Interview with Stephen Cenatiempo, 2CC
Stephen Cenatiempo: The Federal Government is renewing its Smartraveller campaign, urging Australians heading overseas to ensure they're up to date with the latest travel advice and alerts. To talk to us more about this, the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tim Watts, joins us. Tim, good morning.
Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Good to be with you.
Stephen Cenatiempo: Now, well, anybody who can afford to fly at the moment is travelling because we're finally allowed to do it again. Are there any particular hotspots that people need to be aware of?
Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: I think there's just a big backlog in travel happening at the moment. All those long put-off family holidays and family reunions, business trips, they're happening now. So, we're seeing a million Australians depart the country every month at the moment and we are seeing issues pop up across the board. About 1,250 consular cases, Australians needing assistance overseas are occurring every day of the week. So, this Smartraveller campaign has been launched to try and give Australians the information that they need to avoid that trouble in the first place.
Stephen Cenatiempo: What are the most common pitfalls that travellers are falling into? What sort of consular assistance are they looking for?
Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: So, there's a variety of issues. The Smartraveller website has information about entry requirements for countries, visa requirements about how to get in, security advice about the situation on the ground, health and cultural advice, things to be careful of on the ground and give you a flavour. There was a bloke in India, at a tourist site there, sent up a drone to take some photos for his photo album and, he was arrested and charged - it was against the law there. He didn't know. That's the kind of information that Smartraveller can give you to help you avoid trouble in the first place.
Stephen Cenatiempo: And if you do get into trouble, what's the first point of call? Are there, I guess links on the Smartraveller website that people can access if they are overseas and get themselves into trouble?
Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Yes, that's right. You can go to the Smartraveller website and find out how to get help there. One of the other things that we suggest is that people subscribe to the country that they're travelling to on the Smartraveller website, and that lets us provide any updates on things that have happened on the ground while you're there. If there's a natural disaster, if there's a security situation that's come up, we can then send you updates to let you know about the changed conditions on the ground.
Stephen Cenatiempo: And if you do get yourself into trouble overseas. If you don't look at Smartraveller or ignore the advice on there, what level of assistance can Australian consular personnel give you? I mean, I guess there's probably limits as to how far you can go.
Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Well, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will do everything we can to help an Australian in trouble overseas, but you're right, there are limits. So, there are something that we just can't do. So, for example, if you get injured, if you get sick, if, unfortunately, you die overseas, we can't pay for the repatriation of you. We can't pay for your medical expenses. So, to give an indication of that. A bloke went to Los Angeles with his partner, got off the plane, had a bubble tea, got one of those little boba balls stuck in his throat. $100,000 of medical fees. That's an expensive drink. He had travel insurance, though, so it was okay. But if he hadn't, that would have been a very expensive holiday.
Stephen Cenatiempo: I knew there was a reason I don't drink bubble tea. Minister, I appreciate your time this morning.
Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Pleasure.
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