The Parliamentary Budget Officer provides costings of proposed or publicly announced election policies in response to requests by parliamentary leaders. The PBO also prepares budget impact statements for each parliamentary leader, which provide a summary of the total net financial impact of all of the costed policies for each leader.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is an apolitical role requiring adherence to the strictest levels of impartiality, confidentiality and sensitivity.
Under the Parliamentary Budget Officer Act 2010, the Presiding Officers of the Parliament are required to appoint a Parliamentary Budget Officer for each State general election. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is accountable to the Parliament, and not to the Executive Government.
Under the Parliamentary Budget Officer Act 2010, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is to be appointed as soon as practicable after 1 September of the year immediately before a State general election is due to be held. The role has a legislated duration of around nine months, and the Act specifies that the period of appointment cannot extend for more than 3 months after the election.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is supported by a small team of professionals, including staff seconded from Parliament and other NSW Government departments and, where necessary, consultants.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is appointed as an independent officer of Parliament, meaning that the Officer is accountable to Parliament rather than the Executive Government.
The Officer is appointed by the Presiding Officers of the Parliament, from a short list of candidates recommended by a panel comprising of the Ombudsman, the Information Commissioner and the Chairperson of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.
An election policy costing sets out the impact of a proposed election policy on the budget for the current year and the next three years (the forward estimates).
An election policy may create additional expenses (such as increased staff numbers or administration costs) or it may create savings (such as reductions in staff numbers or other spending). A policy may also, or alternatively, affect the capital expenditure of the Government.
The PBO will report on the impact of a policy on the following measures for the general government sector: net operating result, net capital expenditure, net lending/borrowing and net financial liabilities; and will also report on the impact on net financial liabilities for the total state sector.
An important aspect of election costings is that they rely on assumptions and information provided by parliamentary leaders. The cost of a policy will often be dependent on assumed responses to the policy (for example, levels of take up of a spending program, compliance with revenue measures). The PBO will examine assumptions for reasonableness. If an assumption is clearly unrealistic the PBO will seek to clarify it with the relevant parliamentary leader. However, the PBO will not express any view on the merits of election policies. The role of the PBO is not to develop polices but to cost them.
The basic principle that the PBO will apply in publishing a costing is that the information should be sufficient to provide the reader with an indication of what the drivers are of the costs of a policy. Most major policies will potentially have a differing impact on the forward budget estimates depending on the assumptions behind it. The important thing is that such assumptions are shown in the costing.
The Premier and Leader of the Opposition.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer Act 2010 allows only parliamentary leaders to request costings and the Act defines parliamentary leaders as either the Premier or the Leader of the Opposition. The Act also requires the two parliamentary leaders to request costings for all the policies of the leader's party that are proposed to be implemented after the next election.
No, members of minor parties and independent members of Parliament are not permitted to request costings, under the Parliamentary Budget Officer Act 2010. The Act provides for only parliamentary leaders to make costing requests to the Parliamentary Budget Officer and defines parliamentary leaders as either the Premier or the Leader of the Opposition.
The PBO costings aim to be as accurate as possible given the information available about the policy area concerned and based on the assumptions provided by the relevant parliamentary leader. The PBO has power under the Act to request information from other NSW government agencies. If there are no changes in the policy or supporting data after the election, the costing will be an accurate reflection of the impacts on the budget estimates.
This estimate may not always be the same as the final cost once the policy is implemented – especially in the case of capital works, where the end cost of a major work such as a new road or building is rarely exactly the same as the initial estimate, and with revenue measures where amounts collected can vary considerably depending on changes in economic conditions.
Where there is a range of possible budget outcomes, the costing will try to show this.
Election policy costings will be published by the Parliamentary Budget Officer after the Officer has received notification from the relevant parliamentary leader that the policy has been publicly announced.
A budget impact statement includes a summary of the impact on the budget of all of the costed policies for a parliamentary leader. It provides an overview of the total effect on the budget for the current financial year and the next three years (the forward estimates) that the proposed election policies of that leader will have.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer Act 2010 provides that the PBO is to release a budget impact statement for each parliamentary leader on the fifth last day before the election. The PBO may also release revisions to a budget impact statement, if further costings are completed after the budget impact statement release.
After the election the Parliamentary Budget Officer is required by the Parliamentary Budget Officer Act 2010 to provide a post-election report to the Public Accounts Committee. The report will review the activities of the Office during the election and may include recommendations on the operational arrangements and activities of the Office in future elections.
Once the Parliamentary Budget Officer's terms of appointment concludes, the Office will cease operations until the period before next State general election.
New South Wales was the first Australian jurisdiction to establish a Parliamentary Budget Officer, with the first Officer in place for the NSW general election in 2011. Since then, the Parliament has passed (i) the Parliamentary Budget Officer Amendment Act 2013, which made changes to the length of tenure of the Officer and the functions of the role, and (ii) the Parliamentary Budget Officer Amendment Bill 2018, which includes a requirement for the NSW Treasury to prepare a pre-election budget update.
The Parliament of Australia established the Commonwealth Parliamentary Budget Office in 2012, while the Parliament of Victoria established its Parliamentary Budget Office in 2017. No other Australian states or territories have a Parliamentary Budget Office. In some other Australian jurisdictions the role of costing election policies is carried out by the relevant Treasury department.
For example, in the Australian Capital Territory, the Election Commitment Costings Act 2012 provides for the Director-General of the ACT Treasury Directorate to be requested to cost party election commitments before and after polling day for an ACT Legislative Assembly election. In Tasmania, the Charter of Budget Responsibility Act 2007 provides for the Department of Treasury and Finance to undertake costings for the Premier or Leader of the Opposition.
A number of other countries around the world have established parliamentary budget offices or other similar organisations.
Information about previous elections, for which the Parliamentary Budget Office prepared election costings and budget impact statements, can be found on the
Historical material page.
Please note that the Parliamentary Budget Office was first established in 2011, so only elections during or after that year have involved the Parliamentary Budget Office.
Advertisement of available positions (including Analyst, Accountants and Administration roles) take place shortly after the appointment of the Parliamentary Budget Officers. Due to the nature of the Office, it is desirable for potential candidates to have a strong background in estimating the costs of policies, understanding of the NSW budget forward estimates, analytical skills preferably in public sector economics or accounting, and knowledge of NSW government.
Available positions will be advertised on the IWorkForNSW website, as well as on the PBO’s
Media Releases page.
Additionally, from time to time the PBO may need the assistance of consultants at short notice. Any firm or individual consultant interested in providing such services is invited to contact us with details of the services they can offer, their rates and availability.