Budget Estimates is one of the most high-profile events of the Upper House’s committee calendar. And it’s underway right now!
But what exactly is Budget Estimates and how does it work? Read on to find out more about the Estimates process and how you can stay informed of what’s going on during this year’s hearings.
WHAT IS ‘BUDGET ESTIMATES’?
Every year, the Upper House refers the state’s budget papers to its eight portfolio committees for inquiry and report. The Budget Estimates process allows Upper House committees to examine the state budget and explore a wide range of issues relevant to the expenditure, performance and effectiveness of government departments and agencies.
Ministers and senior public servants appear before the Budget Estimates inquiries to answer questions about their agencies and how their budgets are allocated. This might include questions around the programs and services that are funded through the budget, those that aren’t and why. Budget Estimates is an important process to ensure transparency in government and where they can be held to account.
How do Estimates inquiries work?
While Budget Estimates inquiries are committee inquiries, they are run quite differently to other committees. There are no submissions or member site visits, but rather Estimates inquiries are centred around the hearings themselves. The Portfolio committees can hold three rounds of Estimates related hearings per year.
During an Estimates hearing, the only witnesses answering questions are ministers, parliamentary secretaries, and department officials. As well as the questions ministers and senior public servants answer during the hearings, committee members can lodge “questions on notice” to the relevant witness within two business days of the hearing. The answers to these questions need to be submitted within 21 days and are then published on the inquiry webpage.
At the conclusion of the year’s Estimates process each Portfolio Committee produces a committee report which summarises the hearings in full.
Budget Estimates this year
With the State Budget being handed down later than usual due to the 2023 election, the first round of 2023/24 Budget Estimates hearings have begun later than usual, in late October.
This round of Budget Estimates hearings will consist of 24 hearings held across 11 days, between 24 October and 10 November. Take a look at the full hearing schedule on our website.
These 24 hearings are run across the eight different portfolio committees, these are assigned based on which portfolios each committee has been allocated. For example, Portfolio Committee No. 7 has been assigned two portfolios: Climate Change, Energy, the Environment, Heritage and Planning and Public Spaces. These two portfolios will each have a single Estimates hearing. However, the Portfolio Committee No. 1 has been allocated the seven different portfolios, each with their own Estimates hearing.
Follow Budget Estimates online
Our Budget Estimates webpage is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about these upcoming hearings. It’s where you’ll find the Terms of Reference and hearing timetable and where transcripts, questions, answers and tabled documents will be added after each hearing.
To read more about Budget Estimates, its processes and procedures take a look at our Budget Estimates Guide 2023-2024.