Consular services: Letter to Seven Network's Today Tonight

Media release from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

3 September 2012

The text of a letter sent from the First Assistant Secretary of the Consular, Public Diplomacy and Parliamentary Affairs Division to the Executive Producer of the Seven Network's Today Tonight program follows:

3 September 2012

Mr John Choueifate
Executive Producer
Today Tonight
Seven Network
PO Box 777
Pyrmont NSW 2007

Dear Mr Choueifate

I write to express my disappointment at the inclusion in your recent story, "Trouble in Paradise" (28 August), of a number of incorrect and misleading criticisms of the performance of consular officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Embassy in Bangkok.

Ms Bamford and her family were given high quality consular assistance throughout her case, from the initial investigation of rape claims through to her detention and subsequent deportation from Thailand.

As your reporter was advised by us on several occasions, at no time did consular officials provide legal advice to Ms Bamford, and nor did they advise her to sign any statement. Rather, in line with our consular responsibilities, officials urged her to engage a lawyer to advise her on legal proceedings and her options. Your reporter was made fully aware of the actual circumstances of this case.

Australian consular staff are professional and committed individuals working to assist Australians overseas, often in difficult circumstances. I have complete confidence that the embassy officials in Bangkok and Phuket and Departmental staff in Canberra conducted themselves entirely consistently with the Government's Consular Services Charter and to the standards of probity expected by the Australian public.

The Department keeps comprehensive records of its interactions with consular clients and we would be happy to provide these to Ms Bamford or any media organisation under Freedom of Information legislation.

Yours sincerely

(signed)

Justin Brown
First Assistant Secretary
Consular, Public Diplomacy and Parliamentary Affairs Branch