Federal Government moves to introduce budget office
The Federal Government has introduced a new Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) legislation before Parliament. If passed, the legislation will see the formation of the new office that will have regulatory powers that will seek to introduce increasing levels of transparency and dissemination of information regarding budget policy proposals.
The PBO will also seek to impose greater budget accountability during elections in regards to unfunded policy announcements.
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:
- preparing election policy costings upon request of authorised party representatives and Independent Members of Parliament;
- preparing policy costings outside of the caretaker period upon request of individual Senators and Members of Parliament;
- preparing responses to budget-related, non-policy costing requests of individual Senators and Members of Parliament;
- undertaking its own work program in anticipation of client requests, including research and analysis of the budget and fiscal policy settings; and
- providing formal contributions on request to relevant Parliamentary Committee inquiries.
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.