Djokovic, distractions and blame shifting

Sue Bolton.

I’m not a supporter of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic because of his right-wing, nationalistic views.

But the only reason that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stopped Djokovic’s entry visa to play in the Australian Open championships is because he and his government need a distraction from their ongoing disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government is feeling real pressure from the public over its botched handling of testing for the pandemic. After last year’s demand to get a test if you feel sick, now Morrison tells us not to clog up the lines to get a PCR test, just a rapid antigen test (RAT).

But no one can find a RAT anywhere.

And neither is the government providing free RATs for everyone, so many people simply can’t afford them even if they can find them.

Djokovic has been a perfect distraction for Morrison, even though the federal government probably allowed his vaccine exemption to receive a visa. But that was before the public outcry.

Why did the government wait until Djokovic flew into Australia to say his visa did not comply with the current regulations? Did the rules change when Djokovic was in transit? Hardly.

What changed is the fact that all over the country people are increasingly angry about the government’s COVID-19 testing debacle. It has had more than enough time to make adequate public health plans for a mutating virus.

The truth is Morrison needed a distraction, and it was easy to either ask the militaristic Australian Border Force (ABF) to cancel Djokovic’s visa after he arrived in Melbourne or seize an opportunity to do that after the ABF saw a discrepancy and acted according to the law. Either way, Morrison saw an opportunity to grandstand about keeping “our” borders “secure” — a line he is practiced in.

But why did the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issue a visa in the first place if, as they now say it didn’t comply with the entry requirements? They could have rejected it and saved Novak the trip.

It was a politically-motivated visa cancellation. We need to reject the government’s cynical manipulation of people’s fury about CEOs and celebrities entering and leaving Australia throughout the pandemic when so many Australians have been locked out of the country for more than a year.

The public anger over the Djokovic’s treatment is about double standards and distractions. As the new year begins it’s patently clear that the government is putting profits ahead of people’s health and wellbeing.

[Sue Bolton is standing for in Wills. She is a Moreland councillor.]