Invitation to comment
More Australians are going abroad each year. Most have enjoyable and trouble-free experiences, but some encounter difficulties and seek consular assistance.
The cases handled by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are becoming more complex. In an increasingly globalised world, Australians are not just travelling, but are living, studying, working and marrying internationally. Business and family connections around the world mean that cases include complicated commercial disputes, arrests and detentions, child abduction and forced marriage. With 24 hour news coverage and the linkages of social media, more consular cases are attracting a high public profile. Sometimes this also fuels political interest.
How the media covers different cases can lead to a perception of inconsistency in how consular services are delivered. As a result, the public's understanding of the consular role is sometimes skewed. In some cases, this leads to unrealistic expectations of consular assistance.
All indications are that international mobility will continue to increase. At the same time, international services are changing and developing. Australians have access to far more information and services on-line than could have been imagined a decade ago. Internationally, the role of consular services is also changing. To position the Government to ensure the continued delivery of high-quality, cost-effective and efficient consular services into the future, I have tasked the Department to develop a Consular Strategy for the period 2014-16.
Major issues for the Strategy are how to encourage Australians to be more self-reliant when travelling and reduce risks to themselves and their safety; how to direct consular resources to individuals in greatest need; whether to reduce consular services for some people or in certain circumstances; and how to deliver the best services with the resources available.
While the Government will continue to assist Australians when they are caught up in disasters or political turmoil abroad, consular assistance should not be the first resort.
This issues paper provides a snapshot of relevant policy and operational issues. It has been prepared to help you to provide your comments. It also poses a series of questions on which we are particularly interested in your feedback.
I look forward to your contribution.
Minister for Foreign Affairs