Page 3425 - Week 09 - Thursday, 20 August 2009

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Administration and Procedure—Standing Committee

Report 1

MR SPEAKER: I present the following report:

Administration and Procedure—Standing Committee—Report 1—The Merit of Appointing a Parliamentary Budget Officer, dated 20 August 2009, together with a copy of the extracts of the relevant minutes of proceedings.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (10.13): I move:

That the report be noted.

This is the first report of the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure and relates to the merit of appointing a parliamentary budget officer. In summary, I suppose, the committee has decided that, while it is important that there is some assistance for parliamentary committees in overseeing particularly the budget and for scrutinising the budget, in a legislature of this size there is not merit in appointing a stand-alone parliamentary budget officer. The eventual conclusion is that the committee recommends that each year the Speaker make available an expert consultant to assist the select committee on estimates to scrutinise the ACT budget papers.

The committee looked at a range of models for parliamentary budget officers. In the United States there is a congressional budget office which has a substantial budget and has substantial staffing but the evidence that we received pointed to how this may be an inappropriate model for a legislature such as ours. In the United States, having a congressional model where the executive is completely removed from the legislature, there seemed to be considerable need for such a model.

However, this was not seen as necessarily a good model for a Westminster-style parliament where the executive forms part of the parliament. In terms of Westminster-style parliaments, both Canada and the United Kingdom have offices or units, areas set aside for the scrutiny of budgets, which are associated in some way with the committee system, and that is essentially the path that we have gone down in a somewhat scaled-down fashion.

There was discussion, as members would recall, during the last budget process and the last estimates process about the wisdom of seconding officers from the ACT public service to assist with the scrutiny and analysis of the budget during the estimates process. I note that there was quite vehement opposition to this notion by members of the government.

It is interesting to note that, in the research that was done in relation to this report, in fact every other parliament in Australia has this mechanism whereby members of the relevant public service can be seconded to assist with the analysis of budgets in the context of estimates inquiries. It is generally considered to be a model that should be emulated. In fact, in the commonwealth parliament the commonwealth public service pays for that secondment because it is considered a meritorious thing to do and

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