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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6305

Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (15:30): by leave—On behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, I am pleased to also advise the House of the committee's decision to approve the proposed appointment of Mr Phil Bowen as Parliamentary Budget Officer, as referred to the committee by Presiding Officers. The committee welcomes today's announcement by the Presiding Officers confirming the appointment of Mr Bowen as the inaugural Parliamentary Budget Officer.

Mr Bowen's first task will be to establish a fourth parliamentary department—that of the Parliamentary Budget Office. This office will improve the transparency of Australia's fiscal and budgetary frameworks and will help level the playing field by giving all senators and members access to independent policy costings and additional support to scrutinise the budget.

The appointment of the right person to establish and lead the PBO was of the utmost importance to the committee. The committee considered that the appointment process undertaken by the Parliamentary Service Commissioner at the request of the Presiding Officers was thorough and transparent. After meeting with both the Parliamentary Service Commissioner and Mr Bowen, the committee did unanimously agree to the appointment. The committee was impressed by Mr Bowen's strong finance related background and also considered his diversity as a real asset. Following our meeting with Mr Bowen, we were all confident that he brings the whole package: knowledge, skills, experience and ability to communicate all of this in his no-nonsense style.

Since 2007 Mr Bowen has been the Australian director on the board of the Australian Development Bank. In this role he represented the constituency of 11 ADB members as well as worked to continuously improve the bank's operations. Following criticism of the ADB's operations evaluation department, which is responsible for monitoring the billions of dollars of loans made by the bank to Asian nations, Mr Bowen led a review that made significant recommendations to improve the independence and effectiveness of the office. Prior to this international appointment, Mr Bowen held a range of senior positions within the then Department of Finance and Administration directly relevant to the role of Parliamentary Budget Officer, including five years as head of the Budget Group. During this time, as you mentioned, Deputy Speaker, Mr Bowen was awarded an Australian Public Service Medal for his work in developing and implementing enhanced whole-of-government budget processes.

Mr Bowen has held senior positions in the former Department of Transport and Communications and in the Civil Aviation Authority. He has served on a number of boards and advisory committees, including the Australian Public Sector Accounting Standards Board. In addition to qualifications in agricultural science, economics and accounting, Mr Bowen is a fellow of CPA Australia and an alumni of the Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program.

We only get one chance to get this important new Parliamentary Budget Office right. The establishment of a credible, independent and strong PBO is a unique opportunity for this parliament, and all parliamentarians, I hope, will be working together to ensure we make the most of it.

Along with the selection of the best person to head the Parliamentary Budget Office, the committee considers that decisions made about the location of the office to be fundamental to its success. While ultimately a decision for the newly appointed Parliamentary Budget Officer, the committee is a strong view that it is an absolute priority that the Parliamentary Budget Officer and his key staff have an office located within Parliament House to ensure ready access for senators and members. The committee welcomes its new role as the oversight committee for the Parliamentary Budget Office and looks forward to working with Mr Bowen, as prescribed in the Parliamentary Services Act 1999, upon his commencement on 23 July 2012.