The Institute of Public Affairs famously likes its government as it likes its coffee -- small, white and bitter. But not so much that it's not prepared to use government as a research arm.

In documents unearthed via freedom of information laws and discussed at Monday's Finance and Public Administration Senate estimates hearings, Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) head and industrial relations hardliner John Lloyd used his work email account to chat with his erstwhile colleagues at the Institute of Public Affairs in 2015. He exchanges what passes for cheeky badinage among the libertarian set, asking an unnamed IPA interlocutor if he's upset about losing his mantle of "IPA pin up boy" to Lloyd (we can only assume he's emailing the passably handsome Simon Breheny, not now-Senator James Paterson).

Just "relieving the tension", Lloyd said about the remark to Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching, who spent about 20 minutes yesterday afternoon botching the task of subjecting Lloyd to any pressure over the emails.