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Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Page: 9963

Mr ROBB (Goldstein) (20:33): What we just heard from the member for Lindsay was absolutely pathetic. He stood up here and said that he would detail comprehensively why the government disagreed with this amendment. He did not provide one reason. He did not analyse this proposal and justify the government's position. Like we saw with the costings at the last election, all he stated was, 'We have taken a decision.' It is not good enough. This government on two occasions now has gone to elections committing itself to transparency and to critical analysis.

This Parliamentary Budget Office was intended to be modelled on the Congressional Budget Office in the United States where there is a commitment to openness and an exhaustive examination of alternative proposals. How can we have an exhaustive analysis of alternative proposals if we are still constrained by absolutely the same assumptions, the same modelling, the same approach and the same prejudices that are articulated in the government approach? It is impossible for us, or any opposition for that matter—and hopefully you in the very near future. If you end up an opposition, you will want the opportunity to have your alternative policies tested in their fullness.

Mr Bradbury interjecting

Mr ROBB: You had your chance. You did not provide one reason. This is a deliberate attempt to throttle the intended purpose of the Parliamentary Budget Office. From day 1, the government has sought to resist adopting this policy and, when it did adopt this policy, it was dragged yelling and screaming because, again, they wanted to accommodate—in this case for good reason—the Greens and the Independents. That was the only reason you adopted this policy. You would never had your heart in it. You are a wholly owned subsidiary of Treasury. You have followed their advice from day 1. Now, in this case, the unelected experts have a vested interest. If they have not got a vested interest in this one, who has got a vested interest in the advice that you have been given? You are unable to articulate one good reason why this alternative body should not be given the independence and the capacity to judge the relative merits of government proposals. As my colleague has said, the purpose of the PBO is to provide independent analysis of the budget cycle, fiscal policy and the financial implications of proposals.

We have seen over the last three or four years dramatic changes and dramatic differences between the forecasts. Even in the six months from MYEFO to this budget, we saw a change of $7.5 billion in the deficit—$7.5 in six months—and you are saying that this is an authority that must be accepted for all potential independent analyses. It beggars belief that you are not prepared to expose your policies and the backing of your policies to independent analysis and also, for the community's benefit, to put opposition policies through the scrutiny of alternative and independent analysis. This is a deliberate attempt to frustrate and head off the purpose of this Parliamentary Budget Office. This is a government that does not want transparency. It does not want critical analysis. It wants to dictate policy. All you talked about was consultation. This will provide no measure of detailed consultation. This Parliamentary Budget Office will have to reach memorandums of understanding with the other authorities. It will have to accept all of their numbering, figuring, assumptions and analysis. This government at every turn is seeking to avoid analysis and to turn a genuine policy opportunity into a political opportunity. It does not want to see legitimate analysis of our policies. It wants to play politics with the election process, the policy process and now this independent Parliamentary Budget Office. (Time expired)