What are they thinking? Aussie travelers' bizarre requests for help

Chuck Thompson, CNNPublished 11th December 2014
(CNN) — Australians expect a lot of their country's consular offices when traveling overseas.
At least, some of them do.
In recent years, Aussies abroad have hit up their government's local overseas reps for everything from help packing their bags to looking after their pets to providing armored cars to the equivalent of a 'get out of jail' card.
The Australian government is hitting back, in a manner of speaking.
Last week, the country's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), which is responsible for consular services, announced a new three-year Consular Strategy that will, in part, cut back on services rendered to pesky nationals who come calling with petty problems, tying up valuable resources.
"Nobody should argue against helping those in genuine trouble, but far too often our valuable consular assets are being diverted to help those who are more than capable of taking personal responsibility to solve their problems," wrote Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop in a public scold titled "Australian travelers need to become more self-reliant."
Bishop's article appeared in the Interpreter, a foreign policy website published by the Sydney-based Lowry Institute for International Policy.
"There is a limit to what our consular officers can do," an exasperated-sounding Bishop continued. "The Government is sending a clear message to individuals who have unreasonable or unrealistic demands: consular assistance is not a right and if you deliberately or willfully abuse it, you cannot expect more than the absolute minimum level of assistance and advice."
How outrageous have some of those requests for help been?
Behold, this list of 20 rather unsusual pleas for assistance, provided by DFAT:
1. A traveler who was destitute refused to return to Australia without their pet, which could not be returned for quarantine reasons.
2. A mother who wanted the Embassy in Bangkok to book accommodation and a return ticket to Australia for her son, then provide an embassy driver to take him to the airport.
3. A request from an Australian traveler for DFAT to feed her dogs while she was away.
4. I'm attending a conference overseas with a large group of Australians but I have heard it is a dangerous city. Can the High Commission arrange for a risk assessment and some armored cars? We only need them for a week.
5. Multiple enquiries to Embassies overseas as to the closest pub televising the (rugby) State of Origin game.
6. An Australian who had his laptop stolen overseas requested that embassy staff pick him up from the airport, loan him a laptop and provide him with office space for a few days.
7. A traveler who asked whether the sand in Egypt would affect her asthma.
8. Panicked callers regularly reporting Australian travelers missing overseas, after not hearing from them within the first few hours of arriving in country. Consular officers usually explain that getting through customs and immigration can take time.
9. Why won't the Australian Embassy come and pack my bags for me? I'm an 80 year old traveling by myself and too old to pack my own bags.
10. I left some items on an aircraft when I changed flights. Can the Embassy collect it from the airline's lost property?
11. Can the Embassy obtain prescription medicine from Australia and send it to me so I can continue my holiday?
12. Requests for our Embassies to store luggage, hold mail, provide banking facilities or arrange tours for Australian travelers.
13. What is the best way to get a polecat out of your roof?
14. I'm going on a cruise. What will the food be like? Can you drink the water on the ship?
15. Some travelers evacuated from civil unrest in Egypt on government funded flights questioned why they were not entitled to frequent flyer points. Similarly, some travelers evacuated from the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami made seat requests (including for first class).
16. A caller to DFAT's 24 hour Consular Emergency Centre wanted to know the average salary for an expat to expect in Thailand.
17. Does the Embassy know if there are there any hotels in Phnom Penh with vacant rooms?
18. Can the Embassy tell the local police that I have an excellent driving record in Australia and should not have to pay those outstanding speeding fines?
19. What is the best hotel in Phuket?
20. On my last trip to the Philippines I had some trouble with the law. What is the number of the Embassy in Manila so I can call them to get me out of jail when I go back?