Flat White

Game, set and match to Mr Djokovic

12 January 2022

12:00 PM

12 January 2022

12:00 PM

It’s never polite to say ‘I told you so’ but once some of the relevant facts were know, Novak’s appeal was always going to be a lay-down misère; and I told quite a few people that that would be the outcome. There are still some Australians, so wedded to their demand that everyone be vaccinated, who refuse to accept that Djokovic’s win in the Federal Court was a perfect example of admin law in action.

Personally, I think the lockdowns and social distancing practised by the vaccinated merely keeps the unvaccinated alive. They ought not be compelled to be vaccinated, but if they decide not to be, there can be no moral obligation on the rest of us to protect them from that decision.

Djokovic’s appeal win must be very embarrassing for Scott Morrison, who sanctimoniously lectured us in his tough-man voice: ‘Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules.’ With those few words, Scot Morrison revealed himself to be a gloating bully quite happy to implicitly defend his Border Force employees who, it seems, had broken far more serious rules by not allowing Novak to obtain legal advice.

And it is particularly sad in a country noted for the ‘fair go’ to find hundreds of people who would still deny Djokovic’s win and the benefit of a law that anyone of us in similar circumstances can use.

If you take the trouble to read the public comments following the articles that announced Djokovic’s appeal victory, you will see how many of them think he should have lost, but only won: because of his money; one rule for the rich, one for the poor; because of his status, one rule for him, one for the rest; that he should have lost because he wasn’t vaccinated; and that one idiot who surmised that he bribed the judge.

In answer to Judge Kelly’s question, ‘What more could he have done?’ quite a few people said he should have got vaccinated, which seems to prove that many Australians do not know that ‘exemption’ means ‘excused from being vaccinated’.

While I believe in free speech and love it in the form of readers’ comments after media articles, I have to confess that the sheer number outrageously ridiculous comments made me despair for Australia’s education system.

Any reasonable review of the events leading to Novak’s appeal must surely conclude that it was a mess. None of it should have happened because there were so many opportunities for the federal government and its various agencies to check Mr Djokovic’s documents before he left Serbia or before he boarded the plane. That would have been one way to pre-empt the problem that unvaccinated players from overseas posed.

Unfortunately, it appears that Morrison’s incompetent government had approved a transfer of responsibility for that final decision to Tennis Australia and the Victorian government, which meant that their control of the visa process had already been compromised. Worse still, the Morrison government knew what rules those two bodies were administering and, despite their caveats during the process, had approved them.

The Djokovic fiasco, in combination with the Australia-wide Covid crisis, suggests that our Prime Minister cannot be trusted to govern. Scott Morrison won the last election because his sophistry was superior to Bill Shorten’s rhetoric; but, as Covid and the visa saga have proven, there is more to government than making speeches. Good government is based on practical wisdom and as the last two years have shown, Mr Morrison is lacking in that virtue.

There are many reasons why what Australia has done to Novak Djokovic will remain a canker on our national reputation for giving everyone a fair go for a long time. It would be interesting to know if they received instructions from a minister to do what Justice Kelly said they did. If that is the case, that minister should resign.

But it is the overall way that Djokovic’s visa was handled that reflects on Morrison inability to lead. Think what those Australians trapped overseas have been through; Australians blocked by the federal government from returning home because of the government’s fear of the Covid virus. Think about the rest of Australia – locked down, locked up, and fined for not masking. Then there’s Andrews, Berejiklian, Palaszczuk, and McGowan making their own rules in a political vacuum resulting from federal government inactivity.

As of today, things are very different. The Australian people can see past Morrison’s talk. It took a Serb with a tennis racquet to show that that was all it was – talk. So much for the Australian ‘fair go’. Morrison was prepared to make an example of a visitor to this country to show how tough he was. That is not good enough. We need a Prime Minister who is fair all the time, but tough when it is needed; perhaps it is time for this one to make way for that person, if he exists.

Most people in the Liberals have it the other way around.

PS: If reports are correct that the federal government is investigating Novak to see if he travelled in the 14 days subsequent to his infection with a view to cancelling his visa, it will prove that all that I’ve said above about Morrison’s bullying is correct. It will be nothing less than revenge for his having won the appeal and it’s about time that Morrison retired. He was never suited to the top job and this is just another example of the old saying: ‘It’s not only cream that floats to the top.’

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