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Public servants to have wings clipped

By 17 March 2008 25

In a move that is sure to have many a perk-conscience public servant quivering much akin to a Dolhpin on a John West cannery tour, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner sees savings of up to $15 million from Departmental travel costs by insisting Public servants give the budget airlines a burl, and using video conferencing where possible. This however was a decision thrown out by the former Howard Government, and has been embraced by St Kev the Immaculate and his cost conscience cabinet. However, the SMH had a spray about the dirty tactics being used by airlines such as Tiger, ane xample being lost cost airfare however if your carry on luggage is over 10kg’s, prepare to pay $10-15 per kg over. Thats even before you look at the double booking, old aircraft and staff not neccesarilly knowing which domestic airport they are currently taxi’ing into, or where they are going.
Video conferencing will be canvassed as a possibnle idea, providing confiedntaility can be assured, so good luck with one lads. No more hanging out in an office using your eyeball there me thinks.

“We want to get a focus on the issue of cost management and look at the most efficient ways of doing things,” the minister’s spokesman said.

They will also be looking at forcing the use of frquent flying points, which for a long time has been seen as a perk of the executives, whom bank roll those for the travels to see grand kids and elderly parents interstate during their dotage. As for the good folk working for the various State Governments and the odd-State office that isn’t a backwater for the methadone monkeys and random sheltered workshop look-alikes, looks like you’ll be travelling to see the big boys in Canberra from here, for at least a few years.

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25 Responses to
Public servants to have wings clipped
BerraBoy68 5:03 pm
17 Mar 08
#1

Having recently left the Public service after 20 years I can say “about time!”.

In at least two department where I worked we lobbied to be allowed to travel on the cheaper airlines domestically and, when traveling overseas, to be allowed to fly economy. Sounds weird I know but the reason is we were constantly being refused travel to important meetings on the grounds the airfares were too expensive. I still can’t understand why Public Servants have to fly Business Class when they’re going overseas. I’ve had two trips and the taxpayer would have been better off if I went economy. Don’t get me wrong, Bus. class is a nice perk but still…

We were also refused the chance to use our frequent flyer points earned on other work trips we did undertake. We couldn’t use them for either work or personal purposes, what a waste.

Ingeegoodbee 5:04 pm
17 Mar 08
#2

The idea of selecting a cheap flight is a tricky thing. the reasons behind business travel are often quite fluid and there’s often plenty of need for flexibility – you might have a string of meetings lined up and some cancel meaning you want to be back early rather than hang around in another city wasting time, clients might want to reschedule at late notice etc. this sort of flexibility doesn’t come cheap and you’re unlikely to get it with the budget airlines.

It mightn’t be across the board, but I understood that public sector travellers didn’t score frequent flyer points – I certainly know a number of departments haven’t had them for at least five years. This was part of a cost efficiency trade off with QANTAS because at the scale that the Commonwealth buys travel there were savings to be made if the airline didn’t need to manage the points – PS travellers do get status credits though, the only real perks of which are free club lounge membership and preferential access to upgrades.

Of interest though, and what at first blush seems to be contradictory to the stated economy drive, is the fact that since the election public sector travellers undertaking international travel now fly business class on all sectors rather than just the international ones – when you’re buying rack rates that’s gotta add a bit to a trip.

p1 5:17 pm
17 Mar 08
#3

what does it cost in lost productivity if a EL2 sits in departure for an extra hour because of tigers aggressive policy of early check in?

Or though i have to say I am generally for these changes.

VicePope 5:44 pm
17 Mar 08
#4

The silliness of most travel for meetings is beyond me to understand. Have these people not heard of telephones and e-mail (or, indeeed, videoconferencing)? No-one catches a plane for the food, or for the fun of being at the airport at some stupid hour of the morning. So why do we do it at all?

For trips to Sydney, dare I say driving or catching a bus or train will probably be close to as quick, assuming there is some reason for doing a face to face thing. I wonder how much of public sector travel is because senior business people travel, and it becomes a status thing.

The government (generally) would have to be the biggest customer of domestic air travel to and from Canberra. Given the growing appreciation of the fact that there is one government (ie, one Commonwealth public sector), what would be wrong with saying that it needs X trips to Brisbane on Tuesday (etc), and letting the airlines compete for the best price, and then allocating the trips to the agencies that need them? In other words, why not act as its own version of Flight Centre? Any extras can be bought commercially. A huge silliness and waste of time/money in some agencies is making high-paid people book their own flights and accommodation (individually).

mutley...again 7:12 pm
17 Mar 08
#5

Jeebus S4anta, would it kill you to proof-read occasionally?

AussieGal83 8:48 pm
17 Mar 08
#6

We use teleconferencing in our Department a hell of a lot. Maybe the Ministers should also think about their own travel. Our Minister travels over to WA nearly every other week, its ridiculous.

thetruth 9:12 pm
17 Mar 08
#7

The previous Government tried to enforce this edict but public servants wanted to fly Qantas because it had food that you didn’t pay for and they had qantas club (for food that you didn’t pay for).

