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Coalition clocks up $1.8 million cab bills ... so far

Government departments are spending thousands of dollars each month on taxis.

Government departments are spending thousands of dollars each month on taxis. Photo: Rob Homer

Government departments are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each month ferrying public servants around in taxis.

The Health Department and its portfolio agencies spent $433,000 on taxpayers' money on cabs in less than three months last year and the Department of Social Services put $221,000 on the meter in four months.

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Veterans' Affairs reported a $54,000-a-month taxi bill between July and October 2013, spending a total of $216,000 during the period.

Six departments and number of smaller agencies have reported running up taxi bills of $1.8 million in the first three months of the Abbott government, or nearly $30,000 of taxpayers' money each working day.

The overall taxi bill for the public service will be much higher. The three largest departments, Defence, Tax and Human Services, are yet to disclose the cost of their cab rides to the Senate committee that asked for the information in November. The office of Public Service Minister Eric Abetz, whose party pledged before September's election to "stop the waste" and slash public service spending, referred questions on the spending to the Finance Department.

A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Matthias Cormann said the department did not know what the whole government taxi bill might be but that the government expected all cab rides to be taken on official business. She said the ''government expects that all departments and agencies adhere to their chief executive instructions or other relevant operating guidelines to ensure the appropriate use of taxis".

The Department of Health said the money spent by its "core department" and 21 portfolio agencies was needed to support its work.

''[The department] undertakes travel to meet with key stakeholders to ensure health programs are adequately supported," Health reported in an answer to a question on notice from Labor senator Joe Ludwig.

"Health reform initiatives require consultative and public communication activities.''

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services said her department had a national network of offices and needed "to engage with our clients and service providers around Australia".

"Therefore, expenditure on taxis is necessary," the spokeswoman said.

"A significant proportion of these costs are associated with staff working in the important area of Indigenous Affairs, whose work often involves travel to and from regional and remote areas of Australia.

"Another large portion of these costs was incurred by staff working in independent portfolio agencies such as the Social Security Appeals Tribunal, and by staff working in support of the National Disability Insurance Agency."

Veterans Affairs justified its $54,000-a month cab bill in its answer to the senator, saying that taxis were only used for official business.

"Taxis are used by DVA staff in conjunction with official travel, e.g: to travel from the airport to the DVA office; to travel to external meetings; and to accompany veterans attending commemorative activities," the department's answer read.

"Taxis are also used by veterans to attend DVA-related activities."

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100 comments

  • Interesting that there is an opportunity to comment on this story but not an opportunity to comment on the ALP's union ties story. Independent maybe? Fair and balanced? mmmm.

    Commenter
    Greg Mc
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    February 03, 2014, 6:34AM
    • This is outrageous.....cut this waste rather than cutting every other payment to people who really need the money.

      Commenter
      JT
      Date and time
      February 03, 2014, 7:27AM
      • I wonder why, instead of the expensive, ongoing costs of taxi rides all over the place, they don't utilise the marvellous opportunities afforded them by the fibre to the premise NBN and concept from their offices to the 'stakeholders' they must meet with?..oh, that's right, it's apparently an expensive waste of taxpayer dollars joining the 21st century and, amongst many other benefits, engaging in clear, reliable teleconferencing. The Luddite myopathy of this government has not yet ceased to amaze me, though I'm not sure how long I can hold on to my amazement, considering the daily barrage of intellectual inanity to which I and we are subject to from this mob.

        Commenter
        Warwick
        Date and time
        February 03, 2014, 9:27AM
      • justified because they have to travel to regional and remote areas... so none of them have heard of Hertz or can drive a car?

        Commenter
        harry
        Location
        melbourne
        Date and time
        February 03, 2014, 9:29AM
      • Interesting how it's the public servants who are running up this massive taxi bill yet the article headline blames the Coalition government.

        This is what you call media bias, people.

        Commenter
        Simon
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        February 03, 2014, 9:30AM
      • My partner is a lawyer with the state government and uses taxis all the time to get to different courts. It's actually cheaper for the Dept then the standard reimbursement for using her private car and do you really want a lawyer on around $50 an hour sitting around waiting for public transport?

        Commenter
        Brando
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        February 03, 2014, 9:37AM
      • Nothing wrong. Haven't some people used public funds for book launching and bike rides and managed to justify doing so? Aren't politicians allowed to fly with families to purchase investment properties?

        Commenter
        Sensible
        Date and time
        February 03, 2014, 9:50AM
      • Everything that has happened since Sept & is outrageous. How dare those public servants under an Abbott government take taxis to meetings. How dare Abbott let that happen. The fact it has been going on for 30 years is neither here nor there. It Abbotts fault and he has got to do something.

        Does the progressive left realize how stupid they sound trying to pin everything on Abbott. Get over it. This is no more Abbotts fault than it is Gillard or Rudd. Its the way business operates. You cannot expect somebody to take public transport to a meeting. It would triple the time spent out of the office and cause issues elsewhere.

        Commenter
        Pragmatic prince
        Date and time
        February 03, 2014, 10:00AM
      • @JT - you clearly don't understand how the real world works, especially inter Gov department comms.

        If the Gov departments aren't working together and communicating (usually thorough face to face meetings involving large groups from multiple locations) then things will just take longer to get discussed and resolved. There is no savings in that scenario.

        Try smashing AusAID and DFAT together without some sort of escalation in travel between the 4 separate buildings.

        Commenter
        RamROD
        Date and time
        February 03, 2014, 10:35AM
      • Don't be silly, JT. The cuts to our money is to pay for the Libs to have the best of everything.

        Commenter
        Jane
        Date and time
        February 03, 2014, 10:56AM

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