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Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Page: 2984


Ms O’DWYER (6:09 PM) —On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on the Parliamentary Budget Office, I present the committee’s report entitled Inquiry into the proposed Parliamentary Budget Office, together with the minutes of proceedings.

Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.


Ms O’DWYER —by leave—I have presented the report of the Joint Select Committee on the Parliamentary Budget Office entitled Inquiry into the proposed Parliamentary Budget Office. The committee was appointed by the parliament to consider the proposal to establish a parliamentary budget office, or PBO. The membership of the committee consists of senators and members of the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party of Australia, the Nationals, the Australian Greens and an Independent member. The committee considered matters raised in submissions and public hearings, and also represented the views of their party colleagues. In line with its terms of reference, the committee looked beyond the scope of the Agreement for a Better Parliament and examined various successful aspects of international PBO models. In so doing, the committee considered a broad range of services and possible structures for the PBO, with the aim of creating a PBO framework which could serve the Australian parliament effectively.

Key values underpinning the committee’s recommendations included incorporating mechanisms into the PBO which could enhance transparency of process, ensure equality of access to its services and maintain independence. The committee found that the establishment of a PBO is warranted as the most practical way to provide high-quality research and analysis on fiscal policy and budget related matters to the parliament.

The committee recommended that the mandate of the PBO be to inform the parliament by providing independent, non-partisan and policy-neutral analysis on the full budget cycle, fiscal policy and the financial implications of proposals. In line with this mandate, the committee recommended that the main functions of the PBO should be: to respond to the requests of senators, members and parliamentary committees; to formally contribute to committee inquiries; to publish self-initiated work; and to prepare costings of election commitments.

The committee also found that the election-costing provisions of the Charter of Budget Honesty Act could be enhanced to enable the electorate to be better informed about the financial implications of election commitments. In this respect, the committee has recommended new measures to give parties additional costing-process options. This would serve to enhance transparency and accountability of policies and to better inform the wider community. These new measures include amending the Charter of Budget Honesty Act to enable minor parties with five or more members to access the existing election costings process while also providing an alternative source of costings through the PBO.

In line with international best practice, the committee has recommended that the position of Parliamentary Budget Officer be created as an independent officer of the parliament. In this way, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and their office will more clearly serve the ongoing financial information and scrutiny needs of the parliament as a whole, therefore enhancing fiscal transparency and executive accountability in the longer term.

Related recommendations in the report seek to further strengthen the ability of the PBO to provide independent and robust analysis. These include: provisions to assist the PBO to access information held by government departments; the appointment, dismissal and remuneration arrangements for the Parliamentary Budget Officer; and mechanisms for the oversight of the PBO by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit.

On the committee’s behalf, I thank all of those who assisted the committee with its inquiry. I commend the report to the House.