David Marchese, Triple J

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Smartraveller website, Travel safety, travel insurance.

Dave Marchese: Hey, have you ever been overseas and had a massive problem? It's scary, especially if it's your first time away. You don't know who to contact, what to do. Often there are Australian Officials that can help out, but that kind of depends on where you are and what your problem is. So, there's a really big push at the moment for young people to get across Smartraveller. I don't know whether you've heard of it if you've used it. It's a website run by the Department of Foreign Affairs. It's full of information like travel advice with concerns, warnings for places you might be going to. It also tells you where you can get help. And the Government's trying to make sure you know about this. The Assistant Minister for the Foreign Affairs is with us right now, actually. Tim Watts, thanks for coming on Hack.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Good to be with you, mate.

Dave Marchese: You're on a big push to get people across Smart Traveller. What it is, how to use it is that because we're seeing a bit of a spike in people needing help overseas as everyone gets back into travelling?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Yeah, well, I mean, after the border closures for COVID, Australians are back to travelling with a vengeance. Now, for those holidays, we put off the family reunions, maybe the work trips, they're happening now. So a million Australians are leaving the country every month and there's a bit of a dynamic that it's been a while since most Australians have travelled, a couple of years, maybe, since the last time you got out in the world. And, yeah, we're really sending that message to Australians that the best way to stay safe overseas is to avoid trouble in the first place, to plan ahead, to prepare. So we say the first destination for any overseas trip should be the Smart Traveller website has that information you need.

Dave Marchese: So, what are the main issues that people do have overseas?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Give you some examples that have come across my desk. There was someone overseas in India, for example, trying to get some photographs of a religious site. They sent a drone up, big problems. So they were arrested, they were charged, they contravened local laws and regulations.

Dave Marchese: Wow.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Another example, young couple went across to Los Angeles, got off the plane, had a bubble tea. First day they're there, the boba gets stuck in the bloke's throat. $100,000 worth of medical fees later. So that's the most expensive cup of bubble tea anyone's ever had in the world. Luckily, they had travel insurance. The travel insurers picked that up, but if they didn't have travel insurance, that would have been a very expensive trip. And the Smartraveller website has a comparison tool that lets you find the travel insurance that you want, partnering with Choice. So it's independent, objective analysis to get you the insurance that you need so you don't have one of those expensive surprises on a holiday.

Dave Marchese: So if you are in a situation where something big happens to you, maybe you're in trouble with authorities or maybe it's an accident or something like that. Where do you go to for help if you're already overseas? Does Australia- it obviously has a lot of consulates around the world. Is there always some sort of presence around to help out?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: So Australia has an extensive diplomatic network and where there are Australians on the ground, you know, we will do everything we can to to help an Aussie who's in trouble. The best thing Aussies can do is, if they're going overseas, go to a Smartraveller website and register with that country and then you'll get updates. So if anything changes on the ground, if there's like, a security situation that emerges, a natural disaster, something that happens unexpectedly, you can get alerts through that update service. So Smartraveller is the place to get the advice on entry requirements, for example, local laws, regulation, security situation, health situation, et cetera, but also to stay up to date once you're in the country.

Dave Marchese: Is there also an issue with people tying up resources, with stuff they don't need to be tying up resources, asking about, like people hitting up officials with random stuff that takes up a lot of time?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Yeah, I mean, look, it is a bit of a cliche that, you know, you're getting the questions about where are my frequent flyer miles for my evacuation flight type thing, but I have to say, the vast majority of Aussies who contact our consular services looking for help, they're legitimate issues. If something has come up unexpectedly, they're looking for advice and support on the ground. So we'll always do everything we can, but the best thing that Aussies can do is prepare themselves. So to know what the local laws are, know what the local customs are, know what the security situation is, the health situation, so you can avoid that trouble in the first place.

Dave Marchese: I mean, you mentioned insurance before and said people can compare policies, that sort of thing, on the Smartraveller website. In the past, we've had young people saying, look, we've been caught out overseas because our travel insurance didn't cover stuff like mental health concerns, incidents related to mental health. Obviously you need people to be across what's in the policies, because I noted that mental health incidents are one of the common things that people experience overseas.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Young people are the most likely group of people to think, 'I can get away without travel insurance'. But the really key message I want to send you is if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. But it's really crucial that you get the right insurance policy for you and you've got to read the details, you got to read the terms and conditions that can be a pain. That's why we've got this website set up on Smartraveller partnership with Choice, so that you can look for the insurance policy that serves your needs. If you have special needs, if you are doing particularly dangerous things overseas, like for example, skiing is a good one, you're going to need a particular insurance policy to cover you for that situation.

Dave Marchese: All right, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tim Watts. Thanks so much for joining us on Hack.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Good to be with you.

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