A new consulate system: the ELCSS

Regular Catallaxy readers may recall the Lowy Institute paper Consular ConundrumI agreed that expectations of consular services overseas were (and still are) too high, although demurred about the need for additional resources for DFAT.

On further reflection, there are some ways in which we could better align incentives so that expectations are matched with price.

For those without travel insurance, it would be appropriate to levy some form of consular services fee – but this would need to be calculated according to the actual cost of the provision of consular services and not just used as a way to supplement DFAT’s bloated budget. All travel insurance policies issued in Australia should include a relevant component to fund consular services. In short, consular should be entirely user pays, with the cost spread over the travelling public (effectively, an insurance policy).

But this doesn’t address the issue of excessive expectations, although in principle one could have different ex ante fees based on various levels of potential consular services. If you like – a first, business and economy consular service.

Other things being equal, though, who is more likely to need consular services: (1) an English speaker in trouble in Italy; or (2) an Italian speaker in trouble in Australia?

Surely, we English speakers have a significant advantage: from my experience, English is the best (single) language which to possess as a tourist.

The English-speaking nations: UK, Ireland, Canada, US, Australia, NZ and India (among others) could do worse than agree to have a common consular service. Let’s call it the English Language Consular Service System (ELCSS). This would be a separate organisation funded from each of the countries which would provide a common service to citizens of the member countries. If an Australian got into trouble overseas, he or she would contact the local ELCSS office which would provide English-language assistance as would normally be expected of a Consulate.

The ELCSS would issue emergency passports (and other travel documents) for citizens of its members and be staffed with public officials from the member countries.

The contribution from each member would be in proportion to the expected use.

The ELCSS would truly diversify risks and costs across countries and across members and currencies.

It would also manage expectations: we could say to travellers that they are getting exactly the same service as provided by the US, UK, Canada, and New Zealand.

Although there could be an Australian premium – this would entitle the customer to be addressed as ‘mate’.

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10 Responses to A new consulate system: the ELCSS

  1. TerjeP

    Yeah but it wouldn’t work too well when we finally decide to declare war on New Zealand.

  2. Perfidious Albino

    Interesting idea. The local ELCSS office would become a very attractive target for the Methodists though…

  3. Baldrick

    Damn those confounded Methodists … that’s exactly why we can’t have anything nice!

  4. .

    #1220748, posted on March 11, 2014 at 9:38 pm
    Yeah but it wouldn’t will work too well great when we finally decide to declare war on annex New Zealand the Pacific Territories.

  5. Great idea Samuel, could be applied to a lot more than DFAT.


    I’d parley by offering them Tasmania first.

  6. entropy

    Haven’t we always been at war with New Zealand?

    Seriously though, couldn’t this be an opportunity for a private sector entrepreneur with the right connections to provide these services to consulates?

  7. Tas

    Isn’t this why I pay taxes …………

  8. Alfonso

    Consulates mostly occupy their days with make work schemes and afternoon naps.
    Shut every second one, selected randomly, clump their “responsibilities” and save billions.
    My outrageous tax payments to govt means a lost passport is covered, mateys.

  9. H B Bear

    Michael Fullilove, another Lowy Institute spruiker, has a piece in The Australian on his Nation Press Club speech today calling for an expanded consular service,

    We need a larger foreign service. Australia has the smallest diplomatic network of all the G20 nations, and close to the smallest in the developed world. We suffer from a “diplomatic deficit”.

    It is madness for Australia to starve its diplomatic service like this. For the past five years, the Lowy Institute’s arguments that Australia needs a larger and better-resourced foreign service have met with vigorous and bipartisan nodding. Now we need action from the government.

    I would need some convincing that releasing a few hundred more Bob Carr types, Mandarin speaking Rat F***ers and ANU humanities graduates into the all expenses paid world of the DFAT bureaucrat would be of any benefit to Australia whatsoever.

  10. I puzzle over what consular services do. In any country with a decent legal system, hire a lawyer.

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