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Coalition must not politicise assistance for Aussies overseas

Media Release
Christine Milne 3 Dec 2014

Greens Leader Christine Milne says the Abbott government's new strategy for restricting consular assistance to Australians abroad leaves too much room for interpretation and political motivation.

"Who decides what constitutes illegal or reckless behaviour? According to which country's laws? By what standards?" asked Senator Milne.

"We have already seen disproportionate responses when Australians are in trouble overseas, with Prime Minister Abbott personally intervening in the case of two businessmen locked up in Dubai while refusing to speak up for Colin Russell, the Australian jailed in Russia for taking part in an environmental protest.

"Prioritising cases and limiting assistance is a deeply concerning prospect. Will environmentalists always fall below property executives on the Abbott government's list?

"Consular assistance must not be used as a political tool. It is too important to the people who depend on it at their times of greatest need, often with no alternative.

"The possibility of having to reimburse the government for any help they receive could be a dangerous disincentive to people already way out of their depth in difficult circumstances overseas.

"The total cost of emergency loans provided by the consulate last year was $144,648. Australia can afford to look after its people at home and overseas.

"Foreign Minister Bishop must make clear what circumstances could prompt the government to seek reimbursement for its services, and how they'll decide if a person deserves their help."


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