Tough stance on Novak Djokovic exempting Scott Morrison from fire and explosion

It came as little surprise when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stepped into the rage triggered by the vaccine immunity granted to tennis star Novak Djokovic to play at the first Grand Slam of the year.

After all, Morrison’s government was beaten by an increase in Omicron cases, a staggering screening system and empty supermarket shelves just months before the election.

When Djokovic, the unvaccinated world number one male tennis player, announced that he would be flying to Melbourne to defend his Australian Open title, Morrison, whose Liberals are tracking Labor on visits probe, has voiced the attack.

The prime minister warned that Djokovic, who is still in the air, could be brought “back to the first plane home”. Djokovic’s visa has been invalidated and he was detained pending deportation.

But the federal court’s decision to prevent visa cancellation Monday confused the Morrison government and focused its attention on inconsistencies in Australia’s immigration laws in a country that prides itself on tightly controlling its borders.

The messy handling of the unvaccinated athlete has proven particularly exciting for voters, who have endured a number of athletes around the world. the most difficult constraints.

The court’s decision left the Morrison government with two politically puzzling choices.

It may choose to let Djokovic’s visa take effect, despite Morrison’s claim that the tennis player is not authorized to be in the country. Or it could again cancel his visa and detain him. However, that runs the risk of triggering a diplomatic struggle with the Serbian government and street protests in Melbourne, which has only emerged from the world’s longest Covid-19 lockdown.

Last week, Morrison insisted Djokovic was treated the same as anyone else trying to “run across the border” into Australia.

Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison’s government faces two politically unlikely choices over Novak Djokovic © Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

The stance was welcomed by an Australian public who reacted with fury to the news that a seemingly healthy Djokovic had been exempted despite the country’s strict vaccination laws.

Mark Kenny, a professor at the Australian Institute of Research, says the government is under immense pressure because of rising infection rates, Covid testing issues and supply chain challenges. But it did “sniff the mood” of voters angered by Djokovic’s arrival.

“Obviously Morrison is happy to be strong-willed about the border and not to talk about the diverse failures of Covid testing. It looks like Morrison won for a moment,” said Kenny.

For more than two decades, the Liberals have made border control a central plank of their policies. The decision on whether to cancel Djokovic’s visa again will be made by Alex Hawke, the immigration minister and one of the prime minister’s closest allies.

A government official said: “According to due process, Secretary Hawke will look into the matter thoroughly. As the matter is ongoing, for legal reasons, no further comment can be made”.

Maria Jockel at BDO Migration Services said that it is not unheard of for a minister to use personal powers to cancel a visa again. But it would need to be justified on the basis of public interest and would likely be challenged, which would subject Australia’s border laws to greater scrutiny.

She added that federal and state governments “require the wisdom of Solomon” to find solutions to border problems as the Djokovic story presented.

Australia’s complex immigration laws have come under scrutiny since Djokovic was detained at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport last week. The player’s visa is issued by the federal government and his medical exemption has been signed off by two independent panels of medical experts, one backed by the Victorian government, and the chief medical officer of Tennis Australia level.

But that did not guarantee him entry into the country, and court documents revealed that Djokovic may have mis-filled another document – a travel declaration – separate from the visa.

Kenny said that the decision to issue visas to unvaccinated people that may not meet entry requirements forces border agents to “second guess” on applications. “The ambiguity goes into this process,” he said.

The federal and state governments as well as Tennis Australia have attempted to blame the controversy, citing the exemption – that Djokovic has contracted Covid-19 in the past six months – for the heated controversy.

Daniel Andrews, Victoria’s Labor Prime Minister, insisted on Tuesday that his government was not responsible for the border antics. “We didn’t try to convince the Commonwealth government to let anyone in. The reality is quite the opposite,” he said.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese, who will run for prime minister in the coming months, said: “Scott Morrison has failed in testing, traceability, vaccines and quarantine. That is the great failure of the pandemic.”

Even some of Morrison’s MPs called on the government to drop the issue. John Alexander, a Liberal MP and former professional tennis player, said it would be a “mistake” to try to deport Djokovic after the court ruling. “I don’t see it as a political issue,” he told Australian public broadcaster ABC.

However, Kenny says it has been a political dilemma for the government. “They double it or they don’t,” says Kenny. “Either way, there’s a political cost to Morrison.”

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