embassy, High Commission or Consulate, and if a Third Person Note is requested by the Embassy, High Commission or Consulate when travelling on a diplomatic or official passport, the DFAT NSW State Office should be contacted for assistance. For visa purposes, passports generally need to be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival in the last country to be visited.
The time required for processing visa applications should be factored into travel plans and applications should be made well in advance of the anticipated departure date. The earliest possible advice should be given to DFAT.
Passport information and advice is available from the Australian Passport Information Service hotline on 131 232 or www.passports.gov.au
Information on overseas political, economic and consular conditions is available on the DFAT website: www.dfat.gov.au/
Travel advice is available on the Australian Government website: www.smartraveller.gov.au
Reporting on Official Business Trips Overseas
Ministers need to publish on an appropriate agency website, within 28 days of returning from an overseas trip, information concerning the travel they and/or their staff have undertaken (for details see Premier’s Memorandum 2015-05).
Personal Accident Insurance while on Official Business Trips Overseas
The Treasury Managed Fund (TMF) is the NSW Government self-insurance scheme. The TMF provides protection to NSW Government agencies, Parliamentarians, employees and other approved persons against the insurable exposures and losses faced by Government. Protection includes, but is not limited to, workers compensation, liability, property, motor vehicle and miscellaneous (volunteer and overseas travel) cover.
Ministers, Members of Parliament, Members of the Judiciary, public servants and other approved persons are covered automatically against injury or death by accident while overseas on all official business. This is arranged through the TMF and managed under contract by a service provider.
An “approved person” is a person (such as a spouse or approved relative) or an official accompanying the Minister on State business, whose official business trip has been approved by the Premier.
Benefits for all personal accident cover, including Aviation Personal Accident and cover for Tourist and Travellers Insurance, are aligned with the range and level of benefits available under the Workers’ Compensation Act 1987. The cover applies to the whole time of the business trip, including weekends and recreation periods. Premiums are paid by the Legislature or DPC. Ministers wanting cover for benefits higher than equivalent to workers’ compensation or cover for private trips should arrange this privately.
Provision is also made for medical expenses under Tourist and Travellers cover to a maximum of $1,000,000. In addition, cover for baggage and personal effects apply to a maximum of $10,000 for each person.
Overseas Medical or Security Emergencies
An overseas travel and emergency service is available in the event of overseas travel medical or security emergencies. This service has doctors available to assist in most capital cities throughout the world and can arrange both pre-travel advice and 24-hour emergency medical assistance including advice, treatment and medical evacuations where necessary. It will also arrange for evacuation where civil security is threatened. The NSW Government approved travel management supplier will provide details on how to register with the overseas travel and emergency services provider prior to departure and also arrange travel insurance on the travel itinerary. The TMF workers compensation or general lines service provider assigned to DPC is available to provide advice of overseas travel protection prior to departure.
Further information is available at www.icare.nsw.gov.au/
Provision of Vehicles and Drivers for Public Office Holders
Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, other nominated public office holders and certain former office holders (referred to collectively as “office holders” in these guidelines) are provided with official cars and drivers. All costs associated with these vehicles need to be paid from the relevant approved budget.
Drivers’ salaries are paid by DPC, although the cost of overtime on Sundays and public holidays is recovered from the relevant approved budget.
Cars and drivers may be used for official and private purposes, having regard to work health and safety requirements set by the Department. In these guidelines official purposes means any activity undertaken in relation to the office holder’s official role and responsibilities. Private use must be disclosed in compliance with Commonwealth taxation requirements. It is recognised that certain official activities may be regarded as private purposes for Commonwealth taxation treatment.
Office holders may drive themselves whenever they choose. Cars should be driven only by the office holder, officially employed drivers, the office holder’s spouse or approved relative and any other person authorised by the office holder in those circumstances considered to be appropriate. Drivers may be used by the office holder’s spouse or approved relative and any other person authorised by the office holder to assist the office holder for official purposes.
In circumstances where the office holder’s car is being used by an authorised person to assist the office holder for official purposes, the office holder may request a reserve vehicle and driver from DPC for official purposes. The full cost of this car and driver needs to be paid from the relevant approved budget.
Intermingling of official and private purposes, in a practical sense, may be unavoidable in working out the most efficient and effective transport arrangements in particular circumstances. As a general guide, any car journey to be treated as official must contribute to the discharge of official duties by the office holder or by a person assisting the office holder in the performance of official roles and responsibilities. Attending to incidental private purposes in the course of an official journey (for the purpose of these guidelines) does not change the characterisation of the journey as official.
Logbooks for Vehicles
Logbooks need to be completed each year for vehicles used by office holders for FBT purposes. CMS provide advice each year on the arrangement to apply.
Private Use of Vehicles
Motor vehicles provided for official business purposes (excluding packaged vehicles) must not be used for private purposes, unless specific approval is given.
Car Parking for Ministers’ Offices
Car parking for Ministers’ offices is provided at Parliament House subject to an allocation provided to each office and availability. Further information can be obtained from the Manager Transport Services, Department of Premier and Cabinet.