The stepsister of a woman who was denied permission to go to their dad’s funeral in Queensland has accused the prime minister of using her family's tragedy to advance his political agenda.
Sarah Caisip, who lives in Canberra, made national headlines last week after she was told she would not be allowed to attend her father Bernard’s funeral in Brisbane.
Ms Caisip, 26, had applied for a Queensland border exemption to visit her dying father but it wasn't granted until two days after his death. She then wrote a scathing letter to Queensland’s premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Ms Caisip eventually had a private viewing while wearing a hazmat suit.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had earlier made an emotional plea on behalf of the family, saying it wasn't about borders and that Ms Palaszczuk's lack of action over the "heartbreaking case" had forced his hand.
"It was Father's Day on the weekend ... In this midst of all this heartache surely just this once this can be done,” he told 2GB.
But Alex Prendergast, 32, Ms Caisip’s stepsister, has criticised the PM and accused him of using her dad’s funeral as a political football, and intentionally inciting media coverage of the event.
Ms Prendergast told The Project on Monday night it would have been ideal if the matter had remained private.
“I don't think it's appropriate at all for him to announce and kind of inform the media of the location and the time so that they could come and take photos,” Ms Prendergast told the program.
“I think it is very insensitive.”
The Project panellist Steve Price asked if Ms Prendergast thought the PM was “genuinely trying to help” adding he was emotional when he made his statements.
Ms Prendergast said it was a “happy coincidence” to both help and have the media involved in the matter. The cameras “hiding in the scrub” at her dad’s funeral gave her a “real shock”, she said.
She added there was no media attention around her aunt and sister who didn’t get exemptions to see her grandmother who had died just days before her father.
The 32-year-old also told ABC’s 730 she believes “it's quite clear” the PM orchestrated this to maximise media coverage” and work a campaign against the Queensland Premier.
‘I am extremely disappointed’
Her comments follow a letter she wrote asking the PM to apologise.
"Mr Morrison, I am extremely disappointed that you have used my family to try and advance your political agenda. Your announcement of my father's funeral (on radio) prompted a media circus outside the crematorium at which the service was held," Ms Prendergast wrote in an open letter to the prime minister published by various media outlets.
"I am devastated that the final memories of my father have been marred by the media you have used to prosecute your political agenda."
Ms Prendergast said Mr Morrison's actions made "an absolutely devastating time for my family even harder".
"Sarah Caisip should not have been used as a tool to vilify the actions of the Queensland premier and health department" on border controls, she wrote.
Ms Prendergast called on Mr Morrison to apologise because while he highlighted her family's case "there (have) been many, many other cases that are very similar to this case where he has not intervened".
The Prime Minister’s Office told the ABC the the matter was initially raised by Ms Palaszczuk in parliament and he also wished it had been handled discreetly.
"The Prime Minister wishes Alexandra and her family every comfort and condolence at this very difficult time,” a spokesperson said.
Ms Palaszczuk had earlier mentioned the matter in parliament – lashing out at Mr Morrison after Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington asked her about the case, accusing the opposition of taking part in a coordinated campaign with the prime minister's office.
"It is absolutely not acceptable for the leader of the opposition to do what she is doing today; a coordinated campaign with the prime minister's office is disgusting and it is demeaning," she said.
"I would hope that the prime minister would work in a co-operative matter with everyone across this country and this divisiveness, and these fights, and this intimidation, and this bullying is the worst I've ever seen in my lifetime."
The premier confirmed Mr Morrison had called her to speak about Ms Caisip's situation.
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