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Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Page: 9975

Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (21:24): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was not going to speak, but this is an important point that has been raised and I would seek some clarification from the government in regard to reliance on Treasurer figures throughout the whole three-year cycle of government and in relation to non-caretaker and caretaker roles. There has been a lot said in this debate, and I was going to let a lot of it slide. I take a view to defend Chris Pyne, Barnaby Joyce and Kelly O'Dwyer in the work that we all did in regard to the Parliamentary Budget Office and the committee work. At times we met after midnight, talking with the Canadian Parliamentary Budget Office and picking up a range of different examples from other jurisdictions.

It is wrong in this debate to say that this is all about trying to model the Congressional Budget Office: (a) it would not fit in this building—it is massive in size—and (b) it would cost an awful lot. So, within the $6 million budget constraints that we have in Australia—and within a Westminster system—we have looked around at other jurisdictions, and the comparison that I would refer all members to is the Canadian model more than the US model. That was agreed by all committee members of all political persuasions.

I would also let slide some of the attacks that I agree are unseemly in regard to the independence of the Treasury. If we are going to go down the path in this place of saying that Treasury is partisan in the work that it does, I think that is a path of no return, and I would hope that leaders on the coalition side—if not the shadow Treasurer then the Leader of the Opposition—will correct the record sometime soon in regard to the attacks on the independence of the Treasury. It is as important in opposition to defend the public service and defend the independent Treasury as it is in government.

I was also going to let slide the arguments around double handling in regard to forecasting. I think it is eminently sensible to have a default decision made by one independent body and that the independent Treasury be that body, so I can understand, within the $6 million allocation that we have got, that we would rely on the independent Treasury to be the default position for the macroeconomic forecasting. But, to be fair, this is a point that has been raised at the end of this debate and it does need to be clarified. Are this parliament and the members of this place going to be relying on the Treasurer's office as the clearing house, or will the PBO have direct access to Treasury for advice, therefore allowing members of this place to have confidence in the independent Treasury and the independent PBO for the advice being sought?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The question is that the amendment be agreed to. The member for North Sydney.