Tony Abbott and his ministers are perhaps heeding Pope Francis by adopting a more frugal lifestyle, including eschewing first class seats and staying in less expensive digs. This should set the standard for other ministers and the public service and should be applauded.
Yet the new Foreign Minister will be accompanied by 23 public servants from Australia when she goes to the United Nations Leaders’ Summit on 19-20 September.
In the May Budget, the Government provided an extra $25.8 million to DFAT to “support Australia’s membership of the United Nations Security Council”. (An extra $5 million was provided to PM&C and ONA).
DFAT has significantly increased its staffing at the UN Mission in New York.
With a large mission in New York (and a large staffing at the Consul-General’s), and the capacity to draw upon staff from our Embassy in Washington, it is unclear why an additional 23 public servants need to fly from Australia. This seems typical DFAT inefficiency and should prompt the new Government to review DFAT resourcing. As I have argued previously, DFAT could better represent the interests of Australia with fewer resources.