Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Sunday, 17 May 2009 12:30 UK

Travel costs row hits Australia

By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney

Kevin Rudd file pic
Kevin Rudd has been accused of spending too long outside Australia

The Australian government has come under fire for the travel expenses it racked up during parliament's 10-week winter break.

Kevin Rudd and his ministers spent some US$1.5m on overseas travel, but say that is in line with the expenses of the previous government of John Howard.

The opposition accused the government of trying to bury the expenses by releasing them on budget day last week.

Mr Rudd is often attacked for spending too much time out of the country.

During the winter break in last year's parliamentary calendar, the Australian prime minister visited seven countries - and his ministers have also been frequent flyers.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard travelled to America, Britain and Singapore, with an entourage of four staff.

The country's defence minister spent almost two weeks in the US with five staff - a trip he said was needed to discuss current military operations.

The country's finance minister, Lindsay Tanner, recently told civil servants to reduce their travel bills by using video-conferencing technology.

But that did not stop him from visiting Europe for eight days to discuss the world economic outlook.

The opposition has been trying for six months to get the government to release its travel expenses, and has complained that they were finally revealed on last week's Budget night, when attention was focused elsewhere.

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