Most of us have had something to say about the plight of the 14-year-old Australian boy arrested for marijuana possession ($28 worth) in Indonesia this week.
Some of it has been genuine shock and concern. Some of it has been of the ‘not another bloody Australian tourist on drug charges‘ variety. It’s safe to say the jury’s out on a collective national emotion.
And while the boy and his parents wait to see what will come of him (he could be allowed to return home to rehabilitate or he could be sentenced to six years’ jail, in any case a decision isn’t likely for weeks) attention has turned to the broader point: what the hell is wrong with us?
David Penberthy wrote this stinging piece, which we’ve extracted:
“We have been reminded this week, however, that a very large part of the role of the foreign service is to lend a helping hand to ratbags who get themselves into strife overseas, and believe that it’s the job of the Government to get them out of trouble.
You would imagine that any Australian diplomat posted to a place such as Phuket would spend most of their time arranging ambulances for guys called Wazza who ploughed their Vespa into the back of a tuktuk after 14 bottles of Singha, safe in the knowledge that our Government can save them from their own stupidity.
One of the best columns of the past few years was written by the former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer when he hilariously dismantled the mindset of the so-called “Beer Mat Mum“, Annice Smoel, who was accused of swiping a beer mat from a bar in Thailand and immediately demanded that the Australian Government do something about it.
Downer provided the following reflections on his arrival in the foreign affairs portfolio in 1996 and the responsibilities it entailed:
“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.”
It’s an interesting thought.
What’s the most stupid thing you’ve done overseas … and have you been caught?