The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) commenced operations in 2012, with broad support from the Parliament. The structure, resourcing and protocols for the PBO reflected the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on the Parliamentary Budget Office.
The PBO’s legislation enables the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA) to commission an independent review of the operations of the PBO after a general election.
In 2013, this role was played by a performance audit by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO). The JCPAA concluded in response that, in a short period of time, the PBO had developed into a well-regarded, credible, independent, non-partisan source of expertise on the budget cycle, fiscal policy and policy costings.
On 14 November 2016, the JCPAA announced the establishment of this independent review into the PBO. Building on previous reviews, this report seeks to identify the factors that have contributed to the PBO’s performance to date, identify areas for improvement and suggest directions for how the PBO might evolve over time.
International experience demonstrates that the two essential characteristics for organisations like the PBO to be successful are that they are independent and their work is seen to be relevant.
The PBO is regarded as an independent and non-partisan organisation that produces rigorous analysis relevant to public policy debate. The PBO has sought to inform public policy debate, rather than be an active participant. The PBO has been used by both major parties (while in Opposition), minor parties, independents and backbench members, with demand growing rapidly since its establishment.
Overall, the PBO has been a successful institutional development in Australian governance. It has made a good start as an organisation, and has filled a significant gap in Australia’s public policy landscape.