Call it unfortunate timing. The inaugural federal parliamentary budget officer, Phil Bowen’s appointment was due to expire on July 23 just months out from when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Australian should expect the federal election to occur.
Few statutory positions are quite as crucial during an election period than the PBO — Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers might be another, although he’ll last through at least the election after this one.
To prevent an upheaval just months out from the expected election period, the Parliament’s presiding officers, Speaker Tony Smith and President of the Senate Stephen Parry have extended Bowen’s appointment for a period of one year. Smith confirmed the reappointment in a statement yesterday:
“The next twelve months will be very busy for the Parliamentary Budget Office, with a federal election expected this year. We know that Mr Bowen will continue to serve all Members and Senators by providing independent and non-partisan analysis of the budget cycle, fiscal policy and the financial implications of proposals,” Smith said.
The PBO was established in 2012 thanks to a deal between Julia Gillard and independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor to secure Labor government and passage of supply legislation. The PBO’s primary role is preparation of independent analysis and costings for policies of non-government parliamentarians.
Bowen, who was awarded an Australian Public Service Medal in 2006 for his work developing and implementing enhanced whole-of-government budget processes, has built a sterling reputation for the office’s independence and integrity. The PBO has faced only limited criticism in the last four years, usually around delays in securing advice from other departments. Last year, to combat the persistent problem Bowen published a list of the worst offending departments hoping Senate attention would spark agencies into quicker action.
While there has been persistent rumours of an early budget, double dissolution trigger and election, the last public statement from the PM on the matter reassured the public (and the bureaucracy) that Australians should expect the next federal election around September-October 2016.