The $3.2 billion of spending we can only guess at

by Tony Shields

Budget papers are supposed to give the public the opportunity to see where money is being raised and how it is spent. The objective of the Charter of Budget Honesty Act 1998 is to facilitate ‘public scrutiny of fiscal policy and performance’.

Despite this, the 2023-24 Budget includes $3.2 billion of new spending on ‘Decisions taken but not announced and not for publication (nfp)’.  This represents 23% of the $13.8 billion in total new spending.

Some of these items have commercial sensitivity, international relations or legal reasons. Examples range from the clearly commercial – like an IT upgrade for the Electoral Commission currently under negotiation – to high-profile political issues – like funding for NSW and Queensland to put a cap on the price of coal or the cost of acquiring a public stake in defence technology firm CEA Technologies.

Nor is the undisclosed spending limited to this year. As shown in the figure below, overall this budget includes $7.8 billion of undisclosed new spending.

Figure: Undisclosed & disclosed new payment measures in the 2023–24 budget ($m)

Source: Australian Government (2023) 2023-24 Budget Paper No.2, p 54,

Note: ‘Undisclosed’ represents the category ‘Decisions taken but not yet announced and not for publication’

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