House debates

Monday, 19 June 2017

Statement by the Speaker

Parliament House: Security, Parliamentary Budget Officer

3:13 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have got just two short statements. The first: all building occupants have been advised by email this morning that a lockdown exercise lasting approximately 30 minutes will be conducted in the private areas of Parliament House at some time during this week. The exercise will not be conducted in the public areas of the building. It will not be possible to move between the public and private areas of the building while the exercise is in progress. Members seeking further information about the lockdown procedures and the exercise should refer to the email that was sent out earlier this morning and to the lockdown procedures which are located in their offices. Given the environment in which we are living, all building occupants are encouraged to take the exercise seriously so that they know what to do in the event of a real emergency. I thank the House.

My second statement relates to the appointment of a new Parliamentary Budget Officer. Members will recall that on 13 February this year the President of the Senate and I announced that Mr Phil Bowen, the inaugural Parliamentary Budget Officer, will be retiring from the position when his term ends on the 22 July.

After advising the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, we commenced the search for a new Parliamentary Budget Officer. We looked for a person with strong public policy experience and close familiarity with the Commonwealth budget framework and fiscal policy issues. We also felt it important the successful candidate had the capacity to operate in an independent and non-partisan manner with a high level of confidentiality, integrity and accountability to our parliament.

On 29 May, we advised the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit of the outcome of the competitive selection process. In accordance with the requirements of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999, we sought the approval of the committee for our proposed appointment. The committee gave its approval on 15 June.

It is my pleasure now to inform the House that the next Parliamentary Budget Officer will be Jenny Wilkinson. Ms Wilkinson is currently the division head of the retirement income policy division in the Department of Treasury. Ms Wilkinson's term will begin on Monday, 24 July. The President and I look forward to working with Ms Wilkinson, and I am sure all members will join me in wishing her every success in her new role.

I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank Phil Bowen for his service as Parliamentary Budget Officer. Mr Bowen has had a strong and distinguished public service career, including time spent working at the then Civil Aviation Authority and the Department of Finance. He was awarded the Australian Public Service Medal in 2006. In establishing and leading the Parliamentary Budget Office for five years, Mr Bowen has done an outstanding job undertaking his duties at all times with professionalism and impartiality.

The PBO's rigorous independent modelling and analysis has been of great assistance to members of both houses of parliament. I gratefully acknowledge his having remained in the role for longer than he originally intended, continuing to provide a great service to members and senators with the costing of policy proposals in the lead-up to the last election. We wish Phil and his family well for his retirement. I thank the House.

As the committee is required to report to the parliament on any proposed appointment to the position of Parliamentary Budget Officer, I now call the member Bruce to make a statement.

3:17 pm

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—On behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, the JCPAA, I am pleased to echo the speaker's announcement and inform the House of the committee's deliberations and subsequent approval of Ms Jenny Wilkinson as the Parliamentary Budget Officer. The House will be aware that section 64XAof the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 requires the Presiding Officers to seek the approval of the JCPAA when appointing the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

The committee welcomes the speaker's announcement today confirming the appointment of Ms Wilkinson and associates itself with his remarks. This of course is a very important appointment. The purpose of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is to increase transparency and support informed public debate by providing independent and non-partisan analysis of the budget cycle, fiscal policy and the financial implications of proposals. As the committee responsible for the parliamentary oversight of the PBO, the JCPAA is of the view that Ms Wilkinson's appointment will continue the strong and astute leadership of the PBO.

Following its meeting with Ms Wilkinson, the committee unanimously agreed to the appointment. The committee considers that Ms Wilkinson's economic and fiscal related background complemented by a diversity of public policy roles will allow her to steward the PBO to its next phase. The committee is confident in Ms Wilkinson's knowledge, skills and expertise and believes that, in the position of Parliamentary Budget Officer, she will ensure that the PBO continues to produce relevant work that affirms the independent and non-partisan nature of the PBO.

She has held a range of positions in the Commonwealth Public Service, including senior executive roles in Treasury in the macroeconomic and fiscal groups, where she has been responsible for delivering a number of high profile reforms and, importantly, prior to joining the Public Service, Ms Wilkinson worked for the Reserve Bank of Australia, where she held various positions, including that of deputy head of economics analysis. The committee also looks forward to working with Ms Wilkinson upon her commencement in the PBO.

Finally, in welcoming Ms Wilkinson to the role, the committee would also like to acknowledge the very fine contribution made by Mr Phil Bowen, the inaugural Parliamentary Budget Officer, to the establishment and formative years of the Parliamentary Budget Office. Mr Bowen has led the PBO for five years, since mid-2012. The recent report of the independent panel of the PBO, undertaken by Dr Ian Watt AC, remarked: 'The PBO is regarded as an independent and non-partisan organisation that produces rigorous analysis relevant to public policy debate,' and 'the PBO has been a successful institutional development in Australian governance' and 'has filled a significant gap in Australia's public policy landscape'.

The committee considers that the work of the parliament and our democratic discourse have been enhanced since the establishment of the PBO under Mr Bowen. On behalf of the committee, I would also like to thank Mr Bowen for his strong leadership and for his effective and faultless commitment to the office's operations since its inception. The committee—as I am sure the House does—wishes Mr Bowen all the very best in his future endeavours.