Former Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer has told Australians planning to travel overseas to grow up and take some responsibility.
After about 10 minutes as foreign minister I was a little surprised to learn I was “responsible” for miscreant Australians who got into trouble in foreign countries. No, no, no, don’t get it wrong – drug traffickers, drunks, kleptomaniacs and fraudsters weren’t responsible for their own stupidity – I was.
It’s about time that great nanny in Canberra, the Federal Government, turned around and told people they are responsible for their own decisions.
Mr Downer goes on to say that of course Australia will always be there to help Australians in real trouble, especially in circumstances over which they have no control, and could not reasonably have predicted.
But even then, he notes, the response of many is not an expression of thanks, but more complaining:
I couldn’t help remembering the awful events in those same places three years ago when Israel went to war with Hezbollah.
There were said to be 20,000 Australians in Lebanon at that time and a hefty percentage of them were demanding the Australian Government save them and fast.
Lebanese support groups hit the airwaves screaming that the Government was too slow getting those Australians who wanted to be evacuated to safety. But hang on, Australia’s about 15,000km from Lebanon and we don’t dock ships in the eastern Mediterranean ready to ferry Australians to safety.
And there was something else. We’d issued a travel advisory months earlier warning Australians of the dangers of southern Lebanon and the risks of going there.
It didn’t matter – apparently we had to get them out.
We were lucky. The Australian ambassador, a petite, charming professional called Lyndall Sachs, worked day and night chartering ferries and providing comfort to the evacuees, who hadn’t cared about the travel advisories, and whisked them to safety.
It was one of the great achievements of an Australian diplomat. Almost single handedly, she managed to get around 5000 Australians to Cyprus and Turkey.
We then chartered planes to take them back to Australia. I hope they built shrines to her. Some did, at least metaphorically.
But some just whinged. They felt seasick on the ferry and that was our fault. Could they get frequent flyer points for the free flight back to Australia? And all this cost around $30 million dollars – your dollars.
I’ll tell you this – I didn’t get 5000 emails of thanks but I got plenty of abuse because we weren’t fast enough, the ferries didn’t go from their port of choice and we were slow because we were racist, and so on. I mean, we’d warned them and told them not to go to the south of Lebanon. They went all the same. And when the proverbial hit the fan it was, you guessed it, “our fault”.
It is a well thought out, well written and amusing article. Read the whole thing.