SYDNEY, 2 MARCH 2009 - They've already been told to use no-frills airlines and to search for the cheapest tickets, but now public servants might have to stay home and video conference instead.
In his quest to trim federal travel costs, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner will spend $10 million to upgrade secure digital video conferencing facilities with Telstra and Cisco.
He wants the new facilities to be shared with state governments, and envisaged future meetings of the Council of Australian Governments as virtual events.
Another attraction of video technology, in addition to stopping "public servants flying endlessly around the country", as Mr Tanner said last year, is that it can be used to cut carbon emissions.
The video upgrade also follows complaints by senior public servants that the long hours and frequent travel demanded by the Rudd government is producing unwelcome resignations.
"People in senior public sector roles often leave prematurely because of the travel," Mr Tanner said on Friday.
Last year he ordered government agencies to use Virgin Blue or any other smaller airline for a quarter of their travel out of Canberra - a move he said could cut $15 million from departmental travel costs.
But forcing public servants off Qantas and onto Virgin Blue on the lucrative Canberra run hasn't worked that well.
While public servants are required by law to take competitors to Qantas for 25 per cent of their travel, just 12 per cent did so, the most recent figures from the Department of Finance showed.
Enforcing the Virgin quota had been complicated by Qantas cutting Canberra fares to compete with Virgin, Mr Tanner said.
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