Nearly six months on from the first lockdowns nobody is stupid enough to believe we’re “all in this together” any more.
It’ll be another three weeks before Melburnians can leave their homes at night. In and outbound travel restrictions continue to leave Australians stranded and tear families apart. A kid in Queensland with a double lung transplant can’t get crucial medical care because of border closures.
We’re more or less on board with all of this — polls suggest most Australians support a heavily policed, tough borders approach to the pandemic. We have little patience for rule-breakers and are willing to sacrifice a lot of freedom for the greater good.
But not everyone is sacrificing the same. There’s been a lot of rule-bending and selfish behaviour happening with the complicity of police and health authorities.
It’s become obvious that for a select few — those with super-yachts or private jets, bromances with politicians forged over sipping bad Australian sparkling in the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge — different rules apply.
Yacht man 1.0
Jost Stollmann’s website says he’s “always in motion” — not even a global pandemic could stop the Sydney entrepreneur.
In June Stollmann, who is well-connected with the Morrison government, flew to Trieste, Italy, to pick up his “awesome” new luxury yacht. He’s sailing around the Greek Islands waiting for lockdowns to ease up. Meanwhile almost three-quarters of requests for overseas travel permits, doled out at Border Force’s discretion, have been denied.
Yacht man 2.0
Days after the news about Stollmann broke, The Age revealed Melbourne construction magnate Mark Simonds had left his Toorak mansion in early August and sailed to the Gold Coast with his family on his yacht, the Lady Pamela. They’d been granted an exemption from Queensland’s travel ban on the basis they were relocating to the sunshine state. But yesterday Queensland Health revoked the exemption and forced them into hotel quarantine after police were shown A Current Affair footage of passengers disembarking.
Meet the Foxes
On board Lady Pamela was Hannah Fox, whose father, Peter, executive chairman of Linfox Logistics, had escaped to the Gold Coast days earlier. The elder Fox, heir to dad Lindsay’s multibillion-dollar trucking fortune, told reporters he got an exemption from border closures on the basis he was a truckie.
Stoked to avoid quarantine
Kerry Stokes, chair of Seven and king in the west, often gets what he wants. In April he and his wife returned from Colorado (then grappling with COVID-19) and were allowed to do their 14 days of isolation at their Perth mansion, rather than at a hotel, on medical grounds.
Documents released under freedom of information revealed Stokes’ situation was the subject of discussions between a federal minister, the Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan, and senior state public servants.
In July, Stokes flew into Perth from Sydney, and despite the state’s hard border was granted an unspecified quarantine exemption, allowing him to have breakfast with the premier.
Celebrities stay home
It wasn’t just Stokes who got to do quarantine from the comfort of a mansion.
Dannii Minogue returned from the United States last month and was allowed to go to her place on the Gold Coast on the basis she had a COVID-safe plan made by a third party. At the time the state had granted just 38 hotel quarantine exemptions.
Nicole Kidman, also coming back from America, was allowed to isolate at home with her family.
The essential lobbyist
Rodger Powell, managing director of Tourism and Hospitality Services Australasia, got into Tasmania in June on the basis that it was essential he attend the opening of Crowne Plaza in Hobart.
His essential traveller application was a masterclass in favours for mates. He’d spoken to the head of the Tasmanian Hospitality Association, who checked in with former premier Will Hodgman’s old chief of staff. It all worked out for Powell in the end.
The Aspen squad
Well before the virus was ripping through aged care centres and public housing blocks, Victoria’s biggest COVID-19 clusters were around Toorak and the Mornington Peninsula. Many cases were linked back to returnees from Aspen, the exclusive ski resort in Colorado, who refused to isolate after coming home. Many left Melbourne for the beach and continued to play golf.
A party hosted by a former Liberal Party treasurer, a cocktail event for parents of Geelong Grammar students, and a property developer’s wedding in Noosa all had infections linked back to the Aspen cluster.