PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
MATT KEOGH, LABOR'S WASTE WATCH SPOKESPERSON: We've learnt today that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has wasted an astronomical amount of money - $200,000 or more - on sending numerous seniorbureaucratsover to an internal DFAT meeting in Paris, primarily to discuss ways in which they can save money. It is absolute galling in this day and age, where we have a government that is talking every day about a budget emergency, debt and deficit - debt and deficit that has expanded dramatically under this government - and at the same time they're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars sending senior public servants to internal meetings around the globe. And even more surprisingly, to discuss how to save money.Well the first way to save money is to not be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on these sorts of trips.
The Prime Minister spends a lot of time talking about the need for innovation and agility and in the 21st century, we all know the importance and benefits of video conferencing, Skype, and many other technologies that could be used for these internal meetings that had to be had. We know that they were having meetings with many diplomats around Europe, and they could all be brought together through video conference facilities. Facilities that I am absolutely sure the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as the department that is the most spread around the globe, has at its disposal.
This really just comes about because of the bad leadership that's come from Julie Bishop as the Minister for Foreign Affairs. She's been wasting money for years now, bringing her staff to numerous meetings around the country at massive taxpayer expense, seemingly with no justification whatsoever. This is money that could be spent on providing more medicines under the PBS. This is money that could be put towards making sure that we protect Medicare and that we undo the freeze on payments to GPs so that we can make sure more Australians are able to get access to bulk billing doctors services that they need, instead of what we have been seeing, which is GP services around Australia increasing fees, making it harder for Australians to get access to the universal healthcare system that they deserve.
The Estimates process this week and the reports today have just demonstrated so clearly how much money this government is wasting. At a time when we are facing increasing debt and deficit from this government - if they want to talk about reigning that in, they are all rhetoric, and all of their actions are against reigning that in, and all we are seeing is waste.
JOURNALIST:These sorts of meetings have been going on for years and would have been going on under the Labor Government. What did Labor do to stop this from happening when they were in government?
KEOGH:Well I think the clear thing is that this government talks a big game about trying to reduce debt and deficit. That's what it says it's doing, yet its actions show that is not what it is doing at all. Technology has improved over time, especially over the last three years of this government. We've got Mr Turnbull going out all the time talking about innovation and agility, and instead he's putting all of these public servants onto a business class flight to Paris. Paris is not the cheapest city in Europe by a long stretch. It's an astronomically expensive way of holding internal meetings within the Department when they should be using the technology that is available to them while they go through this process, changing the way the Department works, trying to make it more efficient. How about they live a bit and act consistently with what they're trying to do here.