‘Reeks of hypocrisy’: most popular public service flight routes revealed
Public servants took nearly 7000 flights between , Port MoresbyandManus Island in the 2015-16financial year, part of more than $10m ingovernment travel related toimmigration detention.
New figures from the whole of government travel bill show the most popular flight route for public servantswas Canberra to Sydney, flown 176,916 times whileSydney to Los Angeles topped international travel, flown more than 3150 times in the period.
Federal government departments spent $427 million on travel in 2016. Photo: Peter Braig
Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon accused the Turnbull government of misusing public money, calling out 6981 flights between and the Papua New Guinea mainland and from Port Moresby and Manus Island.
There were nearly 3000 flights from the PNG capital to Manus, currently home to about 800 men in immigration limbo.
A further 4000 flights took place between Port Moresby and Brisbane and Cairns, many from other parts of the government and unrelated to immigration.
Flights toPort Moresby, Manus and Christmas Island cost taxpayers $10.59 million in 2015-16.
Spending within the government’s centralised travel system cost taxpayers half a billion dollars2015-16, topped by the Defence Department with $155 million in costs for domestic and international flights.
Senator Lee Rhiannon says the government spends too much on air travel. Photo: Daniel Munoz
The Immigration Department’s travel costs totalled $36.5 million, less than the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which spent $37.51 million.
Travel between Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne consistently tops the most flown routes, while there were about 42,000 flights between Brisbane and Townsville and 38,000 between Adelaide and Canberra in the period.
The most flown overseas routes included Sydney to major international connection hubs of Los Angeles, Singapore and Dallas/Fort Worth.
There were nearly 2000 flights between each of Sydney and Bangkok, Melbourne and Dubai and Melbourne and Singapore.
The Perth to Christmas Island route fell from the top 10 most flown routes in 2015-16.
Established in July 2010, the public service-wide system makes the federal government the largest spender on air travel in , ahead of miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, the big four banks and the country’s largest consulting firms.
Not included in the figures are the massive travel costs for members of Parliament, government ministers and their staff.
Senator Rhiannon used Senate estimates hearing to grill Finance Department officials about government travel costs. Since coming to government, the Coalition has sought to reduce spendingon travel.
“This is another example of the Turnbull government misusing public money,” she said.
“Most people would be critical of the steep rise in travel costs as it certainly does not represent value for money.
The NSW Green challengedthe Coalition to do more to rein in excessive public service travel and perks.
“This government is fond of telling people they need to tighten their belts, but is allowing its travel costs to balloon out with thousands of flights a year to Manus Island, which has become synonymous with abuse of asylum seekers,” she said.
“This reeks of hypocrisy. It is another example of how far this government is out of step with community expectations.”
Official guidelines for taxpayer-funded travel require public servants to “book like a private traveller”, seek less flexible fares, and buyonlythe cheapest ticket that suits the “practical business needs of the traveller”.
This week Fairfax Media reportedrunning ‘s offshore immigration detention program has cost the federal government at least $5 billionsince 2012.
Top 5 domestic routesCanberra – Sydney: 176,916 tripsCanberra – Melbourne: 164,584 tripsBrisbane – Canberra: 82,294 tripsMelbourne – Sydney: 73,813 tripsBrisbane – Sydney: 61,328 tripsTop 5 international routesSydney – Los Angeles: 3159 tripsSydney – Singapore: 2850 tripsPort Moresby – Manus Island: 2694 tripsSydney – Dallas/Fort Worth: 2633Brisbane – Port Moresby: 2366