Who is Finance Minister Penny Wong trying to kid over the savings being made on banning short haul domestic flights in business class to public servants?

There is no business class on the Qantaslink Q400 or Virgin Australia ATR 72 turbo-props that operate most of the really short flights out of Canberra, as well as to many regional or secondary airports.

Qantas has even started scheduling the Q400 to operate the lengthy and turbulent route between Canberra and Adelaide in the middle of the day, and you would have to be a bad, a very bad, public servant to be put on that flight on your typical bumpy summer’s day.

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If Ms Wong was serious about finding $30 million from such restrictions the bus service between Canberra and Sydney is the obvious choice, since it sells for less than $40, and is to be brutally factual, equipped with better seats and roomier toilets than a turbo-prop, and is in terms of total trip times, generally faster than going through the airport and lounge rituals, although the opportunities to trough it in the Chairmans Lounge, or the intimacy of The Club, the soon to be announced by personal invitation Virgin Australia version would have to be sacrificed.

The bus is even superior for connecting public servants to the Sydney international terminal from Canberra, since it arrives at the international terminal, not on the domestic side of this tragic mess of an airport, where time consuming transfers do not always function as well as intended.

True, there are flights from Canberra offering business class too. And it is a ridiculous waste of money if the flight is to Melbourne. But to bite the business class bans will have to apply to transcontinental flights to Perth, or to Singapore, or Hong Kong, or to New Zealand, some or all of which appear to have escaped from the cosmetic cost cutting flourishes.

These cost saving measures also refer to replacing conferences with video-links. Given that the real business of a conference is conducted on the side lines, this is an edict with profound implications for how public administration works, and thus probably not well thought out in what seems like a cheap and trivial effort to create an impression of doing something meaningful about waste.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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