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Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Page: 9973

Mr BRADBURY (LindsayParliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (21:16): I want to offer a few final observations in relation to the amendment. Some confusion has arisen in the way in which this debate has proceeded. Some have suggested that it is not open to the PBO, under the bill that the government has brought forward, to draw upon forecasts from others, to comment on forecasts from others or to provide some analysis in relation to forecasts of others. The bill ensures that, when it comes to the provision of costings, those provisions are to rely upon a benchmark or a baseline, and that baseline will be the forecasts that will be provided by Treasury and by Finance.

What we have seen in the course of this debate has been an attempt to obfuscate the real issues. I have heard a lot of discussion here about transparency and accountability, and I will remind those opposite of that as they seek to move a couple of the other amendments that I know are forthcoming. One of the points that I would like to make is that, when it comes to the question of the role of the PBO—

Opposition members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): The member for Mackellar will remain quiet. The member for Goldstein will also. They are both out of their place in the chamber, as is the member for Dunkley, when they are interjecting.

Mr Billson interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, you will remain in your place and remain quiet. The parliamentary secretary has the call.

Mr BRADBURY: Thank you. I restate the point that these matters were considered by a committee. The membership of that committee that did involve some from the opposition side, who have happened not to be in the chamber in the course of this debate, because it would be embarrassing for them to do so. We have the member for North Sydney now coming in over the top and seeking to move amendments that run completely counter to the recommendations of the committee. I can only conclude that the reason the opposition are so determined to do that is that they want to load the PBO up with a whole range of other responsibilities—anything to keep it busy—so that it is not involved in the serious business of costing alternative policy proposals.

We have seen why they might have an objection and aversion to that: they got caught out last time. But they were not prepared to put their hands up and acknowledge that they were caught out. Instead we have had to witness tonight an unprecedented attack upon the independence of the Treasury. I noted that the shadow Treasurer stood by and allowed others within his ranks to mount what was a disgraceful attack. People should reflect upon these matters because, if they ever do get the opportunity to move into government at some point, they will need to rely upon the sound advice that comes forward from these public servants. Mounting attacks upon their integrity and independence serves no-one's ends in the long run.

In relation to the question of whether or not these particular forecasts are provided directly by the Treasurer's office or by Treasury, I think it is worth making the point that during the election the latest forecasts are the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook, and they are the forecasts of the Treasury, not the Treasurer. They are forecasts that are signed off by the Secretary of the Treasury. So they are not forecasts that are provided by the Treasurer's office; they are forecasts that are provided by the Treasury. It is imperative that, if we are going to have a system that allows for some comparison between policy costing options, we ensure that the reference point is one that is consistent. This bill ensures that that consistent reference point will be the forecasts that have been provided by Treasury and Finance.