Senate debates

Monday, 19 June 2017

Statement by the President

Parliamentary Budget Officer

3:03 pm

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senators will recall that on 13 February this year the Speaker and I announced that Mr Phil Bowen, the inaugural Parliamentary Budget Officer, will be retiring from the position when his term ends on 22 July this year. 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's budget framework and fiscal policy issues. We also thought it important that 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 the Australian parliament. On 29 May we advised the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit of the outcome of the competitive selection process, and in accordance with the requirements of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 sought the approval of the committee for our proposed appointment. The committee gave its approval on 15 June last.

It is my pleasure to now inform the Senate that the next Parliamentary Budget Officer will be Jenny Wilkinson. Ms Wilkinson is currently the division head, Retirement Income Policy Division in the Treasury. Ms Wilkinson's term will begin on Monday, 24 July 2017. The Speaker and I look forward to working with Ms Wilkinson, and I am sure that all senators will join me in wishing her every success in her new role.

At this point I would also like to take the opportunity to acknowledge and thank Mr Phil Bowen for his service as Parliamentary Budget Officer. Mr Bowen has had a long and distinguished Public Service career, for which 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 complete impartiality. The PBO's rigorous independent modelling and analysis has been of great assistance to members of both houses of the parliament and has improved the budget process.

I gratefully acknowledge his having remained in the role for longer than he originally intended, upon the request of the Speaker and I, continuing to provide a great service to senators and members, particularly during the costing of policy proposals in the lead-up to the last election.

I wish Phil and his family well for his retirement.

In accordance with the requirements of the act, I now ask the Chair of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, Senator Smith, to make a statement on behalf of the committee on the appointment.

3:05 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, I am pleased to advise the Senate of the committee's deliberations and subsequent approval of the appointment of Ms Jenny Wilkinson as the Parliamentary Budget Officer. The Senate will be aware section 64XA of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 requires the presiding officers to seek the approval of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit when appointing the Parliamentary Budget Officer. The committee welcomes the announcement of the President of the Senate today confirming the appointment of Ms Wilkinson and associates itself with his remarks.

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 parliamentary oversight of the Parliamentary Budget Office, the JCPAA is of the view that Ms Wilkinson's appointment will continue the strong and astute leadership of the Parliamentary Budget Office. Following its meeting with Ms Wilkinson, the committee unanimously agreed to the appointment. The committee considers Ms Wilkinson's economic and fiscal-related background, complemented by a diversity of public-policy roles, will allow Ms Wilkinson to steward the PBO through 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 Ms Wilkinson will ensure the PBO continues to produce relevant work that affirms the independent and non-partisan nature of the PBO.

Since 2013 Ms Wilkinson has performed senior executive roles with the Commonwealth Treasury, including in the macroeconomic and fiscal groups. During her time as a Commonwealth public servant Ms Wilkinson has been responsible for delivering a number of high-profile economic reforms. 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, Economic Analysis Department.

The committee looks forward to working with Ms Wilkinson upon her commencement with the PBO. In welcoming Ms Wilkinson 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.

At this important juncture it is worth reflecting on the tremendous achievement to our democratic discourse that has been provided by the Parliamentary Budget Office during Mr Bowen's tenure. The recent report of the independent review panel of the Parliamentary Budget Office 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.

…   …   …

… the PBO has been a successful institutional development in Australian governance … and has filled a significant gap in Australia's public policy landscape.

On behalf of the committee I would like to thank Mr Bowen for his strong leadership and for his effective and faultless commitment to the office's effective operations since its inception. The committee wishes Mr Bowen all the best for his future endeavours.