As part of its budget cuts, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is scaling back several overseas posts. As the SMH reports it.
During the Senate hearings, Mr Chester revealed the department had withdrawn five more diplomatic positions since the May budget, the result of a requirement to cut a further $4.4 million from DFAT spending in 2008-09.
In January, the government announced it would cut $52 million from DFAT’s budget over three-and-a-half years, part of spending cuts across the whole of government.
The $52 million included a savings of $17 million in 2008-09.
Mr Chester said that as a result of the budget there was an additional $4.4 million worth of savings the department had to make in 2008-09.
“They will be the withdrawal of a small number of positions overseas and a reduction in total A-based (Australian-based) staffing of nine,” he said.
“And we’ll have an additional efficiency dividend across the operating budgets of all work units.”
The overseas staff will come from missions in Belgrade, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Port Louis and Kuala Lumpur.
As far as I understand it,Â the rationale for most of the budget cuts has been that the government does not want to place upwards pressure on inflation. But I wouldn’t have thought this applied to diplomats, who spend most of their salary in another country. Indeed, bringing them home could conceivably have an inflationary impact, since they willÂ now spend their money in Canberra instead of abroad. Surely the current context (healthy budget, inflationary pressures) is a natural time to be expanding our diplomatic presence, not reducing it.