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Letter from Australia 107 – What Really Happened with Novak Djokovic?

Letter from Australia 107 – What Really Happened with Novak Djokovic?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Do you want some good news?  We passed our RAT tests yesterday and so now have permission to travel to Tasmania.   That means for the next couple of weeks Annabel and I will be on holiday.  It’s over two and a half years since we have had a holiday, so it is something that is really needed and looked forward to.  I’m not sure holiday means for you – but for me it means lots of reading, relaxing, recreation and just generally chilling out.  It’s a time for recharging batteries.  Mine are worn down!   I was supposed to be speaking at a youth conference in the Blue Mountains this weekend, but unlike the infamous Hillsong one, it was cancelled.  Maybe I dodged a bullet?!

The newspapers and media throughout the world are full of the Djokovic saga – today – tomorrow they will move on to something else.   But I think that this case is not as trivial as its brief news saturation suggests.  It is something that reveals a great deal about the direction of Western democracy in general and Australian democracy in particular.

In order to get the wider picture, it is important to get the facts right – and not just rely on the memes and titbits we pick up from social media.

The Story So Far

In summary Novak Djokovic, who refuses to reveal his vaccination status, wanted to come and defend his Australian Open tennis title.  In order to come to Australia, you have to have been double vaccinated, however there are exemptions.  Djokovic applied for one, and after two independent panels met, they ruled he should be given one.  Tennis Australia and the Victorian government agreed – and so the Federal government granted him a visa.  Djokovic was delighted and made the mistake of tweeting his delight.   There was political pushback in Australia and the usual outrage from the Twittering classes.   Scott Morrison and the Australian government, who had granted the visa, then started making noises about the documentation and lo and behold, when Djokovic arrived at Melbourne airport, he was detained, and his visa was cancelled.  At the beginning of last week, he challenged this and won his court case.  But the Australian immigration minister, Alan Hawke, has the arbitrary power to throw people out of the country whenever he wants – if he deems they are somehow a threat to the country.  He took four days until at 6pm on Friday he decided to revoke Djokovic’s visa again – this time on “health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so”.  Djokovic appealed and the Federal Court on Sunday rejected his appeal – and so after ten days the reigning champion has gone home.  He has behaved with a degree of dignity which his self-righteous accusers would do well to emulate

So what does this all this mean?

The Non-Reasons 

To be clear this decision was not made because Djokovic lied, or because he is arrogant, or because he tried to cheat the system, or because he is rich.  It has nothing to do with him moving house to Spain or speaking at an event in Serbia after contracting Covid.  These are the reasons I have heard many people, including Christians, say why they support Djokovic’s ban.  But these are completely irrelevant – as is the ‘well, I don’t like him’ one.   Why?  Because the government said so.  They said that Djokovic did not lie on his form, that he did not seek to game the system.   They have given their reasons and we should believe them. Or should we?

A Health Risk to Australians?

It is hard to take seriously a government that takes four days to argue that one of the fittest athletes in the world is a health risk to Australians – this in a country where two-thirds of adults are obese or overweight!  Given that there were one million cases of Covid in Australia in the past ten days, it is hard to argue that someone who doesn’t have Covid is going to be some kind of existential threat.

Good Order?

But what about the ‘good order’?  The government made the argument that allowing Djokovic to stay would reinforce those who are opposed to vaccinations.  Again, it is hard to take this argument seriously – not least because many of the few who are anti-vaxxers are so on the grounds that they believe it shows an authoritarian government seeking to impose its will upon individuals.  For the government to then act in such an authoritarian way kind of proves their point.  In fact, it is the government’s actions which go against the health and good order of the nation.  The anti-vax sentiment will have been fuelled and strengthened by the government’s actions, more than Djokovic’s.

Is being Anti-Vax now a Crime?

