Business class flights — complete with all the trimmings — cost the Aussie taxpayer $31 million in the first quarter of this financial year.
Business class flights — complete with all the trimmings — cost the Aussie taxpayer $31 million in the first quarter of this financial year.

Aussie public servants flying business class

TAXPAYERS shelled out $31 million for public servants to fly business class across Australia and abroad in just three months since July.

Business class trips accounted for more than a quarter of the $112 million federal government employees spent on flights over the first quarter of this financial year, documents tabled in Parliament reveal.

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Public servants will rack up almost half a billion dollars on flights alone if whole of government travel spending continues at this rate for the remainder of the financial year.

It's a dramatic increase on five years ago when air travel across government cost $377.2 million in 2013-14. The spend has increased each year.

Meanwhile, the full travel cost for government departments and agencies, including car rentals and accommodation but excluding meals and other expenses, has already reached slightly more than $150 million for the July quarter this year.

Overseas travel accounted for $24 million of the business class flights, while the remaining $7.5 million was spent on travelling business class domestically, where the longest flight takes five and a half hours.

The departments of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Immigration and Border Protection were the biggest spenders, along with the Department of Human Services and the CSIRO.

Defence spent the most on flights by far at $43.1 million in total for domestic and international travel for the three month period.

 

Business Class travel is permitted on all international flights for Australian public service staff. Source: Singapore Airlines
Business Class travel is permitted on all international flights for Australian public service staff. Source: Singapore Airlines

 

But an analysis by News Corp shows the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources spent the highest proportion on business class travel at 70 per cent of their $2.38 million total flight costs over three months.

About $57,000 of that was spent on domestic flights, while $632,813 was spent on international trips.

A Department spokesman said all flights were in line with the official Australian Government travel policy.

"One of the department's key roles is to facilitate and expand Australia's access to agricultural export markets," the spokesman said.

"Market access negotiations can take years to finalise and requires frequent international travel."

DFAT had the second highest proportion due to the high number of overseas trips, with 63 per cent of their $8.77 million flight costs spent on business class travel.

Defence used economy class more than a dozen other big spending departments and agencies with just 22 per cent spent of their flight costs spent on business class.

The Australian Federal Police, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Taxation Office were among other top spenders.

Under the Australian Government's travel policy, all air travel "must be the lowest practical fare in economy class unless there is a business case or entitlement to travel business class".

Business class travel is permitted on all international flights for all staff, and on domestic flights longer than three hours for senior executives only.

The Department of Finance provides advice to departments on reducing travel costs which recommends officials fly in the cheapest class or a cheaper class where possible.



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