Travel cuts counter

Federal government spending on travel has been cut by 22 per cent, according to figures released to combat persistent opposition claims of ”Labor waste”.

Finance Minister Penny Wong said that the government had reduced its spending 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 half-year figures showed government agencies spent $193 million on travel in the last six months of 2012, down 22 per cent or $54 million compared with the same period a year earlier.

The savings were underlined by a 17 per cent reduction in the volume of air travel.

In an attempt to counter claims of wasteful spending, Senator Wong said the figures showed the Gillard government was committed to improving efficiencies in the public service.

”The reduction in volume of air travel also shows that agencies are using other methods of conducting their work without requiring travel, such as through telepresence facilities,” she said.

Senator Wong said Labor had achieved billions of dollars of other savings since coming to office in 2007, including through better management of Commonwealth information communications and technology ($2 billion).

The Coalition has said it will cut at least 12,000 public-sector jobs, ideally by not replacing staff who leave voluntarily.

The Gillard government last year abandoned its pledge to return the budget to surplus in the 2012-13 financial year, citing falling revenues.

It faces pressure to outline in next month’s budget how it will fund multibillion-dollar programs to boost school funding and disability support.

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