Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called on federal public servants to put forward their policy ideas, as he doubled down on testimony given by Treasury officials that the plan to overhaul the stage three tax cuts began in the department.
Treasury deputy secretary Diane Brown told a parliamentary committee on Monday that the government had not instructed them to workshop changes to the stage three tax cuts, and that public servants had put forward the idea themselves.
Speaking on the ABC's 7.30 program on Tuesday night, after the Coalition agreed to pass the tax package with amendments, Mr Albanese affirmed that testimony.
"Yes it is right, and one of the things that I've done ... is to restore the faith in the public service, and I want them to use their full capacity," he said.
"So I've had three meetings now with the secretaries of every department and what I say to them is: 'We want your ideas.'"
Mr Albanese claimed the Morrison government had not treated the public service this way, and that "everything" had been done through the Prime Minister's office.
"I want ideas to come up," he said.
"[Treasury] knew of course, we've been for a year, looking at what are the cost-of-living measures that we can take to make a difference.
"Treasury did work on this, we got the final Treasury documents just on the weekend before the [Expenditure Review Committee] cabinet meetings and before those processes."
Treasury was asked to begin developing options for cost-of-living relief on December 11, following a meeting between Secretary Steven Kennedy and Treasurer Jim Chalmers, Ms Brown told the Select Committee on Cost of Living.
Mr Albanese unveiled the government's tax proposal on Thursday, January 25, after hinting heavily of cost-of-living relief to come for "middle Australia".
The Prime Minister's office released the department's advice on the proposed tax cuts, a step not usually taken by governments.
Senior public servants have argued that policy deliberations should not be made public, so that bureaucrats are free to workshop and provide "frank and fearless advice".
Former Agriculture secretary Andrew Metcalfe last year revealed that he had heard from department heads in 2015 who said "quite often, they would put their ... frank and fearless advice on a post-it note or they would provide it orally" in order to circumvent freedom-of-information requests.
Mr Albanese did not confirm or deny whether Treasury put forward other ideas.
"Well I don't talk about all the ideas that Treasury have, of course, because we have ongoing processes with the budget and I want frank and fearless advice from the public service," he said.
"But, overwhelmingly, what Treasury identified was this was, overwhelmingly, the single biggest thing you could do.
"Because if you look at range of possibilities, the one-off payments or provide provision of assistance ... they all added [pressure on inflation]."