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Monday, August 15, 2022

Booting Djokovic will now be messy, but it needs to happen

While Australian public opinion may have shifted immediately after Monday’s court case, it appeared to turn back against Djokovic on Wednesday as his errors and inconsistencies became glaringly obvious. His admissions that he took part in a media interview and photo shoot while knowingly COVID-19 positive, and that his agent incorrectly filled out his travel forms, were the last straw for many.

There was also, at least initially, some misunderstanding about what the court case meant. There was no “judgment” or “decision” by the court; there were court orders agreed to by both parties once the Commonwealth realised that a Border Force official had messed up by not affording Djokovic enough time to get a lawyer at the airport.

Politically, Prime Minister Scott Morrison can still get a win out of this if the government does cancel Djokovic’s visa. Some of the Prime Minister’s base may be against vaccine mandates, but he needs to win back those in the middle ground who he has lost since the early stages of the pandemic.

Mr Morrison could draw a link between this decision and the actions he took in early 2020 to shut off the nation’s borders, which probably saved thousands of lives.

Undoubtedly, Morrison and the Australian Border Force should be criticised for allowing the Serbian tennis star to ever get on a plane.

While there is no basis for slamming them over Djokovic’s visa approval – visa approvals have nothing to do with establishing vaccine status at the border – alarm bells should have rung weeks ago that Djokovic was looking to come. They also should have never let in another player and official who were unvaccinated, which probably gave Tennis Australia a false sense of security that the world no. 1 would be given the green light.

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Tennis Australia will likely come off with its reputation severely tarnished and its draw thrown into chaos, after being warned by the federal government on multiple occasions in November that people in Djokovic’s position would not be allowed in.

And let’s not forget the Victorian government helped set up this whole process with Tennis Australia by creating the medical panels that cleared Djokovic to come. The Andrews government deftly fed Djokovic to the wolves once he arrived in the country, allowing the Commonwealth to take the heat when it started to make a mess of the situation.

But ultimately, the most criticism should be reserved for Djokovic – an anti-vaxxer who brazenly breached isolation requirements in his own country less than a day after receiving a positive test result.

He should have never been allowed in, but that doesn’t mean he has to stay.

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