SYDNEY — With the coronavirus ravaging his nation, leaving hospitals full and grocery store cabinets empty, and an election looming this 12 months, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison thought he might rating a fast win by deporting tennis celebrity Novak Djokovic.
As a substitute, Morrison bought smashed — once more.
An Australian choose on Monday ordered the quick launch of the 20-time Grand Slam champion, who had been held in resort detention since final Thursday, when officers canceled his visa after he arrived in Melbourne forward of the Australian Open and not using a COVID vaccine.
The Serbian participant, a recognized vaccine-skeptic, had claimed a medical exemption from Australia’s obligatory vaccination guidelines for inbound vacationers on the grounds he had lately recovered from COVID after testing optimistic on December 16. However although Djokovic mentioned event organizer Tennis Australia had advised him the exemption had been accepted, the Australian Border Drive canceled his visa on arrival, citing public well being grounds.
Whereas Djokovic could have gained the primary set, the match isn’t over. Beneath Australia’s infamously robust border guidelines, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke could train his private energy to cancel the tennis star’s visa if he deems that to be within the public curiosity — and probably bar the world’s No. 1 participant from reentering the nation for the subsequent three years.
Now Morrison, who has spent years crafting a reputation as an immigration hard-liner, is caught in a no-win scenario: again down and enable Djokovic to remain in Australia and play within the event (simply think about these post-match press conferences!), or deport the Serb and face accusations he presides over a kangaroo court docket — and calls for Australia to be stripped of the profitable Grand Slam, which kicks off this 12 months on January 17.
Why did Australia decide this battle with Djokovic? Dangerous optics — and a basic case of unsuitable place, unsuitable time.
Melbourne, the house of the Australian Open, has endured one of many world’s longest lockdowns, with residents spending greater than 260 days below extreme restrictions over the course of the pandemic. On the similar time, Australians across the nation — and the globe — have been separated from their family members after the federal government carried out a COVID plan dubbed “Fortress Australia.”
So Aussies have been in no temper for a tone-deaf Instagram submit final week wherein the “Djoker” wrote: “I’ve spent incredible high quality time with my family members over the break and right now I’m heading Down Beneath with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022!!”
After an preliminary smattering of dangerous headlines and a social media outcry, the center-right Morrison responded to Djokovic’s submit by shifting the blame for the choice to permit him into Australia to the center-left authorities of the state of Victoria.
However because the outrage constructed, Morrison, a politician with a populist bent and a nostril for what performs effectively within the press, pivoted.
“Mr. Djokovic’s visa has been canceled,” Morrison introduced a day later, taking credit score for the transfer. “Guidelines are guidelines, particularly in the case of our borders,” he added. “Nobody is above these guidelines. Our robust border insurance policies have been essential to Australia having one of many lowest loss of life charges on this planet from COVID, we’re persevering with to be vigilant.”
Requested by reporters whether or not Djokovic had been singled out unfairly, given reports different unvaccinated tennis gamers had been allowed to enter the nation earlier than the champ’s detention, Morrison mentioned: “While you get individuals making public statements, of what they are saying they’ve and what they’ll do and what their claims are, they draw vital consideration to themselves.”
He added: “Anybody who does that — whether or not they’re a celeb, a politician, a tennis participant, a journalist, whoever does that — they’ll anticipate to be requested questions greater than others earlier than you. That’s how Border Drive works. They aren’t singled out in any respect.”
Translation: It was the Instagram submit.
Morrison will need to have anticipated a fast win — Djokovic wouldn’t have been the primary public determine Australia deported in response to a public outcry, following within the footsteps of far-right British commentator Katie Hopkins, U.S. rapper Tyler, The Creator and American “pick-up artist” Julien Blanc.
However Djokovic lawyered up and returned serve. In Melbourne on Monday, Federal Circuit Court docket Choose Anthony Kelly sided with the tennis star, and the Australian authorities was pressured to concede Djokovic hadn’t been given sufficient time to answer the notification of its intention to cancel his visa. “All of us play by the identical guidelines,” the choose mentioned, in a pointed reference to Morrison’s “guidelines are guidelines” line, including: “Said in different phrases: these guidelines weren’t noticed.”
Reacting to his win, Djokovic tweeted: “I’m happy and grateful that the Choose overturned my visa cancellation. Regardless of all that has occurred, I need to keep and attempt to compete … I stay centered on that. I flew right here to play at one of the necessary occasions we’ve got in entrance of the wonderful followers.” He added: “For now I can not say extra however THANK YOU all for standing with me by way of all this and encouraging me to remain robust.”
Australians will vote in a federal election a while this 12 months, and in accordance with the newest Newspoll, the prime minister is on observe to lose — although the polls predicted the identical consequence within the final election, which Morrison ended up successful.
Nonetheless, Morrison’s “daggy dad” act is noticeably beginning to put on skinny. He has been accused of bungling a brand new “let it rip” COVID coverage that’s seen the well being system and provide chains buckle below an intense Omicron-driven wave of the pandemic. He’s been branded a liar by French President Emmanuel Macron over his dealing with of the AUKUS protection pact with the U.S. and U.Okay.
And now, Morrison’s been aced by Djokovic.
Sport, set … match?