APSC boss John Lloyd defends link to right-wing think tank

The public service commissioner has defended his links to right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, rejecting suggestions he gave it special access and research.

John Lloyd faced a barrage of questioning about his connection with the IPA on Monday from senators,who raised an email he had sent to a member of the group with an attachment showing generous provisions in public service enterprise agreements.

Mr Lloyd rejected a suggestion at a Senate estimates hearing from Labor senator Kimberley Kitching that he provided the think tank "special access" or research, saying the information he sent was publicly available.

Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd. Photo: Jay Cronan

Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd. Photo: Jay Cronan

"My sense of it is there's nothing untoward there," he said.

The commissioner is a member of the IPA, a Melbourne-based free market public policy think tank.

Before the Abbott government appointed him APS commissioner in 2014, Mr Lloyd was the director of the IPA's work reform and productivity unit.

He told senators his contact with the IPA was "very infrequent", that it would usually approach him, and said it was appropriate in his role to speculate on the generosity of arrangements in APS enterprise agreements.

Mr Lloyd also denied reading Labor party media statement transcripts for criticism of the IPA after senators raised an emailhe sent to the institute saying ALP senator Penny Wong had "taken a swipe" at two of the think tank's former directors.

The Australian Public Service Commission's media monitoring would have alerted him to the comments and he contacted the institute afterwards, because he believed Senator Wong's comments about the IPA's former directors were inaccurate, he said.

"It's not what I spend my time doing," he said.

"This was obviously picked up, has somewhere landed in my system, I had a look at it, I didn't agree with the comments the way you described what happened, and I drew it to the attention of the IPA."

Senator Wong lashed Mr Lloyd for the email, telling him that "media monitoring for the IPA is not part of your job description" and adding that he was a statutory officer in the public service.

"Don't you all stick together, like a little club?" she said.

"What's the problem with my comments? Do you want to put them on the record here?"

Mr Lloyd also defended comments in another email saying he had taken the mantle of "IPA pin-up boy" after the Community and Public Sector Union gave him the label.

"The comment that generated my response was certainly work-related, the CPSU national secretary is talking about political overreach and accusing me of hypocrisy.

"Sometimes in these sort of jobs you've got to take things with a bit of a grain of salt and not get too serious about the criticisms and aspersions made about you. So I thought I'd share it with some other people," he said.

"It's not strictly a work matter but that's the way sometimes you've got to relieve the tension, I suppose when you see these comments you find irregular, unusual."

He told senators the IPA sent its newsletter to his personal Gmail account, and that apart from the occasional email, he didn't send personal emails from his work address.

Mr Lloyd also told senators that he didn't seek advice from Treasury in formulating the APS-wide bargaining policy, but kept abreast of changes in economic conditions in other ways, naming media coverage as one source.

"We are aware of the economic commentary that's about," he said, adding Treasury had an opportunity to comment on the policy.

Labor senator Jenny McAllister said it was extraordinary that Mr Lloyd conceded economic conditions were relevant to the policy, but did not take advice from Treasury in forming it.

Mr Lloyd said the new policy, being developed by the APSC, would be announced soon.

This story APSC boss John Lloyd defends link to right-wing think tank first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.