Public servants are very simple beasts if yoou give them food (or anything) for nothing they don’t mind paying more with taxpayers dollars.

Just look next time at what happens to the food left over after a hospitality meeting – ever been to one that didn’t have something left over??? Good old deliberate over catering to feed your section (see how long it lasts after the email goes out)

I-filed 9:12 pm
17 Mar 08
#8

In defence of public servants, junior public servants on less than $70,000 travel too – it is no treat having to get up at 4.00 am to catch an early flight to make a 9.00 am meeting because you already aren’t allowed to stay overnight the night before … bit of easing on the checkin side of things is very welcome … and no, the extra check-in time is NOT paid time.

thetruth 9:13 pm
17 Mar 08
#9

regarding travel it is also worth noting the carbon footprint maybe forcing departments to budget their carbon foot print will have better travel outcomes.

ant 10:24 pm
17 Mar 08
#10

It’ll be interesting to see if this gov’t has more luck enforcing this than previous gov’ts. They usually come up with all these grand ideas…. feed the smaller non-Qantas airlines, fly economy, use the cheaper airfares, etc etc blah.

But. The Departments release something vague to their people, the SES (bulk of travellers) ignore it as it’s aimed at the peasants, Dep’t tells the EAs that This Is Serious and leaves them to somehow get it through to their bosses. And not surprisingly, it falls in a heap.

Now, Rudd and Co have so far done a few different things and I’m wondering if maybe having a PM who was in the APS might mean that this gov’t has some real inside knowledge. But just releasing edicts and telling departments to Save Money has always failed before.

shauno 10:27 pm
17 Mar 08
#11

In the Oil and Gas industry money isn’t exactly in short supply but regardless everybody usually flys economy even up to quiet a high management level. We frequently do get business though because some of our flights are booked at the last minute and its the only seats available. We get full economy fares usually so we can make changes and as most of our flights are International this saves a heap of money. I can not see any reason for the Government to be flying anyone Business class overseas. The cost of ticket to say LA would be 7k to 9k compared to maybe 2k. If Rudd is serious about saving money this should be the first thing to go.

ant 10:35 pm
17 Mar 08
#12

Agree, Shauno. This is a biggie. You could send 2 people O/S for the price of the average trip. And they can always try to use their points to upgrade.

Some smarter dep’ts have found ways to record the points accrued by staff for work trips, and to utilise them especially on domestic flights.

diprotodon 10:50 pm
17 Mar 08
#13

Will the government be reimbursing staff who chose to Salary Sacrifice Qantas Club membership with this change of policy, or will they cough up for Virgin as well?

les 10:59 pm
17 Mar 08
#14

video conferencing isn’t exactly a cheaper alternative – apparently the department is charged $200/hr for the privilege… but then you’d have to consider the other costs like time spent waiting and travelling otherwise… who knows….

thetruth 11:17 pm
17 Mar 08
#15

Will the government be reimbursing staff who chose to Salary Sacrifice Qantas Club membership with this change of policy, or will they cough up for Virgin as well?

Well a salary sacrifice is for personal use – so no they wouldn’t. If you choose to get a free feed this way then that the risk.

Its a good call for greater decentralisation into areas where people actually live (I love the idea of having the automotive industry folk housed at Allara st when they could be housed at melbourne and or adelaide and at least be close to one operation. Or mining / resources being in Perth or Brisbane (BHP have just moved their global headquarters to Perth so they think this is where they can gain operational efficiencies) TCF industries would logically be in Melbourne. The TGA could operate out of Sydney, Melboune or Brisbane to be closer to the pharma industries inwhich they liase.

The DVA are nicely distributed with their clients why can’t other departments Why is AQIS and Customs in Canberra – why not at major facilities like sydney, melbourne or brisbane.

There are more and cheaper routes in bigger destinations (plus international flights would not require connenctions)

How much easier would it be to attract staff to say Brisbane than to Canberra? There is no living in Brisbane campaign?

So why Canberra?

JC 6:22 am
18 Mar 08
#16

Yes traveling for the government is not a pleasurable experiance. The only airline other than Qantas the gov should be using is Virgin blue, at least it is now getting to be a full service carrier and is offering decent flight times and frequency CBR-SYD.

The likes of Tiger and Jetstar should be left to the holiday makers who they target. BTW Tiger are using brand new aircraft in Aus. Jetstar too use mostly new a/c, with the exception of the A321′s they are about to get all their 2nd hand a/c have been from Jetstar Asia, so not really old either. The check-in rules, the inflexibility of ticket rules and the times they fly make these airlines bad for any business let alone the government.

As for business class overseas (and for some derpartments on domestic flights over 4 hours) stop and think for a second. They are, in most cases not going on a holiday jaunt, they are going for work. Most departments expect people to travel in their own time and get off the plane and go straight to work without any slack. That is just b/s. At least business class goes someway to making the flight more comfortable and gives people a better chance to sleep and get ready for their new time zone and the normally hectic schedule they are required to work.

The bottom line is the government should use the best value ticket, not the cheapest. Their is a world of difference between the two.

