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 issued from the now Minister for Finance, Robert Clark, on 9 November 2010, Mr Clark stated that “a truly independent Parliamentary Budget office” was the only way to “have credibility on costings.”

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

On 19 January 2013 Mr Clark told the Australian Financial Review that “the Government is examining developments in other jurisdictions before finalising the terms of the relevant legislation.”

In May during this year’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings Mr Clark recommitted the Government to its election promise when he said the Government: “does remain committed to introducing a Parliamentary Budget Office” and that they “want to obviously have it up and running for the forthcoming state election.”

“Time is running out for this election promise to be fulfilled and for the office to be fully operational ahead of the next election,” Mr Pallas said.

“Given 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 and other parties 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 and again show that they are not for open and transparent government.”

Mr Pallas said Labor’s Bill allowed for the Parliamentary Budget Officer to 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 Parliaments.

“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,” Mr Pallas said.

“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.”

Published on September 19, 2013