Saturday 23 Feb 2019 | 01:29 | SYDNEY
Saturday 23 Feb 2019 | 01:29 | SYDNEY

Travel advice: Your mother should know


Sam Roggeveen


14 May 2010 13:30

An entertaining column from the Herald Sun's Andrew Bolt today about the absurdities of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's travel advisories. If you think Bolt is exaggerating for effect when he says that DFAT even warns people about crossing the street, check out this page devoted to road safety, which tells you, as mum used to do, that '(y)ou should look carefully in all directions before crossing the road'.

To be fair, I couldn't find any references to putting on clean underwear in case you get hit by a bus.

To really be fair, DFAT does tell visitors to the smartraveller website that its travel advice is just advice: 'The decision to travel is a personal responsibility and Australians are responsible for their own safety. Our travel advisories aim to help you make your own well-informed travel decisions.'

When it's put that way, it sounds far more reasonable — 'we're not going to stop you traveling, but here are the risks'. Call it libertarian paternalism.

Still, it assumes the Government is well placed to judge the risks of foreign travel, something Hugh White disputes in this paper. It's also hard to see a compelling case for why government ought to provide such an extensive service. There are numerous tourist guidebooks available that will give you all the tips you need on road safety, backpacking, working overseas and mobile phone use.

Then of course, there are the complications that travel advisories cause for our international trade and our foreign policy.

PS. The Beatles were really terrible dancers, weren't they?