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9 October 2015 / leggypeggy

Did Tony Abbott make our border force crabby?

airport entry card

My purple-ink entry card. In my opinion, okay for colour, but fail on penmanship

After the warm and fuzzy post about Samuel and Poor John and their clasped hands, I have grumpy news to report.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I encountered an extremely rude member of Australia’s ‘official’ airport welcoming committee (immigration). She was behaving rudely to incoming travellers. I was horrified and embarrassed.

An elderly Chinese couple were on the receiving end of her grumpiness. They may have had Australian passports, but it was obvious that English was not their first language and paperwork was not their strong point.

When I was next in line to go through border control, the couple was off to the side, and had just finished filling out their entry cards. I let them in ahead of me.

Nope, said the border officer gruffly, these aren’t complete. You haven’t done the back, she said tapping the card angrily. It was easy to see that they were confused and distressed, but she waved them away to get on with the job.

I was next and was soon to learn that I had committed my own special crime. I can’t accept this. It’s done in purple ink. You have to do it in blue or black. My explanation that my blue pen had run out of ink on the plane, which was true, was rejected.

Do it again, she ordered, and as I picked up a pen from the counter and unconsciously put it in my mouth, she added with a finger wag, and get that pen out of your mouth. Who knows how many people have handled it!

So I spit out the pen and moved to the ‘Group W bench’ with the Chinese couple—if you don’t understand that reference, listen to Arlo Guthrie’s song Alice’s Restaurant.

I started to re-do an entry card. Mind you, crabby Border Force woman—she was no lady—did not offer me a blank card, but I had miraculously taken two when they were passed out on the plane.

But as I scrawled my black-ink version—hey, if I was going to get done for a violation it should have been for poor penmanship—the Chinese couple stepped forward to present their cards once again.

Nope, nope, still not right, still not complete, she said tapping the card again and not explaining what still needed to be done. The man was so flustered and then came the official’s last snide comment, almost under her breath, but I heard it and understood it.

Surely you can fill out the form right. The last Chinese guy could do it right, and he was a ‘real’ Chinese. Didn’t even have an Australian passport.

I could have slapped her silly, but then I’d be reporting from jail, perhaps even solitary confinement.

But the saga continues. We had dinner with a large group of friends tonight and I heard a similar story from someone who had recently received a similar ‘welcome’ from our front-line at the airport. Same nasty spiel, but a different person.

I can’t help but think the surly and unwelcoming manner stems from Tony Abbott—our mean-hearted and recently ‘deposed’ prime minister.

He renamed our immigration officers as the Australian Border Force and put them into military-style uniforms. And all at a cost of $10 million.

I hope this gruff attitude is short-lived. It’s a sad change from the welcomes I’ve received in Australian airports in the past.

Louise, one of our exchange students from France, summed it up well. She remembers that her arrival in Australia a few years back was one of the nicest she’d ever experienced.

She had something to compare to. When she arrived in the USA when she was 14, she was interrogated as to why she was travelling there on her own. She was on her way to visit relatives.

A year later and at age 15, she was coming on her own to Canberra for a year and she rather expected similar treatment. But she remembers fondly that the immigration officer opened her passport, checked her visa, added a stamp and with a big smile said, Louise, welcome to Australia.

Seriously, it’s not that hard to be nice.

P.S. I’m embarrassed to admit that I did not stop to help the elderly couple complete their cards. I should have and would have if we had not already been running late.

P.P.S. Oh, and a comment about those damn entry cards and Poor John’s experience. He had gone ahead of me. We both have ‘smart’ passports. His in-built smart chip still works and mine doesn’t, so he was cleared by a machine and not a person. No one ever looked at the offending purple ink on his entry card.

So I wonder whether anyone will ever look at my black-ink version besides the crab-puss at the immigration counter (she only glanced at it to make sure it was done in black or blue). I still have the purple version and share it here as evidence.


Leave a Comment
  1. Sharon / Oct 10 2015 12:18 am

    What a way to welcome visitors and citizens returning home to Australia. How sad.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 12:23 am

      Infuriating and unacceptable. Hoping Turnbull turns around this attitude..


  2. mickcgorman / Oct 10 2015 12:36 am

    I have noticed the same poor attitude when travelling, it appears to be that it became this way after the twin towers attacks? Does this mean that the terrorists are winning? 😦 It doesn’t take much effort to be nice.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 11:15 pm

      I think Australia’s nastiness has been late coming. We bent over backwards to welcome people to the Olympics in 2000. That ‘training’ has hung on for a long time. But our now-deposed prime minister brought in a lot of them-and-us legislation that has created an un-Australian tone. Hope the new PM sets things back in line.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lynz Real Cooking / Oct 10 2015 1:06 am

    That is awful and not a nice way to enter any country. We heard the same reports upon entering Saudi!!!


