FACT: World No 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic is a clear and present danger to Australia. We all learned this, dear reader, when the Australian government cancelled the visa granted to allow him to take part in the Australian Open championship.
What is notable about the visa saga and the decision of the Minister for Immigration is that Djokovic was deported not because he represented a risk in spreading the Covid-19 virus. No, it was his ‘anti-vaccination’ views, and the possibility that by his mere presence in Australia he would give comfort and encouragement to those dreaded antivaxxers, that saw him kicked out. What was even worse was that Djokovic could be seen as an icon ‘of freedom of choice in relation to being vaccinated’. And we can’t have that.
In sum, the Australian government, who for nearly two years have implemented one of the most extreme Covid regimes in the world, feared that Djokovic might cause people to challenge some of those extreme public health measures. And we all know you can’t have citizens going around just randomly challenging governments, now can we? Just ask Stalin, or the folks in North Korea if you can get hold of them.
The Federal Court of Australia, when reviewing the legality of the Minister’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa, held that this was all kosher. The Minister had done nothing wrong in cancelling the visa for these reasons. Nothing to see here, let’s move on.
The court decision involves some complex points of administrative and immigration law but in sum the Minister of Immigration enjoys broad powers to kick an alien out of the country.
Such kicking out cannot be done arbitrarily, it must be in the public interest, but the test that said alien represents such a threat to public health and order is low and can be easily met. The court was satisfied that the Minister was entitled to find that the presence of Djokovic in Australia ‘is or may be, or might be, a risk to the health, safety or good order of the Australian community or a segment of it.’ However, the reasons why the test was satisfied are alarming to any citizen of a democratic nation, lawyer or not.
The Minister accepted that Djokovic, because of a previous Covid-19 infection, did not present a risk of infection to others. ‘The Minister said that he was prepared to proceed on the assumption that Mr Djokovic posed a “negligible” risk of infection of others.’
What the Minister was worried about, however, was that Djokovic’s views on vaccination and medical choice would infect others. As we know, dear readers, thinking for oneself and, worse, spreading your point of view to others can be a very dangerous thing indeed.
The Minister also said: ‘In this respect, I have given consideration to the fact that Mr Djokovic is a high-profile unvaccinated individual who has indicated publicly that he is opposed to becoming vaccinated against Covid-19 (which for convenience I refer to as “anti-vaccination”). Mr Djokovic has previously stated that he “wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine” to travel or compete in tournaments (Attachment H).’
As such, the idea that people should not be forced to take a vaccine is a dangerous idea in the eyes of the Australian government. This was a direct challenge to their power. Indeed, the very principle of consenting to medical treatment was seen as a risk to public order. In addition the government said that Djokovic, a man who hits a ball over a net for a living, could cause ‘an increase in anti-vaccination sentiment being generated in the Australian community, leading to others refusing to become vaccinated or refusing to receive a booster vaccine’.
The court found the Minister was entitled to make these decisions, particularly in view of Djokovic’s high-profile status. I agree with this: his status may well have influenced Australians to question their government’s handling of the Covid pandemic and tyrannical powers. You don’t want to go too far down that rabbit hole – you don’t know what you might find. You might find, for example, that these measures were totally disproportionate and insane and that you were an utter coward for going along with them.
Djokovic argued that he was not there to foster anti-vaccination sentiment but the court disagreed. That may not have been his intent, but it was the result of his ‘presence’ in the country.
The court: ‘It was open to infer that it was perceived by the public that Mr Djokovic was not in favour of vaccinations. It was known or at least perceived by the public that he had chosen not to be vaccinated. There was material before the Minister and to which he referred in the reasons that anti-vaccination groups had portrayed Mr Djokovic as a hero and an icon of freedom of choice in relation to being vaccinated.’ (My emphasis.)
So there we have it. Djokovic was cancelled because some people might see him as an icon of freedom of choice over medical treatment. Some people might see him as a champion of bodily integrity and free and informed consent to medical treatment. The Australian government believe such ideas – freedom of choice in relation to being vaccinated – are dangerous. These ideas represent a threat to public health and order. They actually argued this openly.
What is clear from this decision is that the real threat to public order and health comes from the Australian government. For two years they have terrorised the public with a campaign of fear, which goes some way to explaining why they went along with it, that and cowardice. Now the government is banning athletes from the country who may be perceived by the public or a minority of the public as standing up for the freedom of choice in medical treatment. The Australian government is shameless to admit this. I only hope the people of Australia can see it is the government that is the real danger to their bodily integrity and health, and not a tennis player.