Swan promises rigorous audit of election policies

The Parliamentary Budget Office will be required to release a post-election audit of all election commitments within a month of polling day under changes announced by Treasurer Wayne Swan today.

In a speech to an Australian Business Economists forum this morning, Mr Swan has also promised to release a preliminary budget outcome for the current financial year well before the September 14 election.

Amid an increasingly personal debate with the Coalition over economic credibility, Mr Swan has committed to a funding boost for the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) to ensure it has the resources needed to prepare rigorous policy costings in the lead-up to the election.

"Transparency would be further enhanced if the PBO were to prepare a post-election audit of all political parties, publishing full costings of their election commitments and their budget bottom line 30 days after an election," he said.

"We will introduce legislation for consideration by the Parliament to enable this reform.

"This will remove the capacity of any political party to try to mislead the Australian people and punish those that do.

"It will avoid a situation we saw last election, where the Liberal Party thought they could con the Australian people.

"As a result of the reforms I am announcing, their $11 billion black hole in the budget bottom line would have been uncovered regardless of the election outcome." After the 2010 election, Treasury analysis revealed a multi-billion-dollar shortfall in the Coalition's election costings, although the Opposition described the figures as a "difference of opinion".

The analysis was only made public because of the post-election negotiations between the independent MPs and the major parties.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey has welcomed Mr Swan's move, saying the Coalition strongly supports the PBO.

"I cannot believe my luck in Wayne Swan calling for sunshine on budget numbers," he said.

"I mean, he is just the gift that keeps giving in this regard.

"Every single number from the mining tax and the carbon tax through to the budget surplus that he claimed he was going to deliver, every number he's got wrong and transparency only helps the Coalition.

"It seems as though Wayne Swan is actually trying to get more prepared for opposition than he is actually running the country.

I mean, he's almost declared the innings closed on Labor by going down this path." The Coalition has said it would not be able to finalise its policy costings for the 2013 election until the Pre-election Fiscal Outlook (PEFO) is released, which will occur after the official campaign begins in August.

Mr Swan has today pledged to release a preliminary budget outcome for the 2012-13 financial year as soon as he is given a "reliable figure".

"Treasury and Finance officials last week were clear that a reliable estimate of the underlying cash balance could be made well before the election and we commit to releasing them," he said.

"This means that the 2012-13 outcome of the underlying cash balance - the most important budget aggregate - will be there for everyone to see.

"There will be no fiscal surprises after the election." Both the Coalition and Labor have indicated the economy will be a key focus of its election pitch to voters, although the Government is still dealing with the fallout of walking away from its promise to deliver a surplus this financial year.

It is also coming under pressure to explain how it will pay for signature policies such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the overhaul of school funding.

"Inevitably, these reforms will involve very difficult decisions, but they will always be guided by our Labor values," Mr Swan said.

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