Australia Seeks Comments On Consular Strategy 2014-16

By Editorial 16 December, 2013

Australia's Foreign Affairs Ministry is inviting comments relating to consular services available to Australians overseas, with Minister Julie Bishop warning that the public sometimes has a "skewed" understanding of what services are available and unrealistic expectations of assistance.

The Ministry has published a paper that outlines various issues that will be considered as part of a new Consular Strategy for the next two years. These include how to encourage Australians to be more self-reliant when traveling and reduce risks; how to direct consular resources to individuals in greatest need; whether to reduce consular services for some people or in certain circumstances; and how to deliver the best services with the resources available.

Announcing the paper, Bishop explained that cases handled by the Department were becoming more complex due to increasing globalization, and include commercial disputes, arrests and detentions, child abduction and forced marriage. She said that a new Consular Strategy would ensure the continued delivery of high-quality, cost-effective and efficient consular services.

Questions asked in the paper include whether there should be fewer visits to expats in prison and less attendance at court processes; whether resources should be concentrated in places where standards are lower; whether there is a particular mismatch between client expectations and services in relation to those aged 25 or younger; whether public use of travel advice or understanding of the consular role would be improved by social media; and whether the Department can improve its crisis responses.

The paper also asks for views on Smartraveller, Australia's travel advisory and consular information service. The Ministry fears that the service may have become too complicated and that its registration facility may give the false impression of there being an unconditional safety net.

Written submissions will be received until January 31, 2014.

Tags: Australia | Expats | Welfare |


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