Overseas Australians Warned On Consular Assistance

By Dex Tennyson, for ExpatBriefing.com 12 December, 2014

Australia's Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, has warned Australians living or traveling overseas that the country's new consular strategy will promote a stronger culture of self-reliance, and that individuals who behave recklessly abroad or make unreasonable requests will receive only "the absolute minimum level of assistance."

In a speech, Bishop highlighted some examples of nuisance requests, such as overseas Australians asking for help with paying bills or for a new passport in order to evade local justice. She said the public should know that consulate services are a last resort, and that staff "are not there to lend you a laptop or to provide you with office space in the embassy to do your work." In one instance, staff were asked to help with removing a polecat from the roof of a property.

The new strategy is explained in a Consular Services Charter, which has been issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The document makes clear the circumstances in which consulates may be able to assist Australians overseas, although it also stresses that there is no legal right to assistance.

The Minister said that the new strategy does not include a cost-recovery system for consular services, but that charging remains a live option and may be re-considered if needed.

The Minister also noted the potential consequences of traveling without insurance, with enormous bills incurred for emergency hospital treatment. She warned: "If you cannot afford insurance, you cannot afford to travel – it's as simple as that – and the Government is not a back-up insurance policy."

Tags: Australia | Expats | Travel | Welfare |


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