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Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Page: 9141


Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (09:58): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office

The Parliamentary Service Amendment (Parliamentary Budget Officer) Amendment Bill 2011 establishes a new Parliamentary Budget Office as a fourth parliamentary department.

This bill will enhance the credibility and transparency of Australia’s already strong fiscal and budget frameworks.

It will promote greater understanding in the community about the budget and fiscal policy.

And it will ensure that the Australian public can be better informed about the budget impacts of policies proposed by members of the parliament.

The bill is consistent with the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on the Parliamentary Budget Office and the government’s response to those recommendations, which has been tabled in the parliament.

The PBO will be independent and dedicated to serving the Australian parliament through the provision of non-partisan and policy neutral analysis of the budget cycle, fiscal policy and the financial implications of policy proposals. Accordingly, the bill seeks to provide for the appointment of a Parliamentary Budget Officer who will be:

appointed by the Presiding Officers following approval by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit;

employed under conditions in line with provisions in the Auditor-General Act 1997; and

accountable to the parliament via the Presiding Officers, not to the executive.

The functions of the Parliamentary Budget Office will be to:

prepare election policy costings upon request of authorised party representatives and Independent members of parliament;

prepare policy costings outside of the caretaker period upon request of individual senators and members of parliament;

prepare responses to budget-related non-policy costing requests of individual senators and members of parliament;

initiate its own work program in anticipation of client requests, including research and analysis of the budget and fiscal policy settings; and

provide formal contributions on request to relevant parliamentary committee inquiries.

The election costing service of the Parliamentary Budget Office will be fully transparent and consistent with similar processes under the Charter of Budget Honesty Act 1998.

The Joint Committee on Public Accounts and Audit will have oversight of the officer and the Parliamentary Budget Office in respect of its annual work plan, draft budget estimates and annual report.

Amendments to the Charter of Budget Honesty

This Bill also amends to the Charter of Budget Honesty Act 1998, so that all parties with at least five members in the parliament will be able to request election costings from Treasury and Finance under the charter.

Previously this was a service currently only afforded to the government and the opposition.

Independent members of parliament and parties with less than five members in the parliament will be able to have their policies costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office, both during and outside of caretaker periods.

Amendments to other Acts

This bill also amends the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973, the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1976, and the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) to encompass the Parliamentary Budget Office and the officer.

Conclusion

The Parliamentary Budget Office is an important new institution that will further strengthen Australia’s fiscal and budget frameworks.

It will bring greater accountability and transparency to policy costings processes, particularly during election periods.

And it will ensure that no party or member of parliament will have an excuse to avoid the scrutiny of its policy costings.

It will ensure that the Australian public can be better informed about the costs of election policy proposals before they cast their vote at the election.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.