Australian travelers have become so demanding of their foreign ministry when they encounter trouble overseas, officials are struggling to deal with their requests, a new report has found.
Research by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute has found that the expectations of what Australian diplomats can and should do for distressed travellers are not only climbing, but becoming “more unrealistic.”
“The growing incidence of Australians overseas demanding that government intervene in their cases no matter how trivial, foolhardy or avoidable their predicament, would seem at odds with a national culture that prides itself on resilience and resourcefulness,” it said.
Requests received at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) include “Could DFAT feed my dogs while I’m away?” and “Will the sand in Egypt upset my asthma?”
The report by the independent think tank, released late on Tuesday, said with more Australians traveling than ever before, foreign ministry officials were increasingly stretched.
“Public expectations of the assistance government can provide when travelers encounter trouble are rapidly rising, fueled by intense media and political attention given to high-profile cases,” it said. “These rising demands on Australia’s consular service are becoming increasingly difficult to meet.”
The report said changing traveller demographics, along with cheaper airfares, had added to the workload of officials bailing out citizens in distress.
The report called for the government to provide more funding for such services, in particular through a “consular levy” either on the cost of a passport or on an airline ticket.
It said after the efforts of officials to help bring home Australians affected by disasters such as the 2002 Bali bombings and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, travellers had come to expect help.
“Anecdotal evidence also points to a growing sense of entitlement among some travelers,” it said. “One couple, for example, about to board a government-chartered evacuation flight from Cairo in 2011, asked consular officials if they would receive frequent flyer points for their free flight.”