If you’ve seen the Budget Estimates resolution for this year, you may have noticed that it looks slightly different to Budget Estimates resolutions gone by.
As we mentioned in our previous Budget Estimates post, each year, the House refers the budget papers to the 7 portfolio committees for inquiry and report.
As always, the Budget Estimates resolution sets the framework for the inquiry but there are some key changes and firsts we’re seeing in this year’s inquiry. With hearings fast approaching this Thursday, here are some changes to expect.
How long will hearings go for?
In the last two years, hearings were held over 7 days. In years before that, the committees held their hearings over 5 days. This year, the 25(!) hearings will be held over 12 days. Hearings will go for up to 11 hours (with breaks though!) from 9.30 am to 8.30 pm. Keep in mind that the Government members can choose to not ask questions, and if they do, hearings will be reduced by a third of the time.
Who will be invited to appear?
The committees invite all Ministers and a number of senior Departmental staff to appear at Budget Estimates hearings. The President of the Legislative Council along with Parliamentary staff also appear at a hearing.
For the first time ever though, the resolution provides an opportunity for committees to invite Parliamentary Secretaries too. If you’re curious, a Parliamentary Secretary is a member of Parliament who is appointed by the Premier to assist Ministers with their roles. A number of both LA and LC Parliamentary Secretaries have been invited this year.
So will all witnesses be expected to appear from 9.30 am to 8.30 pm?
The short answer is yes, with the exception of the Minister and any Parliamentary Secretaries. Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, alongside other witnesses, will appear in the morning session from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm. Other witnesses will be expected to stick around for the rest of the day to answer questions from the committees.
How many rounds of hearings are there?
There are usually two rounds of hearings – the initial hearings and supplementary hearings, if the committees wish to hold any. This year, there will be a third set of hearings called further hearings which will be held in February next year with a schedule to be determined by the House.
This means that a final report will be published in June next year, before we start the process again for 2020-2021.
If you’re interested in seeing how these changes play out, all hearings are webcast live on our website and open to the public to watch.