The West

Consular help not on tap
On your own: The government will not bail out holidaymakers in trouble. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian

Holidaymakers need to take greater responsibility when they strike trouble overseas rather than rely on the government to bail them out, travel agents say.

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents has welcomed the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's review of consular services, warning more people were seeking government help when their trip soured.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop flagged at the weekend that Australians could be made to pay for government help when they found themselves in strife because of their own actions. It would cover instances such as travelling without travel insurance, ignoring official travel warnings not to go to a country or deliberately breaking the law. _The West Australian _revealed last month diplomats were being bogged down fielding trivial and dopey requests from Australians.

AFTA chief executive Jayson Westbury said people were regularly going to embassies to complain when flights were delayed.

Mr Westbury hoped the review would result in the Government making it clearer exactly what it could do for Australians in emergencies.

"Consumers need to take responsibility for themselves," he said. "People are going overseas, getting into trouble and their expectation is the government will fix it."

Ms Bishop said yesterday there were expectations the Government could interfere in another country's judicial system or would always have a jet on standby ready to evacuate people when trouble flared despite commercial flights being available. "We have limited resources and a limited overseas presence, and we have to ensure the levels of consular support we do provide are sustainable into the future," she said.

In 2012-13, DFAT helped 11,927 Australians abroad, including 1470 arrested or in jail, 1372 admitted to hospital, and the families of 1247 who had died overseas. Consular services are budgeted to cost $76 million this financial year.

The West Australian

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