ALP pursues government over land deal as Coalition defends childcare scheme – as it happened

By Amy Remeikis and Nino Bucci

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That's it for tonight – thanks for reading, all

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Pressure mounts on Berejiklian

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The Australian public service commissioner, Peter Woolcott, has given evidence to Senate estimates about the integrity issues raised by the Leppington Triangle sale.

Earlier today the infrastructure department secretary, Simon Atkinson, agreed it looked as though officials sought to cover-up the inflation of the $3m parcel of land to a $30m purchase.

Woolcott said the auditor general had made it “very clear” there was a failure of ethical standards, and he was “not contesting” that conclusion.

I’m keeping an open mind whether [the problem] is confined to the Western Sydney unit. He [Atkinson] believes it’s confined to that unit.

Woolcott said that after the auditor general’s report of 21 September, he spoke on 25 September to Atkinson, then to the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Phil Gaetjens, on 28 September. He hasn’t spoken to anyone in the prime minister’s office about the purchase.

Woolcott expressed confidence in Atkinson’s handling of the fallout. The department has appointed public servant Vivienne Thom to conduct a review of the purchase and Mark Harrison to conduct a wider audit of other transactions – and both were highly regarded, he said.

The department had “all bases covered” in reviewing the failures and improving processes, Woolcott said.

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A candidate for the Yes Minister moment out of today’s Senate estimates hearing:

In response to questioning over the migration program and the types of visas issued as part of it, one of the home affairs officials pushed back at the language of a cap in numbers, saying there are “planning levels”.

“In the last few years … it’s been set as a ceiling rather than an artificial target,” the official said.

When the Labor senator Kristina Keneally asked how a ceiling was different from a cap, the official explained as follows:

“Ah, well, the planning level can either be a target, which you aim to achieve, or it can be the upper indicative number, where we look to achieve the quality and the outcomes of each of the programs that are determined to us up to that ceiling.”

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