Shocking advice to Aussie tourists
A gay couple that had booked flights to a tiny Asian nation before it introduced laws allowing it to stone people to death for gay sex received shocking advice from the federal government's Smart Traveller hotline.
Adultery and gay sex in Brunei will be subject to death by stoning and thieves will have their limbs chopped off.
The mostly-Islamic southeast Asian nation, led by billionaire Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, announced the strict sharia laws - that have been on hold for four years amid heavy criticism - on Wednesday.
The laws come into effect on April 3.
Brunei will be the only country that executes LGBTIQ people that has landing rights in Australia.
A Tasmanian couple expressed concerns to Webjet over their flights to London on Royal Brunei Airlines after the laws were announced.
The couple - aged 27 and 29 who asked not to be named - have a four-hour stopover in Brunei and multiple flights booked with the airline.
Webjet told the couple they would not provide them with a refund, and advised them to directly contact Royal Brunei Airlines about their concerns of homophobic discrimination.
Speaking to news.com.au, the 27-year-old man said he had to explain to Webjet that contacting the Bruneian airline made him uncomfortable.
Webjet advised him they could cancel the couple's flights, costing them about $2200. Webjet offered to waive the on-top cancellation fee.
Webjet told news.com.au they have acknowledged the issue and are inquiring further.
'IF YOU ACT HETEROSEXUAL YOU SHOULD BE FINE'
Still concerned about their safety, the couple reached out to Smart Traveller, a travel advice service provided by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
While on the phone, a Smart Traveller representative told them, "I think you'll be fine".
The man described the tone of the adviser as "annoyed", but pushed him, asking if he was aware of the laws changing in Brunei. The Smart Traveller adviser said he wasn't.
The couple, unhappy with the response, called Smart Traveller again, requesting an "official policy" from a different adviser.
"He said, 'If you act heterosexual you should be fine'," the man said.
The couple's flights are scheduled for mid-April.
Brunei announced its plans to adopt sharia law in 2013. The Islamic legal system includes violent corporal punishment for crimes.
The laws have invited international condemnation, with DFAT urging Australians to exercise "safety precautions".
The laws were introduced under the direction of the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, who has been in power since 1967. He holds a personal wealth of $20 billion, and called the code "a great achievement".
An online petition was started this week to block Royal Brunei Airlines from landing in Australia, the petitioners asking "why should a county that executes gays be allowed to operate here?".
News.com.au approached the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to comment on this article but it has yet to respond.