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Wednesday, 7 December 1983
Page: 3472

Question No. 817

Mr Lindsay asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 17 November 1983:

(1) Are commanding officers of major Australian military units provided with an annual allowance to extend hospitality to official visitors; if so, (a) what is the basis of the allowance, (b) is it required to cover hospitality for official visitors such as the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament, parliamentary committees and non-parliamentary committees and (c) is it adequate to cover this hospitality.

(2) Are funds for the provision of hospitality to official visitors normally a charge against the officers mess fund and thus paid for by the officers of the mess.

(3) It is a fact that commanding officers often meet a significant proportion of the costs of hospitality from their own salaries.

(4) On what conditions is expenditure for official entertainment recoverable.

Mr Scholes —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Funds for entertainment of official visitors are provided to all major Service Commands. Not all commanding officers of units have access to these funds.

(a) The basis of the allowance is contained in the Financial Regulations applicable to the Services, which recognise the responsibility of Service Commanders to extend hospitality to persons who facilitate in a substantial way the conduct of Defence business either by advice or service, vocational or business interests, or by their presence at official ceremonies. This does not include representatives of firms bidding for, or interested in, Defence contracts or procurement. The Command Entertainment Allowance Fund, for each Service, is currently set at $10,000 per year, the level approved by the Minister for Defence in September 1980.

(b) Yes.

(c) Owing to upward movement in the Consumer Price Index since the level of the Fund was established at $10,000, the amount available is increasingly inadequate to meet all requirements. The level of the Fund is currently under review.

(2) Provision of hospitality to official visitors in Officers' Messes is initially charged against Mess funds, which seek reimbursement-at prescribed rates-from an official Mess Reimbursement Fund. Subject to availability of funds from Budget provisions for official entertainment in Messes, the individual Mess Funds may be reimbursed costs incurred up to the rates allowed: those rates are currently under review. Where the costs of hospitality exceed the rates allowed, or the funds from Budget provisions for official entertainment in Messes have been exhausted, Mess funds i.e., the Mess members, normally carry the shortfall.

(3) Some commanding officers meet the cost of hospitality which exceeds the level of the available allowances.

(4) Expenditure to the level of the funds available is recoverable if it falls within the guidelines of answer (2) above.