The Abbott government is refusing the release documents revealing the cost of Coalition ministers' travel overseas.
The Abbott government is refusing the
release documents revealing the cost of Coalition ministers' travel
overseas. Photo: Andrew Meares

Abbott government is refusing to release documents detailing the cost
and purpose of overseas travel by Coalition ministers, claiming they
could "cause damage to Australia's international relations" if made
The government-wide clampdown comes
after embarrassing details of Education Minister Christopher Pyne's
lavish trip to London and Rome with his wife were revealed by Fairfax
Media in September.
In a letter, the government
leader in the Senate, Eric Abetz, refused a request to table
correspondence between Prime Minister Tony Abbott's office and ministers
concerning approval of international travel by members of the

The blanket refusal has been made despite freedom
of information officers in the Education Department seeing no impediment
to the release of expense details of Mr Pyne's $30,000 trip to London
and Rome in April.
Mr Pyne came under fire after
taxpayers were billed $1352 to "day let" a room at a swish London hotel
before the minister and his wife, Carolyn, flew back to Australia on
the same day. More than $2000 was spent on VIP services at Heathrow
Airport for the Pynes.
The documents revealed Mr
Pyne had got around guidelines that prevent spouses being funded on
overseas trips unless in certain circumstances with a special letter of
approval by Mr Abbott's chief-of-staff, Peta Credlin.
request for documents was made in the Senate after the government
refused freedom of information requests by the Transport Workers Union
to nine different departments, including Health, Defence, Industry,
Treasury and Attorney-General.
The Gillard
government routinely released travel cost documents, including six
separate requests under FOI laws in relation to the travel expenses of
then foreign minister Kevin Rudd.
Labor was hit with headlines including the "huge travel splurge of globe-trotting federal MPs".
In the Coalition's pre-election policy blueprint, Real Solutions,
the then Opposition promised that in government: "We will restore
accountability and improve transparency measures to be more accountable
to you."
In his letter of November 24 to Senate
President Stephen Parry, refusing Labor's request to produce documents,
Senator Abetz said fulfilling the request would "substantially divert
the resources … from its other operations" of the Department of Prime
Minister and Cabinet.
"The Department also
advises that any correspondence that may be identified could include
information, which if released publicly would, or could reasonably be
expected to cause damage to Australia's international relations," Mr
Abetz wrote.
Labor Senator Joe Ludwig said Mr Abbott's claim to greater transparency in Real Solutions could be chalked up as "another lie".
once again demonstrates a government that's shrouded in secrecy and
afraid of the truth. The previous Labor government released this type of
information to the public, what does the Abbott government have to
hide?" he said.
Mr Abbott was forced to tighten
rules around travel entitlements for all members of Parliament last year
after revelations by Fairfax Media.
included Attorney-General George Brandis and Agriculture Minister
Barnaby Joyce claiming $1700 and $650 respectively to attend the 2011
wedding of Sydney radio presenter Michael Smith.
Joyce, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and Liberal MP Teresa
Gambaro claimed $12,000 in overseas study allowance for flights back
from an Indian society wedding in 2011 at the invitation of mining
magnate Gina Rinehart.
Mr Abbott paid back
money he had billed taxpayers to attend two weddings in 2006, including
that of former
speaker of the House and Liberal Party defector Peter