I join with my colleagues in supporting the Parliamentary Service Amendment (Parliamentary Budget Officer) Bill 2013. Like it has done on many occasions, the coalition has come into this House and supported legislation by this government. I think we support 87 per cent of the bills that come before this House, so it perplexes me somewhat how often I hear in the media of the negativity of the coalition, when the facts speak for themselves on how we have worked. The bill before us today speaks of the development of the PBO, the Parliamentary Budget Officer. This is a well-overdue —and agreed by the coalition—position helping to understand costings, because, by jingo, it can be difficult at that time of the year trying to forecast what revenues could look like. I am going to get to some absolute crackers of revenue forecasts and some expenditure that hopefully in future the PBO will be able to enlighten me about.
One of the other things that the PBO will do is start us all from the same assumption points. Suppose I were to make an assumption in an expenditure over the forward estimates and I were to use an assumption from an economic perspective. Just say I was in the mining sector and I was going to use the long-term average of sales. The flow-on assumptions over the forward estimates, if I were to use a different set of assumptions—say over the short-term average— would be vastly different. There would be billions and billions of dollars difference over the forward estimates. One of the benefits that this bill gives us is being able to compare apples and oranges. There are actually five parts to this bill, and it introduces a sixth, which I will get to.
It came about from the Joint Select Committee on the Parliamentary Budget Office, out of the parliamentary process, which subsequently recommended that the PBO be established. I touched on the assumptions. The PBO prepares costings on request by parliamentarians outside the caretaker period, and it prepares policy costings on request by authorised members of the parliamentary parties. It can prepare responses to parliamentarians' requests relating to the budget, and it prepares submissions to inquiries of parliamentary committees at the request of committees. It can conduct research and analysis on budget and fiscal policy settings of its own initiative.
During the course of an election campaign, parties on both sides will make commitments to what they want to fund. Some of those will be funded internally. Just say you had a rogue person in your ranks who went out and promised something collectively in their electorate that was not part of the party's funding mechanism, the PBO would be able to bring that in in the evaluation process and say, 'Hey, you've got too many dollars being spent twice here'—and money being spent twice is often the case.
The amendments to the bill include a period of 48 hours for rebuttal, where you can go back to the PBO about the post-election report, which I will speak on at length. That is a welcome addition, because in the past it seemed like the PBO was just too quick to get to a camera to highlight inefficiencies, as opposed to doing the job that it is supposed to do. One of the outcomes I think we are trying to achieve here is to see who gets the 'pants on fire' award when it comes to budget costings!
The PBO will be required to prepare a report before the end of 30 days after the election for each parliamentary party on the costings of publicly announced policies and the impact the total combined costs of those policies would have on the Commonwealth budget. So you will put your costings in and 30 days later you will have the outcome of the PBO's decisions. There do not seem to be any real consequences for or negative impact on a party if they do it wrong, because —guess what—the election will already be over.
That is probably an area that we could look at bringing forward to give people a little bit more information.
With regard to the amendments, this bill keeps on morphing. It morphs. There seem to be a million amendments to the government's original amendments to the legislation. The coalition indicated its support for the legislation before us today. Up to now, the PBO legislation has not mandated that any of the parties provide information to the PBO; it has been a voluntary arrangement struck under agreements. Although these new provisions entail compulsion, there are no penalties, as I said.
This amendment bill really focuses on honesty and the Charter of Budget Honesty. The PBO is not required to take account of any comments provided by parliamentary parties. However, the post-election report must set out comments provided and note if no comments were provided. That is just a summary of what I said before.
These arrangements are an improvement on the postelection 'audit' that the coalition was subjected to after the 2010 election. As a result, we do welcome the bill. The PBO is something that we can work with. We support it in its entirety. We will continue to monitor the effectiveness of this. We trust that the intent of the bill is sound, and therefore it has our support, along with the many other bills that come before this House that have our support.