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 4:43 pm

      What really disappointed me is that’s not how Australia is supposed to be. It’s not how it’s been in the last few decades. I’m hoping the new, more level-headed and even-handed Prime Minister fosters a return to civility. Tony Abbott sure wasn’t civil.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lynz Real Cooking / Oct 10 2015 11:39 pm

        I’ve never been there but met a few people over in Saudi and my daughter’s best child hood friend is from Australia. I always wanted to visit because the people I met were so friendly!


      • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 11:40 pm

        We are friendly. If you come to visit, I will come to meet you.


  4. Vicki / Oct 10 2015 1:19 am

    #%$!*& (and that’s putting it politely, Peggy).

    I am truly ashamed at the appalling rudeness/behaviour you and the Chinese couple were subject to.

    Maybe its just as well I can’t travel overseas any more. I think I would have ended up in detention for obscene language at officialdom. I certainly would have asked “was she born rude or did her parents teach her bad manners”. Surely the immigration officer could have the decency to both speak respectfully and politely show the Chinese couple where/what their error was.

    Modern Australia is a multicultural society and was built on the backs of foreign toil and hard work. I think many people have forgotten this.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 4:44 pm

      I think the new legislation brought by in Tony Abbott has made it hard for people to speak up in official situations. I’m hoping to see a change for the better and a return to manners.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Vicki / Oct 10 2015 4:54 pm

        Sad to hear about the maltreatment of both tourists and migrants on our shores these days Peggy. And VERY sad that people from other countries are treated with such suspicion too.
        Terrorism in modern times has a lot to answer for, not just the immediate destruction of people’s lives and homes. It’s changing the whole way different cultures view each other.


      • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 5:04 pm

        Yes, terrorism has a lot to answer for, but so do politicians who exploit terrorism to instil fear in the public. So sad.


  5. Ferdinand Fielfraß / Oct 10 2015 2:45 am

    I like that “nasty spiel”. Didn’t know that this particular German word as well made it’s way to the English language. Especially since we still know how to play a ‘böses Spiel’.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 8:53 pm

      English has lots of German words. Thanks for sharing the phrase ‘böses Spiel’. I’d never heard that before.


  6. Libby / Oct 10 2015 3:56 am

    OMG that sounds exactly like the person I saw last time I went through customs. She was a total b*tch and super racist. Said some shocking things under her breath to a Middle eastern man with not great English, who was trying so hard to be nice and had lost his wife in the line. If I heard her say it he must have too – and his kids. She even yelled at her colleague who was trying to help her. I was so appalled at her behaviour and wrote a complaint to customs. If you got her name you should too.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 6:33 pm

      Proud of you for reporting it. We can only hope the Middle Eastern man didn’t understand her comments. And I got the name of my offender and will report too!


  7. thegreyeye / Oct 10 2015 5:06 am

    I have gone through the same in French customs first time. I never felt so insulted in my life when the custom guy made me counting every note of euro while they gave a clean pass to every other passengers. He even took my passport without any valid reason, which is totally against international law. I was so angry and astonished, I was not even able to talk for some time, and I feel the same “I could have slapped her silly, but then I’d be reporting from jail, perhaps even solitary confinement.” I uploaded my experience immediately after I passed the customs in the internet. I thought that time may be this is due to my brown skin. But gosh No! After hearing so many bad experiences from friends world over, I think these people enjoy a sadistic pleasure by exploiting their power over innocent travellers. You can read it here :

    However, this time I got a nice person in Paris, who saw my passport stamped it and said welcome to France.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 4:47 pm

      I’m so glad your recent experience was a happy one. And I’m glad you reported the bad one. I’ve been on the receiving end of poor behaviour in other countries and it didn’t concern me so much. I just don’t expect such behaviour from Australians.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thegreyeye / Oct 10 2015 5:09 pm

        Few months back, I read the post from a guy visiting Chennai airport, India who had similar experience, not so severe though. But still! So now I believe it is about some sick personnel around the globe, who abuse their power over innocent travellers.


      • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 8:54 pm

        You are absolutely right. It’s an abuse of power.


