Opinion Number. 1821



Key Legislation


The Registrar, Canberra University College

I refer to your letter, dated 5th August, 1947, in regard to the power of the Council of the Canberra University College to meet from College funds expenses in connexion with official visitors to the College.

It is not stated, except in a general way, what the precise nature of these expenses would be, and I am assuming that my advice is desired, not so much in regard to what might be termed the ordinary travelling expenses such as transport charges and hotel expenses, but in regard to expenses incurred in providing entertainment in the form of a reception or a dinner under the auspices of the Council.

As the Council knows, the powers of the Council are not set out in a comprehensive fashion in the Ordinance. I mean, for example, that the Council is not authorised to perform such functions and carry on such activities as pertain generally to the management of a University College. The funds of the Council are available ‘for the purposes of the University College.’ But the functions of the University College are those only which are specifically enumerated in section 4 of the Ordinance, as elaborated in the Regulations. The Council is the instrument through which the College exercises the functions assigned to it. There is no provision which expressly confers on the College, or on the Council as its governing body, power to do what is incidental to the execution of its specifically assigned functions. Such a power, however, is to be implied by virtue of the grant of the express powers.

Accordingly, in order to ascertain whether the particular expenditure is within the Council’s powers, it is necessary to enquire, firstly, whether it can be assigned to one of the functions expressly vested in the College by the Ordinance or by the Regulations or, if not, secondly, whether the expenditure can be properly regarded as incidental to the execution of one or more of the functions specifically assigned to the College.

The establishment and maintenance of contact with other institutions of University standing is not covered expressly in the enumeration of the functions of the College which is to be found in the Ordinance and the Regulations. Therefore, entertaining expenses in connexion with official visitors to the College can only be regarded as expenditure ‘for the purposes of the College’ in so far as the expenditure is incidental to one or more of the specific functions assigned to the College.

Broadly speaking, I think the dominant consideration in most cases would be the purpose of the visit. If, for example, the visitors came to the College in connexion with the establishment or provision of courses for degrees in co-operation with the University of Melbourne or some other Australian University, entertainment expenses could reasonably be regarded as incidental to such a visit. The same would apply if the visitors came to the College in connexion with the establishment by the College of its own independent courses of lectures. The expenditure would in my opinion be incidental, in the former case to the function of the College specified in section 4(a) of the Ordinance, and in the latter case to the function specified in regulation 1B of the Regulations.

The practice of other University institutions in Australia would, I think, be decisive to show that such expenses are ordinarily and properly to be regarded as incurred for the purposes of the institution. The question is whether the expenditure can reasonably be regarded as conducive to the promotion of the purpose of the visit, and so to the adequate discharge of the relevant function of the College.

Reasonable entertainment on formal and official occasions is, I think, a generally accepted feature of University life, and the costs are properly borne by University funds. I think, therefore, that the University College would be expected to entertain on a reasonable scale on the occasion of an official visitation for any of the purposes of the College. I have no doubt that the expenses involved may properly be met from College funds.

The extent and frequency of any entertaining is a matter of propriety rather than of law and is, of course, for the consideration of the Council in the first instance.

I think it would be well for the Council, when arranging its future annual budgets, to include some specified amount for the entertainment of visitors.

[Vol. 37, p. 571]