Friday, September 23, 2011

Might there be a way out of the deadlock over policy costings?

Maybe. Let's hope.

The Greens have offered to break a deadlock over policy costings that has had the opposition declaring it will use private sector accountants rather than official processes at the next election.

The Coalition’s decision to abandon the Treasury in favour of two Perth accountants at the last election led to Treasury finding errors which it said amounted to almost $11 billion when did get to look at the policies after the campaign was over.

The accountants remain under investigation by the Institute of Chartered Accountants more than a year after Sydney University professor Bob Walker complained they had breached professional and ethical standards by allowing Mr Hockey to portray their work as an audit when it was not.

Mr Hockey yesterday derided Professor Walker as ‘‘a mouthpiece for the Labor Party my entire life”. Professor Walker said he was not, had never been a member of the Labor Party, and that Mr Hockey “should either put up or shut up, but I doubt he is big enough to apologise.”

“My complaint followed Coalition claims their costings had been ‘audited’, when that was totally false. I provided the Institute with a detailed, technical analysis. It should have been able to assess the validity of my complaint within an hour, not allow more than a year pass"...

“All this suggests that the Institute's self-regulatory processes are a joke. There is a need for a body modelled on the NSW Legal Services Commission to oversee the profession’s handling of complaints.”

Institute chief executive Graham Meyer told the Herald he was following an orderly process of investigation, attempting to apply the rules of natural justice.

Mr Hockey said he would shun the new $25 million Parliamentary Budget Office Tuesday after the independents, Greens and government combined to reject an amendment that would have ensured discussions with the Office remained confidential.

Greens leader Bob Brown said he was now prepared to negotiate on confidentiality, so long as all parties were required to release any costings worth more than $100 million.

A spokesman for Mr Hockey welcomed Senator Brown’s offer and said the Coalition would discuss it further.

Published in today's SMH and Age

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