The Napthine Government today voted to block the introduction of legislation that
would fulfil the Government’s own election commitment to set up an independent
Parliamentary Budget Office, Shadow Treasurer, Tim Pallas, said.

The Victorian Labor Opposition today attempted to introduce legislation that would establish a resource for non-Government parties to assist in the development of policies
and to have those policies costed by an independent body.

Prior to the last election, the Coalition committed to establish a Parliamentary Budget Office. In a media release dated on 9 November 2010 the now Minister for Finance Robert Clark, entitled “Labor must back independent election costings” Mr Clark stated that “a truly independent Parliamentary Budget office” was the only way to “have credibility on costings.”

Mr Clark committed the Coalition to following the approach adopted in the Commonwealth “to scrap treasury costings of election policies and instead set up a Parliamentary Budget Office.” 

The Coalition committed to establish a parliamentary budget office within Parliament; to transfer to the Parliamentary Budget Office the taxpayer-funded resources used to exclusively develop and cost the Government’s election policies and “make those resources available for all parties and MPs.” 

“Mr Clark also recommitted to it in this year’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings. Yet the Government have not lifted a finger to make this happen,” Mr Pallas said.

“Time s running out for this election promise to be fulfilled and for the office to be fully operational ahead of the next election. 

In view of the considerable lead time involved in the development of substantial policy and their associated costings, it is imperative that a Parliamentary Budget Office be operational well before the end of the 2013 calendar year. 

Should the implementation of the Parliamentary Budget Office be delayed into 2014 it
is unlikely that it will be able to play any meaningful role in the development of policy ideas by the Opposition ahead of the November 2014 election. 

“By voting against Labor’s Bill today Mr Napthine and his Finance Minister Robert
Clark have missed an opportunity to improve transparency and accuracy for
policy costings in the next election.” 

“This Government has shown time and time again that they are not for open and
transparent government and their election commitments are no more than hollow

This Government has failed in six months to even acknowledge Labor’s correspondence
that sought to develop this Bill in a bipartisan manner.

On 19 January 2013 the Finance Minister said “the Government is examining developments in other jurisdictions before finalising the terms of the relevant legislation.”

Two years ago the Finance Minister stated in correspondence to a member in the other place that a PBO was an “important reform” and would have “beneficial and far-reaching consequences” and that the Government would proceed “as expeditiously as possible,” proving that this Government moves at a glacial pace.

This Bill highlights the farce and duplicity of the Government’s delay.

Mr Pallas said Labor’s Bill allowed for the Parliamentary Budget Officer would be
appointed by Governor in Council on the recommendation of the bipartisan Accountability
and Oversight Committee of Parliament. 

The office would be available to be used by all non-Government parties to assist in
the accurate costing of policies and election commitments. 

A similar office is already in place in the Commonwealth and New South Wales

“The community needs to have confidence that the policies being offered at election
time have been independently revewed for their accuracy,” Mr Pallas said.

“The introduction of this office would make it fairer for all parties and is in the public interest. 

“It is clear from the lack of action by the Government that they have not got the public’s interest at heart which is not surprising when their attention is diverted to catering to the interests of the Member for Frankston. 

“Denis Napthine is only Premier with the support of Geoff Shaw and while he is
focussed on retaining the support of Mr Shaw this Government is distracted and
incapable of implementing its own commitments to the people of Victoria.”