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Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Page: 10922

Mr FLETCHER (Bradfield) (22:26): I rise to make some further remarks on the heavy, important and substantive question before the House, which is: which of the two alternative regimes ought best be adopted to give effect to the optimal operation of the Parliamentary Budget Office? We have two alternative proposals. The first is that embodied in proposed section 64F contained in the bill moved by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer.

In passing, may I commend the parliamentary secretary on the mastery, the Socratic method, he is demonstrating as he listens with all-knowing, all-seeing patience to the various submissions which are being put. I have a simple confidence; I have a simple faith; I have a simple trust—I believe that the parliamentary secretary is open to reason, persuasion and a consideration and an independent, fair-minded weighing up of the evidence. I am confident that the parliamentary secretary is not going to disappoint me or this House as he weighs up the heavy question before him of whether he ought to stick to the earnest but rather limited form of proposed section 64F of the bill that he has put before the House or whether he is going to join with the opposition in adopting the broader, more expansive, more empowering version of proposed section 64F which we have put before the House out of a fair-minded and disinterested concern to ensure that the Parliamentary Budget Office operates with the maximum degree of efficacy, independent advice and capacity to discharge its heavy obligations.

I do not say that this is an easy question to weigh up. I do not say that these matters are straightforward. I do not say that these matters admit an easy or an instant answer. But what I do say is that, while these questions may be heavy and while the burden may be a difficult one, I have confidence that the parliamentary secretary at the end of this period of near Delphic silence will rise and impress us all with his capacity for fair-minded weighing up of the different positions which have been put to the House this evening. The position that I want to put this evening for consideration by the parliamentary secretary, by the government and by all fair-minded members of this House—joined as we are with a concern to ensure that the Parliamentary Budget Office will operate with maximum efficacy—is simply this: section 64F in the bill that has been put before the House this evening by the government, through the office of the parliamentary secretary, is inadequate. It is manifestly inadequate in order to allow the Parliamentary Budget Office to discharge the heavy responsibilities that we are all seeking in a fair-minded way and to allow it to discharge its obligations in an effective manner.

I put this to the House: if the Parliamentary Budget Office is to operate with efficiency and efficacy, in a way which gives force to the great hopes that all of us share for it, it is essential that it is given the broader powers that are contained in section 64F as proposed in amendment (2) of the excellent set of amendments put before the House by the member for North Sydney. That is the proposition that I put to the House this evening. We have two alternative versions of 64F. One is manifestly superior. I am confident the parliamentary secretary will recognise that in due course. (Time expired)

Question put:

That the amendment (Mr Hockey's) be agreed to.

The House divided. [22:36]

(The Deputy Speaker—Mr Slipper)

Question negatived.