Guide to appropriations-RMG 100


Appropriations are laws made by the Australian Parliament. The Commonwealth cannot spend money without an appropriation. Spending money without an appropriation is a breach of section 83 of the Constitution. There are two main categories of appropriations: annual appropriations and special (or standing) appropriations.

A special appropriation is a provision within an Act (that is not an Annual Appropriation Act) that provides authority to spend money for particular purposes, for example, to finance a particular project or to make social security payments. Special appropriations account for around three quarters of all government expenditure each year.

The annual Appropriation Acts detail annual appropriations provided to Commonwealth entities. The Acts take precedence over details in CBMS, Portfolio Budget Statements/Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements and annual reports:

Appropriations more!


Appropriation Acts (No.s 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, etc), and other Appropriation Acts for the ordinary annual services of the government, provide funding for:

  • departmental operating costs, including the cost of replacing some existing assets
  • departmental capital; and
  • administered outcomes that have been previously authorised by parliament.

Appropriation Acts (No.s 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, etc), and other annual appropriation Acts for other services, provide funding for services other than the ordinary annual services of the government, this includes:

  • departmental non-operating costs (equity injections)
  • administered non-operating costs (administered assets and liabilities)
  • administered operating costs that fall within an outcome not previously authorised by parliament (new administered outcomes); and
  • some payments to the states and territories.

Parliamentary Appropriation Acts (No.s, 1, 2, 3, etc) provide funding for the four parliamentary departments to continue operating.

An approval can only be given to spend relevant money if:

  • there is an available appropriation entitlement; or
  • for commitments beyond the Budget year, in accordance with the relevant internal controls of an entity (e.g., Accountable Authority Instructions).

Unspent annual appropriations do not lapse at the end of each Budget year. These appropriations remain available until spent, or the appropriation authority sunsets. Annual Appropriation Acts typically sunset (i.e., cease to have effect) three years after they are passed by parliament. Officials are recommended to familiarise themselves with the sunset dates (if any) of all appropriation legislation that provides funding to their entity. At the time the legislation sunsets, any unspent entitlements are no longer available to the Commonwealth entity to spend. There can be no ‘negative’ appropriations.

Commonwealth entities can request to reallocate entitlements between activities that are funded by Appropriation Act items, in accordance with the Budget Process Operational Rules. (For more information, see Part 4 of RMG-001 Commonwealth Resource Management Framework Companion.)

Contacts for further information:

Last updated: 03 December 2018