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Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Page: 3336

Mr HILL (Bruce) (17:48): by leave—I wish to make a statement on behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit concerning the draft budget estimates for 2018-19 for the Australian National Audit Office and the Parliamentary Budget Office. This is not the most exciting of words but it is an important legislative and statutory requirement, which we're obliged to make. Each year the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit is required by legislation to consider draft budget estimates of the Parliamentary Budget Office and the Australian National Audit Office and make recommendations to both houses of parliament. I rise today to fulfil this requirement and to make a statement, as required, on whether the committee considers that the proposed funding for these offices is sufficient to carry out their respective mandates.

With regard to the Parliamentary Budget Office, the committee has been informed that the PBO is not seeking supplementation in the 2018-19 budget. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has met with the committee and advised the committee that existing resources will be sufficient for the PBO's estimated expenses in 2018-19. The committee has also noted that the PBO's special appropriation is expected to be fully drawn down by the end of 2020-21. We will continue to consult with the PBO regarding future resourcing requirements. I will just explain what that means, because this is an important point. The PBO in effect has been living on its annual appropriation but also slowly drawing down on an accumulated special appropriation to meet its ordinary expenses, given its role has grown. It's estimated that in a couple of years that reserve fund, if you like—the special appropriation—will be exhausted and they will need to then look for supplementary funding. A number of us on the committee are going to be working with the PBO to explore arrangements that will ensure the Parliamentary Budget Office's independence and ability to draw on resources as required, because we are particularly concerned to ensure the independence of the Parliamentary Budget Officer as an officer of the parliament and never put the PBO in a position where in the middle of a financial year it has to go begging to the Department of Finance.

The committee also notes the recent independent review of the PBO, which made 16 recommendations. Under the direction of the new Parliamentary Budgetary Officer, work is continuing to implement these recommendations, including establishing a panel of expert advisers to consult on policy costings and fiscal policy issues; issuing an information paper outlining the PBO's costing processes, time frames and prioritisation framework, and a consultation paper outlining how minor parties could be included in the post-election reports; and publication of information papers explaining the methodological issues associated with various policy costings. Mr Deputy Speaker, I do appreciate your earnest, attentive face to my statement here. It's gratifying and greatly comforting—inspiring even.

The committee endorses the proposed 2018-19 budget for the PBO and commends the PBO for its contributions to the parliament and the public through high-quality fiscal analysis and research. That's part A, if you like. Part B relates to the Australian National Audit Office and the Auditor-General. The committee has been informed that the ANAO is not seeking supplementation in the 2018-19 budget. The Auditor-General has advised the committee that the ANAO's estimated expenses can be met within existing resources and that he anticipates completing approximately 48 performance audits over the period. The ANAO has flagged its continuing focus on audits of Commonwealth entity annual performance statements. The committee looks forward to reviewing the ANAO's work in this space, with a view to improving the quality of performance information provided to the parliament under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. In that light, the committee endorses the proposed budget for the ANAO in 2018-19 and thanks the ANAO for its work in supporting public accountability and transparency, including through audits under the Commonwealth performance framework.

In conclusion, the committee will continue to closely monitor the work programs and the draft budget estimates of the PBO and the ANAO. As independent authorities accountable to the parliament, not the executive, the PBO and the ANAO need to be sufficiently funded to fulfil their legislative requirements and adequately support the work of the parliament. The committee thanks the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor-General for their work in support of the parliament and their efforts to maintain a strong working relationship with the committee. We meet regularly with both the Auditor-General and the Parliamentary Budget Officer. They've made themselves available for regular briefings and provided invaluable advice to the committee on a variety of matters. We look forward to continuing these productive relationships. I ask leave of the House to present a copy of my statement.

Leave granted.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Buchholz ): In accordance with this evening's schedule, the House is now suspended.

Sitting suspended from 17:54 to 19:30