  8. Jen / Oct 10 2015 6:16 am

    Peggy, as you know we regularly cross the “ditch” and luckily most of our experiences at the border have been without any of the horrible ones that others have had. Sydney has been the best for both arrivals and departures but Brisbane not so nice!!! Thankfully most of our travel is always in and out of Sydney. Hopefully next trip this month we won’t get the grumpy one 🙂 Great that you are safely back home though. xx


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 6:28 pm

      I’ll be interested to hear what your entry is like this time. I think there’s been a change of attitude since the August 2015 rebranding from Immigration to Border Force, with an emphasis on ‘force’.


  9. Dorothy / Oct 10 2015 6:40 am

    Giving people a uniform and authority can do that. Hitler started it. Los Angeles airport staff have a similar manner but with guns on their hips.



    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 4:48 pm

      I believe it’s been the switch to Border Force and the addition of uniforms that has brought about a certain sharpness in the staff at the airport. It hasn’t affected them all, just some.


  10. Curious to the Max / Oct 10 2015 6:53 am

    Maybe Crap-puss would have overlooked purple ink if you offered her the chocolate you were bringing into the country . . . I know that would have made me less crabby.

    P.S. I do so like the term “Crab-puss” and will use it from time to time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 4:50 pm

      My mother used to say crab-puss, so feel free to carry on the tradition. But never give chocolate to crab-pusses, at least not until they are playing nice.


  11. suchled / Oct 10 2015 7:50 am

    OK. Now tell us the whole procedure of making an official report to the relevant authorities and how much influence an ex-diplomat’s wife can exert and how high up the ladder you can go. Surely as Vicki implies, we are better than this and you won’t just let it go!.
    Oh, and welcome home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 4:51 pm

      I have her name and I have friends in the department. I’m going to ask them for suggestions.


      • suchled / Oct 10 2015 6:02 pm

        Give it your best shot Blondie.


      • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 8:47 pm

        You know I will.


  12. Midwestern Plant Girl / Oct 10 2015 7:55 am

    Shockingly, I had the most pleasant experience at the Denver, Colorado airport. They all were nice, friendly and the one guy even told my husband he was lucky to have a wife that scratched his back while in line.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. ralietravels / Oct 10 2015 8:08 am

    Too late now, but after she finally waves you through, get her name and file a formal complaint with the department and your elected officials. It is the only way to get the word up the line. We have been fortunate to encounter good people although some procedures (e.g., passing through Lima on connecting international flights) were very weird.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 4:52 pm

      I have her name and have friends in the department. I’ll be doing something about it, but not yet sure what.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Ralph / Oct 10 2015 9:36 am

    Well, have to be on my toes when I arrive in Oz then too from your experience!

    Even from the pets side there is a lot of incompetence. For cost saving reasons Australia has closed all quarantine stations at ports of entry and built a new single one in Melbourne only (shame my new home is in Perth eh). That’s your lot mate. In addition because when I’m travelling no one in the department knows when the new station is opening and the old ones close we cant book my flights or the station (my Humans have flights booked but I’m in limbo). Officials just say we think it will be ok, great that sounds well planned then. Well not good enough it costs us money and affects our family move directly. Not good enough Australia, get your act together!


    PS sorry for the rant


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 4:54 pm

      Ralph, you are completely entitled to have a rant. Wish I could say come stay at my house, but they won’t allow that. I have a good friend in Melbourne who might be able to come visit you.

      And for goodness sake, make sure your humans have pens with black or blue ink!


  15. chattykerry / Oct 10 2015 11:14 am

    It is the same in every country. I volunteer at our local airport and I can’t tell you how many times I have helped out people in terrible situations. Their name is accidentally on an Interpol list because of a mistake at the consulate. Elderly, deaf people from some obscure country are held in detention and the family are frantic. My advice is make sure that elderly and disabled relatives are wheel-chaired through immigration and customs. If your relative speaks an unusual Laotian dialect (or the like), send them an English letter to keep with them and show to anyone who can help, giving precise details of their relatives, addresses and various telephone numbers. Never travel without some currency, as well as two credit cards if you can afford it. Remember also that immigration officers often work 10 hour shifts and are looking for every possible illegal immigrant, human smuggling and terrorist – what a job! I have had exactly the same problems from the UK to the US to Cairo to the Far East. We live in a different world and we have to think differently. Houston is the biggest human smuggling port in the US. For every grumpy officer there is another who welcomes you home or tells you to have a great time.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 5:00 pm

      Some outlandish and disgraceful things happen at international airports all over the world, but Australia’s recent history has been to be welcoming (unless, of course, someone is behaving like a complete shit). But some of our poisonous and mean-spirited federal policies of the last two years are taking their toll. The change of Prime Minister, we hope, is a change for the good.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Curt Mekemson / Oct 10 2015 12:28 pm

