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John MacDonald: I'm appalled at the way the Charlotte Bellis situation has played out

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 2 Feb 2022, 1:05pm
Journalist Charlotte Bellis. (Photo / Jim Huylebroek)
Journalist Charlotte Bellis. (Photo / Jim Huylebroek)

John MacDonald: I'm appalled at the way the Charlotte Bellis situation has played out

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 2 Feb 2022, 1:05pm

I haven’t had too much to say over the last few days about this Charlotte Bellis situation - but today I feel compelled to bring it up for discussion because I am appalled at the way it’s played out. 

In particular, I’m appalled by what I see as her complete lack of gratitude for getting what she wanted in just a matter of days. 

Charlotte is the TV journalist who used to work for Al Jazeera - she’s originally from Christchurch and worked for TVNZ before she headed overseas a number of years ago. 

She got a bit of a profile last year through her coverage of the Taliban taking over the shop in Afghanistan after the US pulled out its troops. 

And last weekend, she went public with the fact that she was pregnant, out of work, wanted to come home to have her baby but couldn’t get an emergency spot in MIQ. 

Well, that’s all changed in just a few days and because of all the attention, the Government has dipped into its bag of tricks and now says she can have an emergency spot and it looks like she’ll be heading home to New Zealand early next month. 

Now before I go any further - I just want to clarify something. 

I’ve seen and heard people who aren’t happy that she’s got this emergency MIQ spot saying she “chose” to get pregnant. Well, she didn’t actually - my understanding is that she’d been told at some point she would never be able to get pregnant. 

So, the fact she is pregnant - would’ve been quite a surprise. And a delight I imagine. 

And I’m very happy for her, her partner and her wider family. 

But I’m not happy with, is what I think (in my honest opinion) is her complete lack of gratitude for the Government giving in and getting her the emergency MIQ spot she wants, so she can come home to have her baby. 

If there’s one thing that annoys me more than squeaky wheels getting special treatment ahead of those of us who just put up and shut up, it’s squeaky wheels who continue to whinge even after they’ve got what they wanted. 

The thing that did it for me was hearing that, despite getting the MIQ booking, she’s considering legal action against the Government for breaching her privacy. 

She was a bit coy when Mike Hosking asked her about that earlier this morning - all she said was that her lawyer probably wants her to press ahead with it. But the fact that it’s even on the table and up-for-discussion is galling - as far as I’m concerned. 

She’s not happy that Chris Hipkins revealed information about what he says “she had and hadn’t done” to try and get into MIQ. But if you’re going to write an open letter for publication in the NZ Herald and do media interviews about it, what do you expect the Government to do? Of course it’s going to give its side of the story. 

But she thinks the Government has been “incredibly disrespectful”. 

The question that went through my head when I heard about her possibly taking legal action against the Government was, “whatever happened to gratitude?” 

There is zero gratitude coming from Kabul, where Charlotte is at the moment. 

And, you know what, if you can’t be grateful, at least be gracious. But that’s not coming through either. 

But it’s not just Charlotte’s attitude that’s got me going today. It’s also the fact that the Government appears to have given in. 

As Charlotte herself said this morning, other pregnant New Zealanders stuck overseas are saying to her “great for you, but what about me?” How must these women be feeling about the Government falling over itself just because someone with a profile, who - as I read in one report - has a PR friend here in New Zealand. How must they feel about this outcome? 

It’s an appalling outcome. And, as I said earlier, the lack of gratitude coming from Charlotte Bellis is galling - but so too is the Government’s willingness to put the squeaky wheel ahead of anyone else in the same situation. 

I’m not naive. I know this sort of thing happens every day. It’s always happened. And not just with governments. We all tread on eggshells sometimes and we’ve all given in to a squeaky wheel at some point in our lives. 

But that doesn’t make it right. Because there’s only one winner - and when that winner can’t even be grateful for getting what they want - you’ve just got to stand up and say “pull your head in”. 

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