A disgrace for both sides

The final Djokovic against Australia may still be pending.

Novak Djokovic suffered a defeat.

Mark Baker/AP

Does he? Doesn’t he? He did it. Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has canceled Novak Djokovic’s visa. He used his wide discretion and justified the step with public interest.

From an epidemiological point of view, it makes little sense to take the tennis star out of circulation now. He could move around Melbourne for days, train at the stadium.

It would therefore probably be more correct to speak of political interest. Parliamentary elections will be held in Australia by May at the latest. The ruling Liberals of Hawke and Prime Minister Scott Morrison are threatened with defeat. Closed borders, eternal lockdowns, late vaccinations, test chaos – the government has expected a lot from Australians in the fight against Covid-19. And not always cut a good figure.

Back to the world number one in men’s tennis. Djokovic has himself to blame for the fact that he is now threatened with expulsion (and a three-year expulsion from the country). The fact that he does not want to be vaccinated is his personal decision. But in the last few days, new details have come to light that cast doubt on its integrity. So it is reprehensible that he did not go into isolation after a positive corona test. The fact that he then met other people without a mask and had himself photographed reinforces the image of a star who believes that different rules apply to him than to everyone else.

The Serbian authorities must assess whether he violated Serbian corona rules. Whether he also ignored Spanish travel requirements is an issue for the Spaniards. The decisive factor for the Australians is that Djokovic gave false information on his form when entering Australia. It’s a criminal offense Down Under. It’s cheap for Djokovic to try to shift the error (let’s assume it was one and not on purpose) to an employee.

That is why the intervention of the Minister of Immigration has a strong political note. But he thus corresponds to the will of the people across the otherwise deep ditch in Australia between the two largest parties. Various representatives of the opposition Labor Party have also made it clear in the past few days that, in their eyes, Djokovic has forfeited the right to remain in the country. The tough stance on immigration is generally widely supported by the population.

Djokovic is not the only loser in this saga. All the tugging also puts Australia in a bad light. If everything had gone right, the tennis star should never have got on the plane. Djokovic had a valid exemption prior to his trip – but while he was in the air the rules were changed. When he landed in Melbourne, border officials canceled Djokovic’s visa out of hand.

That’s not possible, the responsible judge decided at the beginning of the week and declared the visa cancellation invalid. So Djokovic was able to enter. The fact that the immigration minister took several days to make his decision shows that the government does not want to embarrass itself a second time. She doesn’t want to be accused by the judge of having made a hasty and careless decision.

It is unclear how the judge will decide. He has to make decisions based on legal standards, not political ones. It’s possible that Immigration Secretary Hawke’s decision today was just a second-round result. The final in Djokovic’s fight against Australia may still be pending.

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