Australian taxpayers have footed a bill approaching $1 million to send an extravagant 52 person delegation to a single three-day conference in Brazil, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Simon Birmingham said today.
Details of the size and cost of Australia’s attendance at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, have been exposed in responses to Senate questions on notice asked by Senator Birmingham*.
The answers show that taxpayers forked out more than $850,000 to send Prime Minister Julia Gillard and 51 other Australians – mostly staff and officers from four different Departments but including nine of Ms Gillard’s personal staff – for between 3 and 20 days.
Departments represented were the:
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (23 officers)
  • Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (11 officers)
  • Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (3 staff)
  • Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (3 staff)
“The size of Julia Gillard’s international entourage takes the notion of excess baggage to a whole new level,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“Of course Australia should be involved and engaged on the world stage, but the size of this entourage just reeks of grandstanding.
“There are thousands of practical environmental projects in Australia that could have been funded for just a fraction of the cost of Labor’s delegation to this global environment conference.
“By taking so many offsiders and spending so much, Julia Gillard has once again hit the trifecta of wasteful spending, wrong priorities and a lack of judgement.”
*Figures are derived from answers received separately from five different Ministers – relating to costs met by five different Departments including the Finance Department which met the travel costs of Ms Gillard and ministerial staff – which can be provided upon request.