There is another disturbing aspect to this.  The government’s lawyers cited a BBC article from two years ago as there only evidence for Djokovic being a dangerous anti-vaxxer.  Djokovic had said at that time he was opposed to vaccination but also that he was ‘no expert’ and would ‘keep an open mind’.   He also wanted the ‘option to choose what is best for my body’.   There was a time – two years ago – when every Western government accepted that enforced vaccination was a basic breach of human rights.  In theory Australia still holds that position.   In reality we have now reached a stage where expressing that opinion is seen as dangerous to the public health. The Australian Lawyers’ Alliance put it well: “One of the most dangerous aspects of the matter is the preparedness of the federal government to deem someone a risk to public order simply on the basis of what it perceives that person’s views might be.” 

It is actually even worse than that.  There was a time when left wingers like myself thought that we stood for freedom, justice and against government tyranny.  But one thing Covid has done – is turn todays elitist left-wingers into authoritarians that Stalin would be proud of.  The judgement of the federal court should send a shiver down the spine of everyone who believes in the rule of law – and in equality of the law for all.  The federal court has determined that the immigration minister has the right to deport anyone he wants on the basis that he thinks they ‘might’, ‘could’ or ‘may be’ a perceived threat to the health of the nation.  He doesn’t have to prove anything.  He just has to think it and say it.  In effect that gives him carte blanche over people like me – aliens who in effect have no rights.  We can be removed at a whim.  It is not inconceivable in the future that someone who has let’s say, the ‘wrong’ view on whether men can become women, could be removed by an immigration minister because they are a perceived threat.  This is an alarming development which the commentators on the SMH, Australian and ABC seem oblivious to.  Woe betides any immigrant who the immigration minister regards as a non-desirable.   The law does not protect them.

The Politics

 “The Morrison government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders. Particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic”.  It takes a special degree of special pleading to argue that expelling Djokovic will do anything to help deal with the Covid 19 pandemic.  This is far more about protecting the Morrison government in an election year, than it is about protecting the borders.

The naked political cynicism and opportunism of this is stunning.  I don’t believe that the government is wicked – it’s just incredibly weak – driven here and there by every wind of political opinion – as expressed in opinion polls, social media and the mainstream media.

Why do you think that Mr Hawke waited until 6pm on Friday to make his announcement?   He didn’t have to gather the facts.  Was he waiting to see which way the opinion polls were blowing?  Was he seeking to limit the reaction time?

 

When you read in the SMH that 70% of Australians support Djokovic’s deportation, and that the Australian and most media commentators are on the same page, perhaps you might think this is a winner for the Morrison government.  But I suspect it is a political miscalculation.    Many of those who support the deportation would never vote for the Morrison government.  And many of those who are against would normally be inclined to vote for it – but now may have second thoughts.  Why vote for an authoritarian ‘conservative’ government, any more than an authoritarian ‘progressive’ government?  Is there any substantive difference?  Morrison made this decision based on a political calculation.  I fear he has got his sums wrong – and it could be that the Djokovic decision will be the nail in his political coffin.  Those who live by the Mob, die by the Mob.

The Real Victims

 Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.”  Scott Morrison.

Of all the statements made during this farce I find this one the most offensive.  Does the Prime Minister really believe that my being unable to visit my dying father because of his rules is compensated for by his expelling Djokovic?  Does he really have such a low opinion of his fellow citizens that he thinks our motivation is to ensure that if we suffer, then everyone else should have to suffer as well?   Besides which most of us did not ‘make sacrifices’ – at least voluntarily.  We were compelled.  We were generally not given the option.  We were treated like North Koreans not Swedes.

One thing that this case should have highlighted – and it would have been good if Djokovic had done so – is the appalling way that Australia treats refugees in order to, as Mr Morrison says ‘to protect our borders’.  The Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told the BBC that Djokovic had been ‘tortured and tormented’ and ‘treated like a mass murderer’.   Djokovic was there for a couple of days.  There are refugees who have been imprisoned, with their families, for nine years – in appalling conditions.  My daughter had told me that she could never vote for ScoMo because of his record on this issue.  To be honest I had thought she was exaggerating a bit – or at least I didn’t listen.  I apologise.  I was wrong.   The way that Australia treats some refugees is inhumane.   The fact that Scott Morrison is a professing Christian makes it doubly embarrassing that he has not made it a priority to deal with this.  The Christian position is to argue for ‘the least of these’.  Just because you deal with the perceived rich and powerful does not give you a right to deal with the poor unjustly.   Think about this.   The Federal Court usually takes weeks, sometimes months or even years to deal with refugee cases.  But Djokovic was dealt with in days.  As one judge said, someone was doing some very heavy leaning.

