New Analysis: Least Transparent Budget on Record

New analysis from The Australia Institute has found that the 2020-21 Budget has set a new record for items deemed ‘nfp — not for publication’ because the item is classified, still under negotiation, or commercial in confidence.

Budgets always have some items marked up ‘not for publication’, but Australia Institute analysis shows the 20-21 Budget has more than doubled the number of last year’s nfp count and set a new record: making this the least transparent Federal Budget ever.

Key findings:

  • In the 2020-21 budget measures paper, the term ‘not for publication’ or ‘nfp’ appears 384 times.
  • This tops the previous record of 321 in 2017-18
  • Spending measures hidden from public view include:
    • The costs of managing an abandoned oil rig formerly owned by Woodside.
    • Money for the controversial Inland Rail project.
    • All expenditure relating to Australia’s Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, which has a long record of supporting controversial mining and fossil fuel projects.

“Budget papers are an important part of democracy in Australia, so the public should be concerned that they are becoming less transparent,” said Rod Campbell, Research Director at The Australia Institute.

“While numbers move around each year, the trend is clear – items deemed ‘not for publication’ are on the increase.

“In Budgets after the Global Financial Crisis there were less than 100 mentions of ‘not for publication’ in the key budget papers. Now we’re at 348.

“All Budgets have items that are not made public and sometimes there can be good reason for this, for example where inter-government negotiations are still occurring.

“However, transactions between government entities, such as Inland Rail spending, or where there is a clear public interest, like the bail out of a former Woodside oil rig, these should be made public.”

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