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Wednesday, 29 March 2017
Page: 2656

Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (18:01): On behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audits, I present a report of the review of the Parliamentary Budget Office and move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

As chair of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, I present the independent review of the Parliamentary Budget Office.

Commissioned by the Committee after the 2016 federal election, the independent review explored the operations of the PBO in the period since its establishment in 2012, with a particular focus on how it could build on its work so far. The Parliamentary Budget Office, in just five years, has established itself as a key parliamentary institution in Australia's democratic practice. The PBO provides independent, high-quality analysis of the budget cycle, fiscal policy and the financial implications of proposals.

The independent review was chaired by Dr Ian Watt AC, former Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Mr Barry Anderson, former Deputy Director of the United States Congressional Budget Office, was the other member of the review team.

In their review, Dr Watt and Mr Anderson described the PBO as 'a successful institutional development in Australian governance', which has 'filled a significant gap in Australia's public policy landscape'.

The latest review follows a 2014 Auditor-General audit report into the administration of the Parliamentary Budget Office, which found that the office, after its first two years of operation, was 'well regarded as an authoritative, trusted and independent source of budgetary and fiscal policy analysis'.

I thank Dr Watt and Mr Anderson for their work. Their report has given the committee much to think about in its role of overseeing the operations and resourcing of the Parliamentary Budget Office.

The review canvassed the feedback of a variety of stakeholders as part of its deliberations, including parliamentarians, Commonwealth government agencies, external think tanks and other stakeholders, including journalists.

The review made a total of 16 recommendations, across themes including: a level playing field for costings; accuracy of policy costings; transparency and public understanding of budget and fiscal policy settings; and governance and resources.

This report is particularly timely given that Mr Bowen completes his term as Parliamentary Budget Officer in July and the Presiding Officers are in the process of appointing a new Parliamentary Budget Officer.

The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit will further consider the report as part of its role in providing ongoing oversight of the Parliamentary Budget Office into the future.

I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.