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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 10531


Mr BRADBURY (LindsayParliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (17:43): I will address those two points. As I indicated earlier, in relation to the ability to access information, proposed section 64F provides the mechanism through which a memorandum of understanding can be brought into effect, and that would provide sufficient opportunity for access to that information.

In relation to the second question that the member for Goldstein has asked, on the provision of materials for costing during the caretaker period, I draw the member's attention to proposed section 64J of the bill, which provides the direction in relation to matters that might be brought forward for costing during the caretaker period. At proposed section 64J(2), the bill reads:

An authorised member of a Parliamentary party may request the Parliamentary Budget Officer to prepare a costing of a publicly announced policy of the Parliamentary party.

That, in effect, is no different to the way in which the Charter of Budget Honesty occurs in relation to the caretaker period.

Mr Hockey: It is just a duplication of the Charter of Budget Honesty.

Mr BRADBURY: I find that amusing because, for all of the time I observed those within the Howard government, they held up the Charter of Budget Honesty as though it were some particular beacon for good governance.

Mr Briggs interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms S Bird ): The member for Mayo will withdraw!

Mr Briggs: Madam Deputy Speaker, I am a bit befuddled about what I am withdrawing but, whatever it is, I will withdraw.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you.

Mr BRADBURY: I am equally as befuddled about this suggestion that, somehow, the opposition is now not holding up the Charter of Budget Honesty as some beacon of good governance. The committee inquiry in its report did indicate that there were some deficiencies in the Charter of Budget Honesty Act, in particular, in relation to the uneven way in which those provisions treat governments and oppositions.

The proposals contained within this bill are significant and they are a significant step forward that will assist oppositions. It is not often you see a government come forward and support a set of proposals that in fact do provide assistance to oppositions in carrying out their functions. In fact, when the coalition introduced the Charter of Budget Honesty, they were single-minded in their attempt to make it as difficult as possible for oppositions then and into the future. And, having now come into opposition, they have seen just how hard that is. I will not restate the debacle that was the $11 billion black hole, other than to make this point, and that is that the provisions that the member for Goldstein is referring to essentially represent the way in which the Charter of Budget Honesty currently operates. Collectively, the amendments that the opposition are bringing forward represent a very desperate attempt to weaken the Charter of Budget Honesty. In fact, I will conclude by making this point in relation to the confidentiality provisions to which the member for Goldstein is referring.

Under the proposals that are being put forward in these amendments by the opposition, it would be possible for the opposition in the caretaker period to bring forward a set of policies that may be publicly announced, to have them costed but, in the event that their confidentiality provisions were allowed to prevail, then there would not be a requirement for the PBO to release those details. Under your proposals, that is what you have suggested. The other amendment that you are moving would suggest—

Mr Hockey interjecting

Mr BRADBURY: With great respect, this has been a wide-ranging debate and the question I have been asked does not go to this amendment either; it goes to the amendment to which I am referring. I make the point that, under the amendments that have been brought forward by the opposition, you could have a situation where they publicly announce a policy, they take it to the PBO, they do not like the answer that they get from the PBO, they go off to one of their accounting firms—one of their mates—and they get alternative costings and then they shop around for the one they want. We do not want that. We want a comparable set of benchmarks and that is why we are proposing this system. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms S Bird ): I know this is a more robust section, but we might all just lower the level of our voices.