MARKUS MANNHEIM, PUBLIC SERVICE REPORTER
24/02/2009 2:12:00 PM
Public servants are violating the Federal Government’s directive to fly on airlines other than Qantas between Sydney and Canberra.
The Finance Department told a Senate estimates hearing today that only 12 per cent of trips during the December quarter were on Virgin Blue flights.
The department directed all government agencies in February last year to use smaller airlines for at least 25 per cent of the Sydney-Canberra flights.
The December figure was a marginal improvement on the September quarter, when only 10 per cent of trips were on Virgin Blue.
The worst offenders in September were the Defence Department and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which used Qantas for 19 in every 20 flights.
Only Agriculture (29 per cent), Communications (34 per cent) and Infrastructure (25 per cent) met the Government’s non-Qantas target.
ACT Liberal senator Gary Humphries said attempts to encourage public servants to fly on Virgin Blue seemed to be “stalling”.
“Let’s be frank: we all know that the fares available on airlines like Virgin are lower than Qantas’s, and quite substantially lower,” he said. “There are other reasons that public servants choose to fly on Qantas.”
Virgin Blue scrapped its Sydney-Canberra leg in 2004, saying bureaucrats made travel decisions based on whether they got “frequent flyer points or access to a lounge for free grog”.
It reintroduced the route last year when the Rudd Government announced its non-Qantas target.
Senator Humphries said today the target should be extended to cover flights other those between Sydney and Canberra.
Labor frontbencher Nick Sheery said air travel expenses were a “key area” of interest to the Government.
“We certainly, as a Commonwealth, spend a lot of money on air travel, as distinct from other areas of expenditure,” he told the estimates committee.
Public servants are not meant to use frequent flyer points from official travel for private trips, though use of the points is not monitored.
Posted by: euzoia | February 25, 2009
Public servants ignore flight rules
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