Opinion: Djokovic saga shows the absurd confusion of Australia’s Covid-19 fortress

It is not yet clear whether Djokovic will defend his title at the Australian Open next week. But the world has learned so much about Australian border controls, many of which will take a long time to be forgotten.

For now, Djokovic is still in the country, after winning in court over an Australian Border Force attempt to block him entry. However, the Australian government can still deport him. The ball is still in the court of Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who announced on Friday his decision to revoke Djokovic’s visa. The tennis star’s admission that he made a false travel permit upon arrival in Australia, along with revelations that he had failed to isolate him after he tested positive for Covid-19 last month, gave the minister his justifications. Djokovic denied knowing he had contracted the virus when attending public events, and apologized for the false travel permit, saying it was submitted on his behalf by a staff member.
At this point, you can’t rule out anything. The episode has already proven to be a silly political drama befitting a Netflix epic during the lockdown. The Djokovic family played a wonderful supporting role, with Patriarch Serjan Djokovic declaring his son Novak the “New World Spartacus”. Never missed, prominent British politician and Brexit actor Nigel Farage flew to Belgrade to offer his support to the Djokovic clan.
However, much of the saga’s absurdity is rooted in Australia’s bizarre reaction to the Covid-19 experience.

Perhaps the most ridiculous of all was the sheer confusion of Australian governance. Was a visa exemption granted? Did the unvaccinated Djokovic qualify for the exemption? Who has the authority to make decisions? The answers to these questions should, of course, be clear. But it wasn’t clear to anyone, even the Australian prime minister.

The Australian Open organizers, who have formed an expert panel of medical advisors to assess vaccination exemptions, believe all is well. So did the Victorian Government’s Medical Commission. Before Djokovic arrived in Melbourne, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the country that that was all that mattered. Just hours later, Morrison apparently changed his mind and declared that the rules were set by the federal government. All of this happened when Djokovic was in the air, traveling to Australia. He was then presented to the star at the border watch in the early hours of the morning.

This reflects the broader experience of the epidemic. Australia is less like a nation-state, with a clearly visible leader at its head, as it has a cluster of countries led by warring prime ministers from different parties and different factions over the past three years. Whether it’s between federal and state governments, or between different state governments, health advice and policies have sometimes differed greatly.

Most importantly, this episode reveals just how aggressive Australia’s border policies have been during the pandemic.
At the start of the pandemic, Prime Minister Morrison declared the virus primarily a threat to Australia’s sovereignty. In March 2020, Australia cut itself off from the world. Foreigners are not allowed to enter. Citizens and permanent residents had to apply for permission to access an ever-decreasing number of rooms in quarantine facilities.

Later in the year, no one was allowed to leave the country without express permission, which was denied more often than granted. Many Australians felt they had little hope of overcoming these restrictions, unless they had the luxury of special exemptions or had an army of lawyers at their disposal.

I was relieved when my sons contracted the mild Covid-19 virus.  Then I thought about this
These border restrictions have been accompanied by some of the longest and most stringent lockdowns in the world. Both major parties supported them, with prime ministers demanding that the military be sent into the streets and people banned from leaving their homes even for exercise or basic shopping.
Such restrictions could not have been thought of anywhere in the democratic countries of the northern hemisphere. However, there was almost no resistance here in Australia. Quite the contrary, many believed – if not enjoyed – that it was absolutely necessary. Public acceptance of border closures and closures reflects Australia’s deep aversion to biosecurity risks, and Australians’ tendency to see their country as a safe haven from the restless rest of the world.

These attitudes or mindsets did not just arise from the pandemic. They have deeper cultural and historical roots. For a few decades, the advent of affordable international aviation has connected Australia with the rest of the world. Despite this, Covid-19 has returned the nation to an older national psyche.

Immigrants who had lost their families or their homelands, for example, were often reprimanded, reprimanded and reminded that previous generations of immigrants were not able to enjoy the luxury of travel, constrained by cost and technology; It shouldn’t be too much of a burden for them to be stuck in the greatest country on earth.
Over the past week, Australian player Nick Kygreos has used social media to say he can’t figure out why people want to travel the world anyway. Apparently, being at home in Canberra, safe from the worst of the pandemic, was the greatest gift there was.
In fact, if this saga of Djokovic says anything about Australia, it is that the country is still associated with a belief in “Australia’s castle”. For many Australians, an item of political faith is “that we decide who comes to this country, and the circumstances in which they come,” as former Prime Minister John Howard said at his election launch event in 2001.
It was no coincidence that when the Australian government initially moved to detain Djokovic, it did so in a Melbourne hotel that had been used to hold asylum seekers, some of whom had been held for nearly a decade, and largely ignored and forgotten by the Australian public. Given what we know now, it’s clear that Djokovic is not without blame. But what happened to him happens many times with others who are not so lucky to enjoy his fortunes or his profile – and whose reasons are better.

As for what happens next, the Australian government has put itself in a dubious position. If Djokovic is allowed to stay, there is a good chance that Djokovic will go on to win the Australian Open and claim the mantle as the greatest tennis player of all time.

His deportation could provoke public outrage around the world. Either way, Australia is emerging from this dwindling a lot. Be that as it may, in this “Castle Australia” battle, the outcome remains the same: Djokovic’s advantage.


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