Saturday, 15 January 2022

Why the Djokovic case matters

I know there are varying views on whether Djokovic should be permitted to remain here and play tennis. The "blame game" has started and people, some of whom should know better, are using it to play political games. That is not helpful.

Djokovic should be treated like any other person attempting to enter the country - but he isn't.  It would seem that tennis and a tennis tournament are so important that demands are being made that the rules are at least bent - if not actually broken - just for one man. That man may well be able to hit a ball over a net more accurately than almost anyone else but it doesn't make him eligible for considerations that would not be given to other people.

But that is precisely what is happening. He challenged his detention - in front of a judge who made some extraordinary comments - and seemed to win. Having now read the entire transcript of the interview between Djokovic and the immigration official who was charged with allowing or not allowing him into the country I believe there is a great deal more Djokovic could have done. I also believe there are things that both the tennis authorities and the Victorian government should have done.  

Djokovic is an internationally known tennis player and he is also something of a hero in his home country. He is revered as a "sportsperson". Unlike Oscar Pistorius he hasn't killed anyone - yet. Some sportspeople get obscene amounts of money simply for things like advertising a certain brand of shoe or clothing. They get invited to do things - and may or may not charge for it. This is true of Djokovic. He is a very wealthy man. His country has given him what they claim is a "diplomatic" passport because they hold his tennis playing ability in such high esteem.  

But Djokovic is not actually a diplomat. His "diplomatic" passport, even if it was an actual diplomatic one, does not mean that he can ignore the rules of the country he wants to enter. He is claiming that he does not need to be vaccinated even though the rules state he needs to have at least two doses of a recognised vaccine before he enters the country or a medical exemption. He argues that he has had Covid and is therefore immune and doesn't need to be vaccinated. He has claimed this gives him a medical exemption. His anti-vaccination stance is well known. It was known before he arrived.

What should have happened is that he was told that there would be no exemptions, that having Covid (if he has had it) was not sufficient to grant him exemption from vaccination and that unless he did get vaccinated he was not welcome. That should have been it - full stop.

What seems to have happened is that the tennis authorities and the state government were so determined to have him play they have tried to bypass the rules.   Yes, he is apparently a very big draw card - but there would be severe limits on the number of spectators anyway.  Rather than take any responsibility for the mess they have created they are saying that "immigration is a federal responsibility" - and yes, it is. 

Judge Kelly, who made the initial decision that Djokovic should be permitted to stay,  asked what more Djokovic could have done. He presumably had read the transcript and he must have been aware of Djokovic's anti-vaccination stance. His decision seems to have been made under the same belief that "having had Covid means you don't need to be vaccinated". While there are statements about Djokovic having had Covid has there been a blood test which  shows this? Is such a thing possible? Is this sufficient to protect everyone else? How do we know that?

Minister Hawke has made a second decision to revoke Djokovic's visa. As a result Djokovic is again getting preferential treatment. There will be a special court hearing this morning. No other ordinary citizen would be granted such a thing unless perhaps someone was arguing that their life was in danger and there were grounds for this. 

The legal ramifications of all this are beginning to alarm me. Dangerous precedents are being set. Sportspeople are not above the law but this whole business seems to be about doing just that.


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