January 19, 2022

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday after losing a bid to stay in the country to defend his Australian Open title despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19… A court initially ruled on procedural grounds that Djokovic could stay, but Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who has wide powers, later decided to deport him. In addition to not being inoculated against the coronavirus, Djokovic is a vocal vaccine skeptic, and the government said his presence could stir up anti-vaccine sentiments.” AP News

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From the Left

The left generally supports the Australian government’s actions.

“It’s been a tough couple of years. Rule followers like me masked up, locked down, sanitized till our skin cracked, followed the arrows in the grocery store, stood on social-distancing floor stickers, got vaccinated (when it was our turn and no sooner), and then, because of all the people who didn’t follow the rules, did it all over again. The rules got more confusing and more changeable, and still we tried to keep up. We followed rules even when it felt as if we had to chase them down…

“Australians have complied with some of the strictest covid lockdowns in the world and got vaccinated in impressive numbers. An ‘Australia Talks’ national survey explains why: ‘Despite the fact we like to think of ourselves as larrikins’ — that’s Aussie for Ferris Buellers — ‘Australians are actually a nation of rule-followers.’ The vast majority wanted Djokovic booted… The dramatic finish was a loss for Djokovic, who was seeking his 10th Australian Open title. But it was a victory for my team. We are the Rule Followers, and we needed a win.”
Kate Cohen, Washington Post

“A recent poll found that 71 percent of Australians believed that Djokovic should not have been allowed to stay in the country and compete… Although deporting Djokovic risked sparking a diplomatic spat with Serbia, whose government criticized Australia’s treatment of its biggest sports star, allowing him to stay would have appeared to give him special treatment, especially in light of revelations that he may have misled the Australian Border Force. Alienating Serbia is clearly undesirable, but giving Djokovic a pass would have been politically dangerous, particularly in a country such as Australia, which boasts a 92 percent vaccination rate.”
Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic

“In Florida -- a state with a population of 21 million, similar to that of Australia's 25 million -- GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis in November signed what he boasted was ‘the strongest piece of legislation that's been enacted anywhere in the country’ to oppose Covid-19 vaccine requirements…

“In contrast, Australia has imposed strict Covid-19 safeguards, including six lockdowns of Melbourne -- a city of 5 million -- that totaled more than 260 days. That may seem draconian to some Americans, but the data shows these measures worked to save lives. The nation's total coronavirus-related death toll in this nearly two-year pandemic totals 2,673 people. Compare that to Florida, where as of Saturday there have been more than 63,000 Covid-related deaths…

“Australia's Covid policies have resulted ‘in one of the lowest death rates, strongest economic recoveries, and highest vaccination rates in the world’ -- as Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who revoked Djokovic's visa, said after Sunday's court ruling.”
Dean Obeidallah, CNN

Some note that “When Djokovic’s visa was first cancelled, the authorities detained him in the Park Hotel alongside refugees, some of whom have been imprisoned for almost a decade. Djokovic’s complaints about this ‘dirty hotel’ briefly drew an international spotlight to Australia’s draconian immigration detention regime. Unsurprisingly, however, Djokovic remained silent about the plight of the men with whom he was detained…

“It’s an indictment of the international and local media that it took a sports star to draw attention to the conditions faced by the refugees in the Park Hotel. These include maggot-infested food and facilities that accelerated the spread of COVID-19 among detainees late last year… [And] however much schadenfreude we might feel about Djokovic’s fate, perhaps the worst element of this saga is the extent to which it legitimizes the immigration minister’s ‘godlike’ personal visa cancellation powers… Australians are facing far more serious issues than the tennis star’s presence.”
Saskia Peachey, Jacobin Magazine

From the Right

The right is generally critical of the Australian government’s actions.

The right is generally critical of the Australian government’s actions.

“I was surprised when Djokovic, a longtime skeptic of vaccines, announced on Instagram that he had received a waiver letting him participate in the Australian Open, despite the country’s bar on unvaccinated foreigners. As a former foreign-service officer who has issued thousands of visas, I know that travelers can be turned around at borders even if they have visas and all other required documents. But I never imagined a country would issue a waiver and visa to the world’s top-ranked tennis player and then seek to deport him upon arrival…

“However you feel about Djokovic’s refusal to take the vaccine, consider how the Land Down Under treated one of the world’s greatest athletes. He arrived around midnight and was detained overnight for nearly eight hours, much of that time without access to his mobile phone, before being transferred to the Park Hotel, a notoriously sketchy quarantine hotel that houses many long-term asylum seekers. He asked for more time to contact his agent and Tennis Australia, which did a remarkably poor job of advising him on visa matters, but officials didn’t grant him this basic courtesy, as if canceling his visa and deporting him were urgent priorities that couldn’t wait until the next business day.”
Dave Seminara, City Journal

“The government’s primary argument [for denying his visa] was not that there was a risk that Djokovic could infect others with the virus. Instead, the claim was that Djokovic was known for his anti-vax, anti-mask position, and allowing him to play in such a nationally prestigious tournament might encourage others to follow his example. Based on that, he was deported…

“I am not for a second belittling the very real dangers of COVID, as I said repeatedly for almost two years now. And I am not minimizing for a moment the difficult decisions that governments must make during this pandemic. But to ban one of the world’s top athletes from playing in your country simply because his personal choice not to be vaccinated might influence others is to set a very dangerous precedent.”
Michael Brown, Townhall

“Of course Australia, being a sovereign country, has a right to deny entry to any foreigner — to revoke their visas after their arrival at the airport — just because they don’t like the look of their mustache. But civilized countries set out laws and rules for governing how to treat foreign nationals, and try to follow them fairly, as a further demonstration of their legitimacy among their own citizens, and often as a courtesy to their own citizens who do business with foreigners, marry them, or just like to watch them play tennis. It’s not clear to me whether Australia is following their own rules or doing so fairly. And the punishment levied — a ban on entering Australia for three years — seems disproportionate as well.”
Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review

At the end of the day, “Australia’s laws are, for better and for worse, Australia’s laws and, therefore, the business of Australians. Novak Djokovic doesn’t get a say in them… Australian rules require that foreigners arriving in Australia be vaccinated against Covid-19. Djokovic refuses to be vaccinated but showed up for the Australian Open anyway, and then made things worse for himself by lying on his immigration paperwork…

“Some will complain: ‘Oh, but Australia’s rules are extreme!’ And they are. By way of comparison, consider that the relatively mild rules in place in the United Kingdom have proved too difficult to comply with for… the men in charge of the government of the United Kingdom, among others. But many countries have rules that seem extreme to outsiders: Switzerland once fined a man $325,000 for exceeding the speed limit by 25 mph, and will sometimes deport foreigners for speeding or driving under the influence. Theirs is a very free country, but, where there are rules, they expect the rules to be followed.”
Kevin D. Williamson, National Review

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