For some reason yesterday I thought of the Green Party’s Policy Costings Unit idea, where political parties could get their policies costed by Treasury and then the results are made available to the public when the policy is launched.
This was Green Party policy going into the 2017 election.
New Zealanders deserve more transparency from their politicians so they can better engage in the political system. Having party policies independently costed will help to cut through the noise of political party promises and deliver New Zealanders unbiased information.
The PCU would be an independent unit within the Treasury and be available to all parliamentary parties.
Further details of the Policy Costings Unit (PCU):
- The PCU will function within the Treasury and will run like all other divisions within Treasury. However, the PCU will be exempt from reporting to the Minister to maintain confidentiality of Party policies.
- Once a policy has been released by the political party, the costings prepared by the PCU will be proactively released.
- The PCU will be subject to OIA requirements unless the policy is to be released publically by political parties in the near future, in which case it will be exempt under s18 (d) of the OIA Act.
- The PCU will be open to all parties within Parliament initially, with hopes of expansion to parties outside Parliament in the future.
- The PCU will be a permanent fixture in the Treasury with extra resources added during election years to meet demand.
- The cost is estimated to be $1-2 million per year, increasing to $2-3 million a year during election year to account for increased staff.
- The ability for political parties to get policy costed already exists in the Treasury, but permission must be obtained from Ministers.
Hard to understand why all political parties aren’t all over this. Not only would policies be more likely to make financial and economic sense rather than being so much opportunistic blather, it might help prevent embarrassments like these,
The Policy Costings Unit policy didn’t seem to survive the 2017 post-election negotiations, but in August 2019 Grant Robertson and James Shaw announced the Parliamentary Budget Office, covered by Henry Cooke at Stuff.
In this version, the office would operate as an Officer of Parliament separate from Treasury and governments-of-the-day.
“This will give the PBO the necessary independence to undertake the role for which it is being established,” Robertson said.
This makes it as independent as the Auditor General, the Ombudsman, and Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
Unsurprisingly National had this to say,
“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.
There’s some nonsense in the Stuff piece about National not getting a Treasury secondee for their office, therefore they wouldn’t trust an independent Office for policy costings. They blocked the PBO in the Select Committee.
Shaw said that Bridges comments were “a continuation of his strategy of saying you can’t rely on independent experts you can only rely on what he says.”
“The more he can destroy faith in objective independent analysis the easier it becomes for him to spread misinformation and win the next election, which is clearly what his strategy is.”
Meanwhile, yesterday, National announced their border control policy,
Maybe National like having secret experts. Or invisible ones. Or vague hand wave over there ones. Or something.
Final words to Shaw,
“Having an independent Parliamentary Budget Office should lift the quality of debate about the ideas being put forward by political parties. The PBO will help cut through the noise to deliver New Zealanders unbiased information during election campaigns,” Shaw said.
“The PBO should enhance New Zealand’s democratic framework by levelling the playing field, meaning that political parties have access to the same resources to give the public consistent and independent information.”
The PBO is intended to be functional by July 2021.