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Earlier this year, Channel 9 provided an exclusive insight into what happens behind the iron gates of the Australian Embassy in Bangkok. The series offered first-time access to the embassy, the staff and what happens when Australians are confronted with the good, the bad and the ugly while travelling in Thailand.
While the show made for compelling viewing, it also showed the heavy reliance Australian travellers place on consulate services when they get into trouble overseas – everything from misplaced passports to ending up in the Bangkok clink.
It’s with this in mind that Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, has reinforced the difference between having access to an Australian consulate or embassy, and being personally prepared for your travels. And that means travel insurance.
Of the 9 million Australians who travelled overseas last year, over 53,000 calls were made to the Consular Emergency Centre hotline. Only 14,500 of those calls required legitimate consulate assistance.
There’s a difference between when somebody needs the consulate’s help, and when somebody should help themselves and the minister urged people to take more personal responsibility when travelling.
“Our consular staff are not there to pay for the repairs to your jet ski,” she said. “They are not there to pay your hotel bill. They are not there to lend you a laptop or to provide you with office space in the embassy for you to do your work.”
“Consular assistance should not be seen as a right, it is a privilege and the government is not a back up insurance policy.”
Australian consulates exist to provide support to Australians in the event of particular situations occurring overseas. We’re not talking about your hotel mucking up your reservation or not knowing where to get a decent bowl of Pad Thai.
Embassies aim to provide assistance in:
You do not have a legal right to consular assistance. If you are participating in illegal activities or have deliberately or repeatedly acted recklessly, the consulate does not have a legal responsibility to help you out just because you’re a true-blue fair dinkum Aussie.
There’s a time and place for the embassy’s assistance and genuine need won’t go unaddressed. However, there’s plenty Australian travellers can do to ensure they don’t need to pay the embassy a call while overseas.