Ingeegoodbee 7:06 am
18 Mar 08
#17

I doubt that there’d be a bunch of public sector international travel undertaken for frivolous purposes – most of that travel needs fairly high level approval and the Secretary’s Instructions for the most part would dictate the criteria for such travel.

While it’s true that business class travel is expensive – when you’re going to London for a half day meeting and then coming straight back, I bet you’d appreciate the extra comfort.

The other reason the Government pays rack rates on the full service airlines might be to do with supporting Australian based businesses – the same way that Governments purchase GMH, Ford and Toyota vehicles for their fleets. If you significantly reduced the public sector spend on air travel I wonder what impact that might have on the viability of the full service airlines.

On a side issue, it’s not always management apathy that stops public servants traveling on the cheaper airlines. A couple of years ago I heard of a chap in the then department of the Environment and Heritage trying to book a Virgin Blue flight from Canberra to Melbourne – he rang the contracted independent travel provider for the department – QANTAS Travel Services (apparently there’s absolutely no relationship with the airline) and told them he needed to depart for Melbourne at 0735 (he’d checked the Virgin schedule and knew that there was a flight departing at that time). QTS told him that there was no available flight at 0735 but that there was a flight departing at 0740, he told them that that was unacceptable because he would get to Melbourne too late, they told him it was the best they could do as there were no other flights. He asked them what about Virgin flight DJ-whaterver departing at 0735. Apparently it was possible to book that one but it would take at least three days to confirm the booking and with the extra fees and charges the QTS would have to pass on it would be significantly more than the QANTAS flight ….

shauno 8:02 am
18 Mar 08
#18

“That is just b/s. At least business class goes someway to making the flight more comfortable and gives people a better chance to sleep and get ready for their new time zone and the normally hectic schedule they are required to work.”

Lol cry me a river.

Hows these flights I regularly take. Sydney – La – Miami – San Paulo – domestic Brazil – Helicopter straight into 12 shift offshore. Economy all the way.

Sydney – Singapore – Paris – Luanda and other nice places in West Africa – helo offshore economy all the way you beauty.

captainwhorebags 11:12 am
18 Mar 08
#19

Shauno, if you haven’t negotiated a better deal with your employer, or some rest time, then that’s your problem. Just because you have to do it doesn’t mean it’s par for the course.

I think it’s acceptable to either let someone fly business class and have a kip on the plane, or give them a day or two to adjust at the destination. The value for money is in having an employee who’s well rested and focussed on work. There’s no point sending someone to an important meeting if they’re too jetlagged to function and smell like dirty socks.

la mente torbida 12:11 pm
18 Mar 08
#20

C’mon people…all Business Class does is give you a better class of jet lag

JC 6:35 pm
18 Mar 08
#21

Ingeegoodbee, the story you say about Qantas travel is kind of correct. One problem with Virgin Blue and indeed now Tiger and Jetstar is they are not hosted in traditional CRS system (where travel agenets such as Qantas business make bookings). If they are not in the system then the agent cannot see the rates and make bookings without going to the internet. As we know when you book on the net they expect payment upfront, unlike in a CRS where you can make a booking and give the client x number of days before the booking must be confirmed and payed for.

It really is a tricky situation, the departments and the pubes just cannot win. This issue is really blown out of all proportion and is not much more than pollies strutting their stuff. I would very happy to fly Jetstar or tiger when I see our pollies flying them too? How likley do you think that is?

el 6:42 pm
18 Mar 08
#22

$200/hr for video-conferencing doesn’t sound right.

At all.

Our vidcon runs essentially for free (aside from the initial cost of the equipment and a small amount of network bandwidth) and simply runs by IP. Works fine.

shauno 10:42 pm
18 Mar 08
#23

“Shauno, if you haven’t negotiated a better deal with your employer, or some rest time, then that’s your problem. Just because you have to do it doesn’t mean it’s par for the course.”

Different situation in the big world of oil and gas exploration you can negotiate all you want with salary and bonus but when it comes to flights its to tough luck. Its generally across the major companies only upper management and were talking nearing the 1 million salary mark in some companies where they fly business. Its because they have to fly countless people around the world every day its a significant business cost.

If we want rest time we just fly back to work earlier and stay over in Paris or somewhere and fly in a day or so to work. But it eats into our break time and a lot of the time at the end of my break things catch up on me and I don’t organise it. But you get use to it.

JC 4:53 am
19 Mar 08
#24

Shauno, remember we are talking government employees here not private workers. Some of the things you have mentioned, such as going a day early or coming back a day or two later are not on with most departments, why? Because of public perception they are getting something for nothing. Most private companies wouldn’t blink an eyelid provided the employee covered the costs of the extra day’s and don’t claim expenses, but nop not government imagine the uproar in the big house. It is the same with FF points too.

As for class of travel yes most departments have that in the negotiated agreements, but much of the rules related to travel are non negotiable and are locked in human resource manuals.

Thumper 8:16 am
19 Mar 08
#25

It’s all just Rudd spin. Every incoming government says the same thing and after about six months it all quietly slips back to whatever the Departmental heads want.

As the Byrds sang, ‘everything turns, turns, turns….’

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