After getting burnt by Steven Joyce’s “$11.7b hole” the Government is keen to set up a new watchdog to cost election policies.
But the new-look Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) will not be ready in time for the next election, and National leader Simon Bridges has come out strongly against it, with a move that could see the idea scuppered.
The PBO, similarly to the Congressional Budget Office in the USA, would provide independent costings of party’s election policies and monitor Government’s budgets.
The idea is that this office would provide voters with non-partisan analysis of what each party’s policies will cost the country, if they were to submit them to the PBO and agree for the costings to be released.
I have been an advocate of such a unit for many years. I was pleased to see the Greens promote it last election and Labour agree to implement one in their agreement.
The proposed model of an independent office of Parliament is the right one, as independence is key.
“I oppose it because I don’t trust the Government on it. I think it is an opportunity they see to illegitimately, undemocratically screw the scrum on the Opposition,” Bridges said.
He said he felt this way because he was having trouble getting a Treasury secondee to help National’s office, as is tradition, and had been asking for months.
Bridges was eventually offered a Treasury secondee but he said this staffer was clearly unsuitable for the role.
“I feel like we’ve been obstructed from the get-go by the Minister of Finance’s office and also by Treasury.”
“How can I trust them with a supposedly independent institution over the top of that to provide a view on our costings?” he said.
Simon is on the wrong side of this one. He may well be right in not trusting the Government, but that is even more reason to support this proposal of having costings done by an independent agency of Parliament.
Voters deserve to make informed decisions on the cost of promises by politicians. This proposed agency will be a key step towards that. You really don’t want parties self-costing their own policies as they often under-estimate the cost – especially Labour.
This proposal is good for voters, good for fiscal conservatives and good for responsible political parties that want to ensure their policies are affordable.
I hope it gets unanimous support by Parliament.