Matt Brady, Byron Bay
We shouldn’t worry about COVID-19 (coronavirus), fires and floods keeping tourists away since our aggressive greeting-party to our shores are doing a fabulous jobs of ‘enforcing our borders’.
Returning home from a week in New Zealand, upon going through customs at Coolangatta International I was subjected to questions that made me question, ‘What if I answered wrongly?’
Bit of background: I am a New Zealand citizen but have lived and worked in Australia for over 30 years, nearly half of those have been in Byron.
Upon entering immigration and being digitally verified I passed through the eGates to a line of masked BFs (hint: not best friends).
Most of the questions were the standard ones for February 2020: Have you been to mainland China recently? Do you have any criminal convictions? etc.
But it was two of the next questions that blew my mind: ‘have you ever been to court?’ and, ‘have you ever had a speeding fine?’
What kind of dystopian interrogation is this? I was expecting a question regarding overdue library books next… silly me, the arts budget has already been cut. Obviously I was not going to jest as there are signs everywhere insinuating that border farce staff have no sense of humour and you’re a terrorist if you try to make them laugh.
In contrast, entering and leaving New Zealand was almost the opposite. When my belt buckle set off the gun scanner, the customs staff member actually apologised for the inconvenience!
So what would have happened if I did have a speeding fine? I shudder to think… maybe a stint on the cheery sounding Christmas Island? Maybe a dark room somewhere deep under the airport sporting faded ‘Welcome to Australia’ posters from the ‘80s? Who knows? But as our human rights are about as high a priority as climate change for this government, this experience did not leave me feeling too safe, or too welcome.