    My Peggy recently experience a full pat down in public at the London Heathrow Airport, for no apparent reason. It isn’t only at customs that people are being mistreated. One would think, given the importance of tourism to all of our countries, that agents would be pleasant or be fired. When countries start losing millions in tourist trade, maybe they will work a little harder with their front-line greeters. –Curt


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 4:57 pm

      Australia had a big push on pleasantness at the airport leading up to the Olympics in Sydney in 2000, and the transformation was remarkable and long-lasting. Sadly, Tony Abbott was a fear-monger and whipped up uncertainties about people’s patriotism etc. I think that’s filtered back into the Border Force, but I’m hoping the change of Prime Minister will see a move back to civility.


      • Curt Mekemson / Oct 11 2015 4:00 am

        I am with you Peggy. Governments have used terrorism as excuses for all sorts of bad behavior that would otherwise be inexcusable. –Curt


      • leggypeggy / Oct 11 2015 8:46 am

        Well said.


  17. lmo58 / Oct 10 2015 12:45 pm

    Peggy, that’s awful! Fancy treating an elderly, poor English-speaking couple like that. And fancy treating you like that. What possible difference could it make whether your card was filled out in purple, blue of black and who cares anyway? If we want our tourism industry to continue to flourish, then we need to be nice to people. Making them feel like criminals for no apparent reason is totally unacceptable. It’s a shame you weren’t able to get that woman’s details so that you could report her and have her taken away from a job that requires contact with the public. I don’t care how bad a day she’s had. There’s no excuse for that sort of behaviour. I agree with you though that that sort of behaviour was probably encouraged by Tony Abbott and, with any luck at all, the new government will do something to stop it. Why don’t you write to the department? There must be someone in charge of the Border Force Control officials. And finally, welcome back to you and Poor John. I’m reasonably confident in predicting that you’ll find native Canberrans, and those recently arrived, much more friendly than crab puss!


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 4:41 pm

      Oh, I got her name! I’m going to do a little more investigating before I do anything.


  18. Galavanting Gran / Oct 10 2015 5:02 pm

    What a dreadful start to a visit to Australia and a return. Reminds me of going with my daughter and her 3 week old baby to register him at Australia House in London 6 years ago. We arrived a little after 11 am to discover this only took place before 11 am. We attempted to enter but were yelled at by man in a booth to put our bags on the scanner conveyor. Of course my back back and shoulder bag got tangled so I was slow in removing both. He then screamed at me.
    When we finally went into the room there was not a person in sight but a sign said speak to an officer via speaker phone.
    We were then instructed to return the next day prior to 11 am.

    I am not sure about security against terrorists but this middle class 3rd generation Australian grandmother was ready to aid and abet any terrorist.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 8:56 pm

      Ah yes, so your special crime was turning up after 11am! I can feel your pain and anger. Assume the baby is registered by now. 🙂


  19. mistermuse / Oct 10 2015 10:16 pm

    I read this shortly after waking up in the morning, when my eyes were still a bit out of focus, so when I came to your second paragraph, I thought it said you encountered an extremely NUDE member of Australia’s welcoming committee. No wonder you were “horrified and embarrassed.” I, on the other hand, probably would have thought, “Now that’s what I call a welcome to Australia!” 🙂


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 10:56 pm

      Oh my gosh, you made me laugh. A NUDE Border Force officer would have been totally appropriate and I wouldn’t have batted an eye. I think you need to be our new minister for immigration. Are you available?


      • mistermuse / Oct 11 2015 3:06 am

        Unfortunately I’m not available, as my wife keeps me under lock and key, but if I come up with any more good ideas for improving Australia’s welcoming committee, I’ll be sure to let you know. Thanks anyway!


      • leggypeggy / Oct 11 2015 8:02 am

        Oh darn! At least you’re willing to keep the ideas coming.


  20. tony / Oct 10 2015 11:30 pm

    I’m a suspicious person at immigration. I remember thinking a few years ago coming back to Australia that the volunteers who chatted you up at the luggage carousel were a new very sophisticated method of customs screening. Fortunately they got rid of them shortly after.

    In Ireland we were delayed for 10 minutes at immigration because the man just wanted to share the craic. Made us warm to Ireland! But I was paranoid at the start.

    Basically, in Australia whether your a local coming back (from Syria perhaps) or a foreigner you’re a person of interest and you’re not welcome. No-one knows what you’ve been up to overseas. Why did you go in the first place?

    The Hugo Boss uniform and the attitude tells the story right up front. You’re not welcome! Watch your step! And if you step out of line with government policy! Or if you dare to criticise, we’ll lock you up!

