Taxpayers flogged with record travel bill
Exclusive: High-flying Aussie bureaucrats have racked up a travel bill of more than $600 million for the first time, including living it up with $121 million in business class flights at taxpayer expense.
And the Department of Defence were our biggest spenders.
It's a blow out of more than $100 million since the Coalition came to power in 2013 despite efforts to reign in the growing public service travel bill.
Department of Defence officials were the biggest spenders in 2017-18, costing the public purse a whopping $229.6 million for flights, accommodation and car hire.
That's more than third of the total travel costs for all departments and agencies, which soared to a record $607 million as public servants continue to take up generous travel perks.
Government employees spent a total of $92 million to fly business class around the world over the period, new figures tabled in parliament show.
Defence again racked up a third of the bill, spending $34 million for officials to fly business class internationally.
Public servants also spent $29.9 million for business class flights across Australia, $71 million for economy flights overseas and $252.7 million for domestic economy flights, while accommodation and car hire cost an extra $160.8 million.
Among those spending big were the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade ($38.3 million), Home Affairs ($25.2 million), and Human Services ($42.2 million).
Labor has vowed to crackdown on public servants' travel if elected in May given costs have ballooned since 2013-14 when the travel bill was $502.9 million.
Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers told News Corp Labor would slash travel spending across the public service by 10 per cent.
He slammed the Coalition for racking up a record bill north of $600 million while allowing "blowouts in spending on contractors and consultants".
"Travel can be beneficial and necessary, but there are instances where more cost-effective alternatives could be used, such as tele and video conferencing," he said.
Despite the travel bill increase, the Finance Department argues the current rules "continue to drive efficiencies and deliver savings".
A department spokesman told News Corp spending on air travel specifically had been consistently lower than the 2007-08 benchmark of $529.6 million.
Under the government's official 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".
All staff are permitted to travel business class when flying overseas, while only senior executives get the perk on domestic flights longer than three hours.
Travel must only be undertaken if there is a demonstrated business need for travel and other communication tools, such as video conferencing, can't be used.
"Compliance with these policies is mandatory, however, the decision to travel and the selection of airfares, accommodation and car rental is an agency decision," the spokesman said.
The Department of Defence were contacted for comment, but did not respond by time of publication.