Tony Shepherd. Photo: Nic Walker
The head of the Abbott government's Commission of Audit, Tony Shepherd, sought to delay a hearing into the group's plans to slash public spending until after it had already delivered its first recommendations to government.
A letter from Mr Shepherd, obtained by Fairfax Media, reveals his initial reluctance to front the Senate select committee established to monitor the audit.
Mr Shepherd wrote to committee chairman Richard Di Natale on Tuesday citing a ''peak workload'' and potential unavailability of other commissioners.
The Commission of Audit has been criticised as being secretive by the Greens, and Labor has blasted it as a ''Trojan horse for the Business Council of Australia's corporate backers''.
Mr Shepherd, who chairs the Business Council, confirmed his attendance at Wednesday's hearing in Canberra in his letter to Senator Di Natale but outlined his reservations at being grilled before the commission hands over its first findings later this month.
''While my preference would be to defer attendance until February, I am willing to appear before the committee this week,'' he wrote. ''I will also endeavour to ensure that other commissioners who are able to be in Canberra … also attend.''
He will be accompanied by Peter Crone, executive officer of the audit. Mr Crone is the chief economist at the Business Council.
Mr Shepherd will be asked whether the process of identifying waste and ways to rein in public spending is captive to the interests of the Business Council, which represents the nation's 100 biggest companies. He will also be under pressure to make public any potential conflicts of interest he and other commissioners have declared confidentially.
A spokesman for the Commission of Audit said Mr Shepherd had no comment.