Report on the budget impact of election commitments
On 19 June 2019 we published the 2019 Post-election report of election commitments, detailing and aggregating the budget impacts of the election commitments made by the major political parties. The report includes the commitments of the Coalition, the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens – being the parties with at least five Members or Senators immediately before the election, as required by the Parliamentary Service Act 1999. The impacts provided in the report were estimated using the budget baselines from the 2019 Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook, as this was the most recent budget update before the election.
For the first time, we invited parliamentary parties with fewer than five members and independent parliamentarians to be included in the election commitment report. No minor parties or independents opted to be included on this occasion.
Publication of the election commitment report is the culmination of a significant amount of policy costing work undertaken in the months ahead of the election, and particularly in the lead-up to non-government parties announcing election commitments. A discussion of our response to this heightened demand for costings is discussed under policy costings and budget analysis below.
The election commitment report must be released within 30 days after the end of the caretaker period or at least seven days before the first sitting day of the new Parliament, whichever is later. We met this timeframe in 2019 as a result of the significant planning and preparation work undertaken ahead of the election.
Our planning commenced over a year ahead of the election to ensure we were prepared for a range of possible election dates. In particular, we reviewed key learnings from previous elections to enable us to improve our processes and our report, and we ensured that our data and models were up to date and ready to support the costing of the full range of policy commitments.
Figure 3: Activities leading up to publication of the election commitment report
Commencing several months ahead of the election, we closely monitored the media
to capture public election commitments made by parties and election candidates. Immediately prior to polling day, as required by legislation, the major parties provided us with lists of their election commitments which we published on our website. We reviewed these lists against our records of announcements and sought clarification from parties with respect to any discrepancies to ensure that commitments made as part of election campaigning had their budget impact included in our report. Any differences between the parties’ lists and the PBO’s assessment of commitments were outlined in correspondence to party leaders in the days immediately following the end of the caretaker period.
For the first time, our report included the medium-term impacts of major policy commitments, showing budget implications for proposals for the budget year plus ten years. This approach was recommended in the 2016–17 review of the PBO, as including medium-term impacts provides a better understanding of the longer-term implications of various policy commitments.
For the 2019 election, we significantly improved our communication to the public around our election commitment report and its relevance. The most significant of these improvements was our website where we built a new set of pages to support the election period and provided additional detail about our role and requirements before and after the election. We also implemented a new search tool, where each election commitment costing is separately listed, and can be searched and accessed by the public. This is much more accessible than the consolidated document of commitments we have provided in the past and is part of our ongoing drive to enhance transparency. We are in the process of further improving our website functionality to provide a comprehensive database of all costings that we release.
We released a range of guidance documents to help parliamentarians and the public understand our role and processes relating to the election. These were:
- 2019 Post-election report of election commitments – provided information about our post-election report and our processes for engaging with parliamentary parties.
- Costing policy proposals during the caretaker period – information for parliamentarians on our approach to undertaking policy costings during the caretaker period for the election.
- Post-election report of election commitments: medium-term reporting – provided details of our plans to include the medium-term budget impacts of full election platforms and major proposals in our post-election report.
In the short timeframe between the publication of the post-election report and the end of the financial year, the post-election report website page had around 1,000 views, with the report itself averaging over 50 downloads each day.