There’s something about overseas travel that makes Australians lose their inhibitions. Whether they get kidnapped, pinch a bar mat, get into a war zone (and demand frequent flyer points when the government evacuates them) or smuggle drugs in a boogie board bag, we like to leave more than just footprints when we holiday overseas. Like a criminal record.

The way the media tells it, the foreign minister is apparently personally responsible for all these events which accompany Australians’ 8 million overseas trips a year, and should telephone the leader of the country involved, change the laws of that country, etc, in order to secure the release of the culprit.

Well, some of us have had enough of cash-strapped DFAT bailing people out. The Lowy Institute’s Alex Oliver has this to say in Crikey today:

“When our political leaders keep upping the ante in high-profile consular cases, like evacuations from airports hit by strikes or lobbying to secure the release of an Australian from prison overseas after a foolish prank, they only make their own jobs harder … This can’t go on. For the price of a cup of coffee at the airport, Australian travellers should start to fund the services they increasingly say they need, and take more responsibility for their actions overseas.”

Oliver’s report calls for a $5 levy on all overseas plane tickets to help pay for consular services. If you’re silly enough not to take out travel insurance, fair enough. Hear, hear to the Schapelle tax — let those who can afford to go overseas pay a little more towards cleaning up afterwards.

And if you’re going to Thailand for Easter, please leave the bar mat where it is.