Committee probes Sydney airport land deal

A parliamentary committee will look into the controversial land deal at Western Sydney Airport.
A parliamentary committee will look into the controversial land deal at Western Sydney Airport.

The rationale behind the federal infrastructure department paying $30 million for land worth $3 million near the Western Sydney Airport will be the subject of a new parliamentary inquiry.

The Leppington Triangle land sale has been referred by the auditor-general to the Australian Federal Police for investigation over possible fraud.

But the parliament's joint committee of public accounts and audit has launched its own inquiry into the "governance of public resources" which will canvass the deal.

Committee chair and Liberal MP Lucy Wicks said the aim of the inquiry was to improve key areas of public administration.

"We'll be looking into how governance of public resources can be improved across Commonwealth entities, to ensure Australia's public sector can continue to deliver better outcomes," Ms Wicks said.

Meanwhile, a Senate request for 10 written briefings regarding the land sale has been knocked back.

The notes, provided to senior officials and ministers dating between November 2015 and November 2019, were formally sought by the Senate last week.

Urban Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge said in his response to the order the documents would not be provided as "it would not be in the public interest".

Mr Tudge said it would prejudice the police investigation, which he understood to be in its early stages.

As well, the documents could identify public servants who were subject to "an ongoing disciplinary investigation", he said.

Labor transport spokeswoman Catherine King said it was another cover-up by the government.

"The Senate simply requested copies of briefings received by the decision makers, including the minister responsible for ensuring that taxpayers funds were spent in an appropriate manner in the execution of this land deal," she said.

"Mr Fletcher (former urban infrastructure minister) claimed a supposed inadequacy of departmental briefings as his defence when this scandal emerged, but now won't let the Senate and the Australian public test the truthfulness of that defence."

Australian Associated Press