I hope you don’t mind me addressing you informally, but I have seen you so often on my screen that I feel you’re like one of the family – and since I don’t have a family in Australia, it makes you even more special to me.
I have a number of questions that I would like to direct to you in the hope that you will vacate some time and perhaps supply me with a few answers. Last year, I tried addressing my concern to our Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, but she simply set her Rottweilers on me to send me threatening messages. I hope you prefer poodles or lapdogs.
To the heart of the matter: I have just heard the most extraordinary story relayed to me by a fellow journalist in Israel. Here is the gist of it:
Five days ago, an Israeli man – a very nice guy, I am told – arrived in Australia to see his grandchild. Okay, so the story is more involved: the grandchild was born prematurely, almost did not get to see the light of day and it was one of those human-interest stories that light up the servers and get people clicking, forwarding and sharing it across the blogosphere.
He is not an Australian citizen, or a permanent resident. What he is, however, is a concerned grandparent who would do anything to see his new-born grandchild — as would almost anyone in a similar situation. The difference is, you see, Scott, is that he was successful, whereas tens of thousands of ordinary Australian citizens wishing to return to, or leave, Australia are unable to. So how did he do it, you may well ask.
While the said grandparent is not a dual national or a permanent resident, he is a former member of Knesset in Israel and, as it turns out, quite well connected. A few phone calls to the right offices, a few furtive winks, a smidgen of pressure and, finally, he was on board a plane that took him on a merry trip around the world’s airports until he eventually landed in Brisbane. Lucky for him, after quarantine, he will get to see his grandchild who, I am glad to report, is doing well despite a rather dramatic start to life.
Apart from this case, Scott, there are literally thousands of others; each with a gut-wrenching tale of triumph and tragedy, of old parents and dying siblings; of couples torn apart; and thousands adversely affected by this government’s strict rules which stipulate that Australia’s borders are currently closed and entry to Australia remains strictly controlled to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
So my question is this: how much pressure does one need apply in order to bend the rules or get an exemption to return home or travel abroad? For example, is an interview on the 7:30 report with Leigh Sales enough, or does it have to be accompanied by an article with a photograph in the Sydney Morning Herald? Is one big splash on the ABC website sufficient, or will a telephone call between governmental offices clinch the deal?
You see, I have an 86-year-old father living in Israel who has lost both a son and a daughter in rather tragic circumstances. I have not seen him in 18 months but still don’t qualify to fly out to see him. There are hundreds of couples in long term relationships who dare not even dream of reuniting with their partner who lives overseas, any time soon. So, can you please clarify why it is that some people seem to be luckier than others in getting an exemption?
This government seems to be guided by very high morals and ironclad principles. We have seen it throughout the rollout of the vaccines and the advice given to rank-and-file-and-worried citizens, worried about getting the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Is it the 50+ group that should be taking it, or the 40-? The answer, it appears, largely depends on whether it is Monday or Tuesday.
Apologies if I come across as being a little ironic, and I do not intend this letter to devolve into a logorrheic screed, but you remind me of the great Groucho Marx who once said: Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.
And if you don’t like this quote, perhaps you’ll appreciate some insights from Lewis Carroll: If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.
I know you’re very busy, so a succinct reply will do.