As an independent central bank, the Reserve Bank is accountable to the Parliament for its actions. There are requirements in the Reserve Bank Act 1959 for the Bank to consult with the Australian Government. In terms of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, the Governor gives its annual report to the Treasurer, for presentation to the Commonwealth Parliament.
The Reserve Bank seeks to enhance the community's understanding of its responsibilities and policies through a broad communications program. The primary vehicles are its quarterly Bulletin, quarterly Statement on Monetary Policy and associated half-yearly appearances of the Governor before a Parliamentary Committee, and the half-yearly Financial Stability Review. Speeches and presentations are other avenues through which the Bank explains its views to the community.
Boards of the Reserve Bank
In terms of the Reserve Bank Act 1959, the Bank has two Boards:
- the Reserve Bank Board; and
- the Payments System Board.
Accountability to Parliament
Since 1996, the Governor and senior officers have appeared twice yearly before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics to report on the conduct of monetary policy and other matters falling within the responsibility of the Reserve Bank. At that time, the then Governor-designate of the Reserve Bank, Ian Macfarlane, and the then Treasurer, Peter Costello, jointly issued the first Statement on the Conduct of Monetary Policy, which clarified the respective roles and responsibilities of the Reserve Bank and the Australian Government in relation to monetary policy. Revised, though essentially unchanged, Statements were published in July 2003 and September 2006. The Statement provided for the twice-yearly appearances by the Governor before the Parliamentary Committee, which are timed to follow the publication by the Reserve Bank of its Statement on Monetary Policy. The hearing begins with an opening statement by the Governor and is followed by an extensive question and answer session. The Governor's opening statement to the Committee is published on the Bank's website and in Hansard. In December 2007, following the change of Government, a new Statement on the Conduct of Monetary Policy was jointly issued by the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Glenn Stevens. That Statement did not change the policy objectives of the Reserve Bank as outlined in the earlier Statements, but incorporated substantive amendments relating to the independence of the Reserve Bank and covering practices regarding transparency and communication. A revised Statement on the Conduct of Monetary Policy was issued following the 2010 election and the change of Government, which explicitly covered the Reserve Bank's mandate for financial stability, and again in 2013 and at the commencement of the term of the current Governor, Philip Lowe, on 18 September 2016.
The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 requires the Governor to prepare an annual report, for presentation to the Treasurer and tabling in Parliament (usually in September).
Consultation with Government
Section 11 of the Reserve Bank Act 1959 requires the Reserve Bank Board to inform the Australian Government from time to time of the Reserve Bank's monetary and banking policy. This occurs largely through frequent formal and informal contacts between the Governor and the Treasurer.
The Act lays down procedures which are to be followed if there is a difference of opinion between the Australian Government and the Reserve Bank Board as to whether the monetary and banking policy of the Bank is 'directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia'. First, the Treasurer and the Board are to endeavour to reach agreement. If they are unable to do so, the Board is required to provide the Treasurer with a statement on the matter. The Treasurer may then submit a recommendation to the Governor-General who, with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, may determine the policy to be adopted by the Bank. The Treasurer would then inform the Reserve Bank Board of the policy so determined and the Board would be obliged to implement it. The Board would also be informed that the Government accepted responsibility for the adoption by the Bank of that policy. The Treasurer would lay before each House of Parliament a copy of the order determining the policy which was to be implemented by the Bank, together with the statement provided to the Treasurer by the Reserve Bank Board and a statement by the Government on the matter on which opinions had differed. To date this procedure has not been used.
Section 13 of Reserve Bank Act 1959 also directs that ‘the Governor and the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury shall establish a close liaison with each other and shall keep each other fully informed on all matters which jointly concern the Bank and the Department of the Treasury’.
Release of Information to Media and Public
The Reserve Bank produces a wide range of publications, as described below. All of these publications are also reproduced in full on this website.
The Reserve Bank issues a wide range of media releases on a regular basis, containing information to assist financial markets carry out their normal activities and to inform the broader economic community. It also issues media releases when it has an important message to communicate about monetary policy, or other matters. Since January 1990, each change to monetary policy has been announced in a media release, which sets out the change in the cash rate target and the reasons for it.
For further details, refer to Media Releases.
The Reserve Bank publishes two annual reports each year: the Reserve Bank of Australia Annual Report (usually in September) and the Payments System Board Annual Report (usually in September or October).
The other major publications are the Reserve Bank of Australia Bulletin, the Statement on Monetary Policy and the Financial Stability Review. The Bulletin, which is issued quarterly, contains a wide range of banking, financial, and economic data. In addition, it contains articles and speeches on current economic issues. The quarterly Statement on Monetary Policy contains the Bank's assessment of international and domestic economic conditions and prospects. The half-yearly Financial Stability Review is the Bank's assessment of the health of the Australian financial system.
Long runs of historical data for the series that appear in the printed Bulletin are also included on this website under Bulletin statistics.
The Bank's other publications include:
- a Conference Volume containing the papers (by academics, RBA officers, and others) presented at its annual economic conference;
- Research Discussion Papers, which report on research being carried out in the Bank's Economic Research Department and elsewhere. These papers are intended as a contribution to the economic debate, and do not carry the imprimatur of the Bank's management or Board; and
- Occasional Papers, which contain reference material (ranging from statistical databases on interest rates, exchange rates, and so on, to reprints of submissions made by the Bank to committees of inquiry established by the Parliament).
For details of how to order Reserve Bank publications, refer to the Publications Order Form.
Freedom of Information
The right of access to documents in the possession of Australian Government agencies in terms of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) applies to the Reserve Bank. However, the Reserve Bank is an exempt agency under the FOI Act in respect of documents concerning banking operations (including individual open market operations and foreign exchange dealings) and exchange control matters. For further information, see Freedom of Information.