Requests for costings
During the caretaker period, the Secretaries may be asked by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of a minority party to cost their publicly announced policies. The processes are the same whether the request is made before polling day or after polling day, where the caretaker period extends beyond that date.
A request from the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of a minority party is to be provided to the Prime Minister, who may then refer it to the responsible Secretary. The Secretaries are not obliged or authorised to take action in relation to any request, unless the Prime Minister has referred the request to them.
Clause 29 of the Charter details how requests for the costing of election commitments are to be made. A request is to:
- be in writing;
- fully outline the policy to be costed, giving relevant details; and
- state the purpose or intent of the policy.16
Upon receiving a request from — or through — the Prime Minister, the relevant Secretary (or Secretaries jointly) will issue a press release to inform the public they have been asked to cost a policy. The press release will broadly outline the policy to be costed.
Timelines for submitting costing requests
Policy costing requests should be submitted to the Secretaries during business hours. Business hours for the purpose of these Guidelines are the weekday hours from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm. Requests received by Secretaries outside of these hours will be taken as having been received the next business day, unless otherwise specifically agreed in advance with the relevant Secretary. These timing conventions will apply to both the public release of information regarding the request, as well as the commencement of work on the costing.
In addition, policy costing requests should be received by the Secretaries no later than 5.30 pm on the sixth business day prior to polling day for the election (that is, Thursday in the penultimate week before the election), to enable the public release of the policy costings by 5.30 pm on the Thursday before polling day for the election. This will allow time for costings to be publicly scrutinised before polling day. Should requests be received later than the specified time, the Secretaries will endeavour to cost the policy and release the costing. However, it may not be possible to complete the costing in time for release on the Thursday before polling day for the election.17 The Secretaries will send a letter and issue a press release early in the caretaker period reminding both parties of the submission deadline.
Withdrawal of requests
The Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition or Leader of a minority party may withdraw a request at any time. A withdrawal by the Prime Minister must be in writing to the Secretaries. A written withdrawal by the Leader of the Opposition or Leader of a minority party is to be given to the Prime Minister, who will then notify the Secretaries of the withdrawal. The responsible Secretary will issue a press release as soon as practicable after receiving notice of the withdrawal and no later than the close of business on the last business day before polling day.
Policy costings may also be deemed withdrawn by the responsible Secretary.18 Where a policy costing is not possible, the Secretaries will issue a press release, as soon as practicable and no later than the close of business on the last business day before polling day, stating reasons why the policy cannot be costed.
Where the Caretaker Period extends past polling day, and where costing requests made after polling day cannot be completed, a similar press release will be issued as soon as practicable after the end of the Caretaker Period.
The non-release of a policy costing may be due to:
- time constraints that prevent the policy being costed before polling day or the end of a Caretaker Period;
- insufficient information about the policy to allow the Secretaries to cost it properly; or
- insufficient data available to cost the policy reliably.
Once a policy costing has been withdrawn the Secretaries are not obliged or authorised to take any further action in relation to it on or after the date of withdrawal unless it is resubmitted.19
Resubmission of a deemed withdrawal of a policy costing request
Where a policy costing request has been deemed to have been withdrawn by the Secretaries under subclause 31(3) of the Charter due to insufficient information or time before polling day, and the caretaker period for that general election subsequently extends beyond polling day, the parties may re-submit the request to either the Secretaries (under clause 31A of the Charter) or to the Officer (under section 64J of the Act) so that the policy may be costed and released before the end of the caretaker period.
Public release of costings
When policy costings are to be publicly released, a copy will be provided to the Parliament House offices of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of a minority party. A copy of the relevant costing will be provided to the requesting party first. Shortly after the delivery of the costings, they will be publicly released on the joint Treasury/Finance election costings website,
Contents of published policy costing
When a policy costing is published, it will include:
- the costing request;
- any request for further information made by the Secretaries; and
- any further information forwarded to the Secretaries or obtained in discussions with parties. 20
The policy costing will also include the following:
- an outline of the specific costing methodology and assumptions used (including any economic and behavioural assumptions) in sufficient detail to allow an understanding as to how the costing was determined;
- the estimates of the policy's impact on the fiscal balance and the underlying cash balance in current dollars, as outlined in Part 2;
- an explanation detailing any significant differences between the assumptions specified in a party costing request and those used in a Treasury/Finance costing; and
- where the Secretaries consider it appropriate, a sensitivity analysis which shows the extent to which changes in assumptions could produce different costing estimates.
Appendix D outlines the pro-forma that will be used by the Secretaries when releasing a policy costing.
Electronic submission and withdrawal of requests
Requests and withdrawals of policy costings may be submitted electronically following the normal processes. The Prime Minister may submit written requests via email to the Secretaries. Requests from the Leader of the Opposition or Leader of a minority party may be submitted via email to the Prime Minister who may then refer it to the Secretaries. The Secretaries are not obliged or authorised to take action in relation to any request, unless the Prime Minister has referred the request to them.
Requests for further information and responses to them may also occur electronically.
Security arrangements for handling of policy costings will be similar to those applied at Budget time and the confidentiality of the costings will be protected until they are publicly released.
16 Appendix C contains a pro-forma of the information normally required to compl
ete a costing.
17 See subclause 31(3) of Schedule 1 to the Charter.
18 Subclause 31(3) of Schedule 1 to the Charter.
19 Paragraph 31(3)(c) of Schedule 1 to the Charter.
20 Subclause 29(2) of the Charter.