Food & Travel

Jan 7, 2014

All expenses paid: is consular help too generous?

The government wants to charge a Greenpeace protester for helping him -- which might not be such a bad idea, given the high cost of consular services. But politics can decide who gets a bill.

Cathy Alexander ā€” Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Cathy Alexander

Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has threatened to charge environmental rat bag Colin Russell for the $35,000 in consular help that got him out of a Russian prison. But if she wants Russell to pay, why isn’t she sending a bill to Schapelle Corby?

The Russell case may be just an excuse for the Abbott government to bait greenies, but it has highlighted a serious push for reform of Australia’s consular services, seen by some as too generous and expensive.

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25 thoughts on “All expenses paid: is consular help too generous?

  1. The Pav

    Don’t have a problem with charging. Far too many Australians run to the Consular Service expecting help for the most trivial matters (lost luggage for heavens sake!)

    It should be preserved for genuine need ( eg Bali bodies) and where Australians fall foul of the law that they have adequate representation and fair due process. If an Australian is found guilty overseas after a fair trail then that’s it. We might not like the punishment but its their law. We don’t like it when our sovereignty is challenged or mores challenged.

    Can’t believe Corby is still getting help and should be required to contribute. The book sales and promotions have made this a real earner for her family.

    Save the service for those caught up in disasters etc

  2. bluepoppy

    The only reason the Coalition is raising this is because it involves environmentalists. Coalition groupies still think the environment is a separate entity from humans (as voiced by Corey Bernardi) rather than a whole ecosystem of which all parts have an effect.

    If it was a corporation in trouble they would be in there guns blazing with nary a thought about payments. There was no concern about costs when ASIS aided Woodside to bug the Cabinet Office in Timor with follow up assistance by ASIO to raid the offices of a lawyer acting on Timor’s behalf at the Hague.

  3. drmick

    The irony of Bishop, with a weddings parties or anything attitude towards illegally, immorally and unethically claiming our money for attending Ginas parties and her business friends weddings, trying to claim the high ground here is pathetic and galling in the extreme.
    Do they think no one is watching or dont they care?

    Cant expect much else from a political party that sets up young drug mules to be executed in another country or a shyster lawyer that tried to minimise payments for people dying from her employers asbestos.

  4. Philip Bond

    If we extend user pays principles to consular support, can we extend to parliamentary travel and superannuation? From my observation, politicians from both sides are there to serve the party at the expense of the electorate/voters. User pays, yes please.

  5. exasperated77

    If Greenpeace want to undertake high risk activities in countries with undemocratic governments why should the Australian taxpayer foot the bill for there activists? Why doesn’t Greenpeace have insurance to cover the costs of there own risktaking?

  6. Cathy Alexander

    Good point drmick. How about some cost recovery for politicians’ travel expenses? – especially if the MP knowingly flouts the rules …

  7. mikeb

    No doubt it is an ant-greenie poke. There is merit in determining assistance based on merit but then who decides on that merit? In Corby’s case there is some doubt as to her guilt and certainly until she was convicted all help should be available. As for Russell – he knowingly broke the laws as a stunt but nevertheless Aust authorities should be relied on to assist where the punishment doesn’t fit the “crime”. Can you imagine yourself, accused overseas for a crime you didn’t commit, being refused help or being rendered broke in receiving help?

  8. Terry of Tuggeranong

    Over-servicing of Australians in a spot of bother overseas began under Hayden as Foreign Minister and really got moving under Downer when it was realised the numbers involved and that there ‘might be a vote or two in it’!!! They stepped up again when we started servicing ‘Australian residents’ as well as citizens. Things really got out of hand when Howard decided that there ‘really was a vote or two in it’ if he could harness the Australian expat community by having Bob Menzies son-in-law (Peter Henderson) conduct a tame inquiry into dual nationality. Ask the god-forsaken Consular staff in DFAT what they think of governments of both colours over the approaches taken to consular assistance over the last 20 years or so since we stopped servicing Australian citizens only. As for charging this is another Abbott government kite. Once they realise that someone overseas in strife wants immediate and embracing assistance and will change their voting habit if they don’t get it this kite will hit the ground

  9. Bill Hilliger

    Ah! but the Colin Russel is not as good looking as Schapelle Corby; drugs were not involved, nor is he tabloid material, therefore he should pay. Ms Bishop knows all about who should and shouldn’t pay when it comes to government money – she has form. Schapelle on release can look forward to a book deal, even a mini-series on tabloid TV, in total probably worth a million or two, last but not least continuing appearances on morning chat shows will all amount to $$$$++. For this government you don’t make future celebrities pay, that’s not the coalition way. Besides they don’t care about environmental issues as Colin Russel does.

  10. Felice Ye

    The reason we have a government at all is so that we can be better off collectively than we could be individually. If we can afford to help Australian citizens overseas ā€” and given our relative wealth, it is hard to imagine that we cannot ā€” we should.

    Further, allowing charges to be passed on on a case-by-case basis opens up the possibility of the government of the day playing ideological favourites, as pointed out in this article.

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