Around 15,000 travellers asked for assistance at Australian embassies and consulates around the world last year, and a long list of frivolous and absurd requests has now prompted a clamp-down on time-wasters.
Foreign minister Julie Bishop introduced a series of measures designed to promote “a stronger culture of self-reliance and personal responsibility in the travelling public”, and she pointed the finger at “serial pests” who repeatedly returned to embassies with bizarre or trivial pleas for assistance.
“Our consular staff are not there to pay for the repairs to your jet ski; they’re not there to pay your hotel bill; they’re not there to lend you a laptop or to provide you with office space in the embassy for you to do your work,” said Ms Bishop, quoted by the BBC.
Officials told of one man who turned up with a prostitute at the Australian embassy in Bangkok and was refused a loan to pay for services already rendered. Diplomats have also fielded requests for state intervention to help remove a polecat from a roof and to contest a parking fine.
And records at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade tell of Aussies who expected frequent flier miles when they were evacuated from civil unrest in Egypt in a government-chartered Qantas airliner in 2011.
The Bangkok embassy is Australia’s busiest, followed by those in Bali, Manila, Los Angeles and Dubai.
The crackdown is intended to underline that consular services should be turned to as a last resort. In future Australia will provide minimal support to citizens who wilfully, repeatedly or negligently get themselves into trouble. It is also considering a charge for consular assistance.
Aussies love travelling, and despite a modest population of only 24 million its citizens made 9.2 million overseas trips last year.