Australians soon to pay for consular help when in strife

AUSTRALIANS travelling overseas could soon be faced with footing government bills if they find themselves in trouble on foreign soil.

The Abbott Government has initiated a review of consular assistance services provided to Australians in strife overseas, after nearly 12,000 Aussies sought help last financial year.

It could see Australians being left with a bill for services from Department of Foreign Affairs consular staff, if they need overseas.

While most people need help during hospitalisations, accidents and minor run-ins with the law, the arrest in Russia of Greenpeace activist Colin Russell may yet see the rules changed.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told The Australian on Saturday that the government would support those in trouble, but there were some circumstances where "questions are raised why taxpayers should foot the bill".

Such instances could include where Australians overseas have flouted local laws, engaged in protest, ignored travel advice or failed to get travel insurance.

Ms Bishop said the cost of helping Mr Russell after he was among a group of protestors trying to board a Russian oil rig had reached $35,000, and the government was considering recovering the costs.