Wong hunts for new travel savings

By Julian Bajkowski

Federal finance minister Penny Wong has laid the ground for a fresh round of public service cost cutting in the May Budget as the Gillard government anxiously hunts for ways to trim federal spending without firing bureaucrats.

In a statement released on a public holiday and April Fools Day, Senator Wong said that half-year results showed that public service spending on air travel had decreased by 22 per cent “compared to the same time last year” and that travel volume was down a corresponding 17 per cent.

According to Senator Wong the amount spent by government agencies on travel decreased by $54 million to $193 million.

The highly publicised pursuit of reductions in government air travel has been a key imperative of Finance as it seeks to trim day-to-day operational costs in a way that can be understood by the wider public.

Senator Wong previously flagged the removal of business class seating as a visible way to hack down costs, a move resented by some senior public servants.

However behind the high-flying rhetoric, Finance has been fighting a far less public battle to inject competition for its travel dollars to Qantas’ dominance in bookings through measures including requirements to choose the best fare available.

More mobile public servants have traditionally been biased towards using Qantas because of the perception that the airline offers a higher level of service through access to its airport lounges and flexibility around changing bookings.

However the appeal of Qantas’ services has diminished over recent years as the airline continues to sweat its ageing fleet of noisy Boeing 767s on key runs in contrast to the newer aircraft of competitors.

Virgin has over recent months intensified its efforts to lure across public sector travellers through the promotion of its upgraded airport lounges that are regarded as a key part of the offer to business travellers.

The government is also attempting to unseat travel agents from the federal balance sheet by getting public servants to book directly.
Senator Wong said the government was “committed improving efficiencies in the public service” and the reductions in travel were “evidence of the real savings being made”.

“These savings have been achieved by booking domestic travel further in advance, selecting lower priced less flexible fares and using online booking tools rather than a travel consultant,” Senator Wong said.

The pressure to reduce travel represents a significant opportunity for networking companies that offer high-quality video conferencing be cause they can potentially sell more equipment or upgrade existing facilities to keep bureaucrats on the ground.

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5 thoughts on “Wong hunts for new travel savings

  1. This government has handled the budget extremly bad from day one of comming to power back in 2007,They dismantled the border protections that the liberals had under controll and restarted the people smuggling all over again, this stuff up alone is costing Australia six billion dollars a year and rising sharply. Now whene the budjet is in the hundreds of billions in the red penny is trying to save some pennies from other wastes they had ignored previosly. It is going to take more than a couple of millions of dollars saved from air travel to change the big majority of the Australian people minds to vote for such an incompetent and disfunctional goverment when ellection date arrives.

  2. The government should have spent the money wisley instead of wasting it all.The late Kerry Packer said it very well. “That we should not donate any extra money than we have too in tax,because the government are no good at spending it well”. How right was Kerry Packer when he said that.espesially since labor came to power just over five years ago. Labor is now desperate for cash and they will try anything to get us to pay for their stuff ,in their vain hope of winning the ellection.

  3. Want to save some money Penny? Just went to a meeting at Transport where there was 2 SES level managers who manage less than 20 people each. Could be done by an expirienced EL1 and save about 150k a year.

  4. Global industry has been using video conferencing for years. Why dont you implement this. With all the galivanting around the world you politicians and civil servants do you would save countless millions

  5. Dear Senators, Public Servants,

    Please starts saving from the top government servants prior to cutting spending to most hard working middle class Australian.

    Encourage public servants productivity and improvements in management meetings outcomes by cutting short of countless discussions without making final decisions. Longer than necessary period of management discussion process had been increasong administrative spending and valuable working time.

    Please consider selecting alternatives from more efficient and lower costs in meeting activities and e-communications methods. This will reduce the stress of public servants in liaisons process and meeting the deadlines without further delay.

    Ming Wah Cheng

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