The Government has taken another important step towards establishing a new Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), introducing legislation into the Parliament today.
The PBO will be an important new institution to improve the transparency of Australia's already strong fiscal and budgetary frameworks.
Importantly, the PBO will ensure that the Australian community is better informed about the budget impacts of policy proposals particularly during election periods, and impose greater budget accountability especially in the case of unfunded policy announcements.
The PBO will help ensure that the Australian people are never again subjected to the kind of budget dishonesty that occurred in last election campaign, when the Coalition attempted to conceal an $11 billion policy costing shortfall.
The PBO will give the Coalition the opportunity to cost their policy proposals, instead of putting forward uncosted ideas that have led to a self-proclaimed $70 billion hole in the budget to date. It will enable the Coalition to be accountable to the Australian people about their budget position.
The Government's proposals are consistent with the unanimous recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on the Parliamentary Budget Office.
Under the Government's proposed amendments to the Parliamentary Service Act 1999, the PBO will become a new Parliamentary Department headed by an independent statutory officer, the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
The PBO will be dedicated to serving the Australian Parliament by providing non‑partisan and policy-neutral analysis of the budget cycle, fiscal policy and the financial implications of policy proposals.
The functions of the PBO will include:
The proposed election policy costing function of the PBO will complement the election policy costing role of the Departments of the Treasury and Finance and Deregulation provided for under the Charter of Budget Honesty Act 1998 (the Charter).
The Government is also introducing amendments to extend the scope of the Charter itself, to enable the leaders of parties with at least five Members in the Parliament to also submit election policy costing requests to the Secretaries of Treasury and Finance under the Charter.
Funding of $24.9 million over four years was allocated for the establishment of the PBO in the 2011-12 Budget.
Together, these reforms will bring greater accountability to the policy costings process, improve parliamentarians' access to budget-related research and information, provide increased support for the scrutiny of policy proposals, and promote greater understanding in the community about budget and fiscal policy.
24 August 2011