but it is my view that if you get arrested because you deliberately set out to break the law while abroad then you should pay for any consular assistance.
I don't have a lot of sympathy for the Greenpeace activists who got arrested in Russia. I certainly don't have any sympathy for Colin Russell's complaints about the consular assistance he received.
I have strong views about the environment. We should care for it. We should nurture it. We should encourage people to do all they can for it. We should conserve the world's resources and we shouldn't pollute the environment.
That said I do not like Greenpeace. I don't like the way they approach things. There are better (but much more difficult) ways to get the message across and get action taken. Greenpeace is about big gestures. I am much more interested in the sort of person I saw being reluctantly interviewed recently. He has, over the last thirty or so years, planted more than a million trees. Of the two I would say the tree planter has done more good - but it has been hard work and has cost the planter everything he had.
Colin Russell and his mates set out to knowingly break the law and broadcast the fact to the world. Of course they say they were endeavouring to draw attention to unacceptable environment related activities by the Russians in the Arctic. They say they have to break the law in order to get their message out.
Does that give them the right to consular assistance? Probably - because people generally have that right. Governments are expected to support their citizens when in trouble abroad.
Does that give them the right to free consular assistance. No. If you set out to deliberately do something criminal or foolish, especially knowing the likely consequences, then you should be prepared to pay for the consequences.
Assistance to Colin Russell cost at least $25,000. He has complained he did not get enough assistance from the government. I am not sure what else he expected the government to do. It cannot interfere in the legal system of another country. If the "pardon" had not come through when it did Mr Russell might have been there much longer. He would, no doubt, have received more visits and more legal assistance. Nevertheless Mr Russell and Greenpeace say the government should have done more.
Among the Australians caught up in South Sudan there were tourists and Sudanese who had gone "home" on holiday after coming here as refugees. There was a travel advisory warning people of the dangers of going there. The government advised them to leave while they could but they did not send a plane in to help.
It did not send help in to the long term aid workers or the employees of Australian companies either. They were, like the tourists, advised to leave while they could. Hopefully these people had travel insurance and contingency plans. Colin Russell has had more help than these people, at least some of whom would no doubt have appreciated it.
I don't see Colin Russell as any sort of environmental hero. I see him as selfish. That $25,000 could have planted at least 250 trees. The trees would have been more useful.