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I still call Australia ... groan

Over my years of travel I have been to cities that never close down such as (ahem) New York, sadly not Rio, Beijing and yes Old London Town and most recently some others such as Christchurch, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. And as the Peter Allen song so aptly describes, I do feel a sense of relief and anticipation when my plane is homeward bound. That is, until I exit the air bridge at Tullamarine and strike Border Force.

It beggars belief that a country that spends millions of dollars promoting itself around the world in order to entice tourists to visit does such a good job of ensuring that the first encounter those tourists have with Australia is a woefully inefficient and unfriendly one. The queue for "others" would have stretched for nearly a half a kilometre and was being barked at by a high-vis Border Force guard – wouldn't it be nice if we employed some multilingual staff for this particular job, I found myself thinking, similar to other comparable airports around the world. The arriving tourists must be in that line for well over an hour, not something you really feel like being subjected to after an overnight flight.

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As a returning citizen, instead of striking a pleasantly small queue and sociable "welcome home mate", I had to stand in a queue for over 40 minutes before spending another 15 minutes with a stony-faced Border Force officer as she eyeballed each of my family of five, slowly flicked through passport pages and arrival cards marking them with pen and next texta. (When flying out of Tullamarine only weeks earlier our children used the e-passport face-scanning technology. However, when returning to Tullamarine, we were told that children had to be over 10 to use it).

I was also astounded to see them close one of the measly six counters they had open for an ever-increasing line of Australians and New Zealanders, whilst at least three head honchos (deduced from the fact that they had more than one stripe on their epaulets) stood importantly behind the cubicles of the stamping staff doing nothing other than looking tough. I guess they are taking their Border Force nomenclature seriously at least.

With a sullen "you can go through now" we then moved into the baggage claim and customs hall. And, astoundingly, the inefficiency stepped up another level. We had to wade through an enormous, snaking line of other travellers, bags and trolleys to even get to our baggage carousel. Then we realised that we actually had to become part of that line to exit the building.

So that part of the ordeal took another 40 minutes, in which time I also got to witness some shameful displays from some angry Australians to newly arrived tourists (of non-white background) at baggage carousel #1 – pointed at and told to find the back of the line and to move out of the way – what a delightful first impression of what is supposed to be a friendly, easygoing First World country.

Tullamarine Airport's Border Force never fails to dampen my happiness at coming home and I always exit the terminal with a sense of despair for what our country is becoming. Our desired image is very different to the one that is portrayed to those arriving by plane, but perhaps that is what Mr Dutton and his crew are aiming for – making arrival in the fabled Sunburnt Country so unpleasant that people would prefer to go and spend their money and time elsewhere.

Nicola Philp is a teacher, artist, apiarist and writer who lives on the Great Ocean Road (a long way from Tullamarine, thankfully).

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