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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 10528

Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (17:31): I think the parliamentary secretary really summed up the government's position. He said that other parliamentary budget offices have the capacity for independent analysis but the government has chosen not to have it with this.

Mr Bradbury: I said some.

Mr Briggs: Just the big ones!

Mr HOCKEY: Well, some. The big ones, like the Canadian budget office and the United States Congressional Budget Office. But that is okay, because now the Independents are about to support a lesser model, in the words of the parliamentary secretary. He said: 'Hang on, guys. We decided—

Mr Bradbury interjecting

Mr HOCKEY: You did that! I encourage you to get a copy of the Hansard. It was a telling admission after how many hours of debate? He has now accepted that the government—

Mr Bradbury: It was the committee.

Mr HOCKEY: And now he is blaming the committee! There can never be any difference of opinion between this chamber and a committee! That is impossible to countenance!

Mr Bradbury interjecting

Mr HOCKEY: Keep digging, old china! Now we have a new rule for this chamber. This chamber is not allowed to disagree with a committee, even though the amendment immediately before the House was not a recommendation of the committee. This chamber is not allowed under any circumstances to disagree with a recommendation of a committee. So we are the echo chamber of a parliamentary committee. That is all it is.

What most interested me in this debate is that, after admitting that this is a lesser parliamentary budget office than those of other countries, the parliamentary secretary then went on to say, 'Yes,' in answer to the member for Lyne, who has already made up his mind but who did ask a question about—

Mr Billson interjecting

Mr HOCKEY: No, I do not think there is any change coming, mate. Sorry to let you down. I do not think he ever moves on these things. It was quite interesting when the member for Lyne asked the question about access to information from Treasury. The parliamentary secretary just retorted: 'Section 64F. Look at that. That is how you are going to get the information out of Treasury.' Now, I have read section 64F—I do not know if the member for Lyne has—and it says:

The Parliamentary Budget Officer may make an arrangement—

This is the subject of another of my amendments. It says the PBO may make an arrangement. Not 'will', not 'must', not 'shall', but 'may':

in writing, with the Head … of a Commonwealth body … to obtain from the body information and documents relevant to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's functions.

I am prepared to put my wallet on this table and make a bet with the member for Lyne. Here is 20 bucks, right here. I seek leave to table $20.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms S Bird ): The member for North Sydney would be aware that that is not a parliamentary thing to do.

Mr HOCKEY: I am seeking leave.

Leave not granted.

Mr HOCKEY: I am prepared to put $20 on the table to have a bet with the member for Lyne that the only source of information this body will have out of the Treasury will be the Treasury forecast in the MYEFO or the budget. I bet that the MOU, if it should ever be agreed between the Parliamentary Budget Office and the Treasury, will never extend to getting any further information out of the Treasury other than that which is published. I am betting my money here because that is what this piece of legislation says. It says you can only use the budget numbers—that is, the Treasurer's numbers—and should you require any further information you need to have an MOU, a memorandum of understanding, with the department from the PBO. What a laugh!

Mr Oakeshott interjecting

Mr HOCKEY: I am sorry, but I understand the legislation. It is in here. It is going to come as a rude shock, but it is actually in the legislation and I look forward—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member for North Sydney will resume his seat. I indicate to members that it is extremely unseemly to be casting bets around in this chamber and I will ask that you desist from doing so.

Mr HOCKEY: I am happy not to have a bet. I am just using that line. Perhaps we can lay something more significant on the line, like the seat of the member for Lyne. Maybe we could lay his seat on the line and see whether this turns out to be the case.