    And remember 40% of the current Liberal parliamentarians love Tony Abbott and are deeply suspicious of Malcolm Turnbull at best.

    Keep up the good fight.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 10 2015 11:44 pm

      Oh Tony, you got it in one. We are all now persons of interest. Why did we go? Why didn’t we just stay away? And the 40 per cent still supporting Abbott are a worry. We’ll cross our collective fingers and hope that Turnbull gets his rightful support.


  21. agenda19892010 / Oct 11 2015 8:26 am

    Happy weekend my friend by Rinaldo.


  22. singhcircle / Oct 12 2015 7:00 pm

    This is crazy. But airports all over the world are like that. There are certainly crabby officials (men and women) whose job it is to make sure you are miserable. I have a very good impression about Australian officials but, I guess, the Discovery Channel programmes are kind of tweaked at times!
    I have had some nasty experiences in the UK and Europe, not to mention my own India where, very often, one encounters REALLY crabby immigration and Customs officers! As for Tonly Abbot and his being recently ‘deposed’, I feel sorry for our own Prime Minister Modi, who insisted on calling him “TONY” and a “dear friend” during his recent visit Down Under. Narendra must surely be missing Tony! 🙂


    • leggypeggy / Oct 13 2015 11:11 am

      I spoke to someone from Immigration yesterday and she urged me to report the incident. She said that ever since Customs and Immigration were merged at the airport that courtesy that has been shown by Immigration people is not always being shown by the newcomers from Customs.
      And so far I have spoken to anyone who misses Tony. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  23. susan@marsha'sbungalow / Oct 13 2015 6:49 am

    This experience is all over the planet, with the exception of Ireland (really!) Every time I fill out one of those hand written immigration forms, I wonder where all that paperwork goes, how they would ever file it all, and who cares to check what you’ve written. Arggghhh


    • leggypeggy / Oct 13 2015 11:12 am

      Yes, where does all that paperwork go? Especially because no one even looked at Poor John’s.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. vagabondurges / Oct 13 2015 11:14 am

    Every time I go through those, especially entering the US, I want to get on a soap box and give a speech to the staff about the importance of first and last impressions in a person’s mind, and how all these people are going to tell their friends and family “What ___ians are like.” But, like you, I’m fine not learning about their detention procedures.

    So basically, thank you, for reminding me that my country and I are not alone in our misbehaviors and apprehensions, but beyond that, I love the idea/awareness of the trickle-down effect of a leader’s personality. I’m trying to remember if US guards were different under Bush…I think they were!


    • leggypeggy / Oct 13 2015 1:34 pm

      May I join you on your soap box? We’d probably find heaps to talk about in detention. 🙂

      As for the trickle-down effect of a leader’s personality, almost everyone seems cheerier since Abbott’s overthrow, except the woman at the immigration/customs counter.


  25. Zambian Lady / Oct 13 2015 8:27 pm

    I have never been to Australia, so I cannot comment about immigration there. I have not had any bad experiences with any immigration except at Zurich airport where I was first interrogated by police after getting off a plane and then their immigration officers. All my documents were in order so it was not the best experience for me. I have watched Australian


    • leggypeggy / Oct 14 2015 4:44 pm

      I’m sorry you had a bad experience in Zurich. It seems like everyone has had a bad experience somewhere. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Derrick / Oct 18 2015 3:23 am

    It all seems so very different when I was there a few years back
    I had a small jar of coffee, the customs bloke filled it up for me, he said I’ll see no man without his coffee
    Whats it going to be like when I finish travelling and come for a visit ?


    • leggypeggy / Oct 18 2015 8:05 am

      I’m hoping things will calm down and that courtesy returns.


  27. The Sock Mistress / Oct 21 2015 6:17 pm

    Sorry that happened to you and those poor Chinese people. Some people are just arseholes… I have decided that I will not let them ruin my day. 🙂


    • leggypeggy / Oct 21 2015 7:02 pm

      Agreed, I don’t let them ruin my day, but I do like getting a decent blog post out of it—at their expense. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Sock Mistress / Oct 22 2015 12:02 pm

        I am looking forward to doing a scathing customer service one about a certain car rental company in the USA…

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Oct 22 2015 2:09 pm

        Go for it and enjoy!


  28. Ellen Hawley / Nov 6 2015 1:59 am

    Purple ink? Good thing you weren’t arrested.


    • leggypeggy / Nov 6 2015 8:37 am

      Oh, I know. Luckily no one has come to beat down my door.


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