By Paul Hemsley
During the industrial relations dispute between Qantas and its employees, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) assisted government and non-government employees stranded overseas.
As a result of the flight cancellations stemming from the dispute, extra DFAT staff were immediately added to the Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra for stranded Australians needing further assistance.
The department has only been able to respond on behalf of itself rather than the entire Australian Public Service in which it has been assisting overseas.
A DFAT spokesperson said some of its employees were affected by the grounding of Qantas planes, including officials supporting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth.
“All Australians received the same level of support, regardless of their employer,” the spokesperson said.
The department has been helping its staff to make alternate arrangements, the spokesperson said.
“The government boosted its capacity to meet the consular needs of Australians abroad and arranged for DFAT consular staff to work with Qantas, including by attending airports around the world as required,” the spokesperson said.
In Singapore, two consular staff were deployed to Changi Airport; in Los Angeles, the Consul-General monitored the processing of stranded passengers at the LAX airport on the evening of 29 October; in Auckland, the Consul-General was present at the Auckland International Airport.
Consular staff at other major hubs, including London, Hong Kong and Tokyo, have also been liaising closely with local Qantas staff over the weekend, the spokesperson said.
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