 

Let’s not pretend that everyone in Australia is treated equally.  Or that the rule of law applies equally to all.  This is now officially a country where the government can expel you for having the wrong opinions.   This is a country where political power overrules the rule of law.

Conclusion:

There is a great insight in Francis Schaeffer’s The God Who is There, where he points out that when a system as a system is wrong, then ‘good’ people just get caught up in that and unless the system is changed, they can do little good.  But systems are excellent at self-preservation.  We see this is churches, companies, civic organisations and countries.  I think that the Djokovic case has shown some of the systemic wrongs in the Australian system (echoed in other Western countries).    We have cynical politics, manipulative media, mob rule, the worship of mammon, and a weak leadership.  Having rejected the basis of Western civilisation, we have not replaced it with anything other than confusion and naked power.   As my good lady pointed out a few months ago we are living in the age of the Kings (1 and 2) or perhaps the Judges “In these days there was no king in Israel.  Each did what seemed right in his own eyes” (17:6).  May the Lord raise up prophets with courage, leaders with integrity and rulers with justice and compassion…

See you in a couple of weeks,

David

PS. Coffee with Job will renew on the 31st of January…. DV.

PPS.  These arrived this week.  When I read Manton I am fed and encouraged….The Puritans were men and women who knew the Lord, loved him and knew how to stand for Him in a wicked and perverse generation.  Would that we followed their example!

Lessons from the Novak Djokovic Visa Row

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21 comments

  1. Do I understand that the Immigration Minister’s discretion was exercised in relation to powers that were introduced to stop the threat of terrorism? You’d have to be a tennis balls to think Novak a terrorist!

  2. Have a great rest and recuperation, David. Many of us have been down this path of lost relaxation and bereavement and so can share in your excitement at getting away. Lovely Tasmania. My late wife and I enjoyed a visit there 19 years ago! The Lord refresh you soul and body.

  3. The leaders of almost the entire world seem to have gone completely insane over Covid. Most of the responses have been quite irrational and completely against agreed, evidence based, public health policies. (Locking people up in confined spaces is the worst possible thing to do if you want to reduce the transmission of an air born respiratory virus). The treatment of Djokovic has been equally irrational. So the madness is not just confined to the Australian government.

    So what is going on in the heavenly realms (Ephes. 6)? What does all this mean? What are “the signs of the times” (Mat.16)? How are we to understand all this?

  4. Totally agree with your summary. The Australian Government has been shown to be weak and ineffective, which has turned Government into tyranny. A fit tennis player is of no health risk to anyone.
    I am in the UK and the Omicron variant is proving to be fast moving but mild. My granddaughter plus friends caught it over New Year and were OK after 5 days – apart from one 22 year old who was triple jabbed (works for the NHS) and is in hospital with liver problems.
    Caught lying again – we are told it is the unjabbed who are in hospital!
    Enjoy your trip to Tasmania. I am looking forward to my stay at the seaside in May, which has been cancelled twice with Covid restrictions – hopefully third time lucky.

  5. Excellent and eye-opening post. I believe that the government has gone amuck and is setting the stage for totalitarianism, using the pandemic to set the stage.

  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, David. I’ve been interested to hear how you see things there. Praying for Australia and all who live within her tight borders.

  7. Sadly power hungry egotists when they get a sniff this power , don’t want to let go, we have one in Scotland, wouldn’t surprise me if these so called leaders would like the virus to keep going , I pray they will all fall over their own ego. Have a lovely break look forward to having you back.

  8. A politics books described courts, police and army, as essential to a state’s survival. It sounds as if the tennis star possibly had a rough ride at the border and in courts, getting enmeshed like a fish with gills in a net. The numbers game, as given above, is interesting, because without maths and logic the world becomes a hellish place. That’s possibly why Paul wrote how ‘…he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time…’.

    *Have a good break! The items here, over the lockdown and restriction times, have been very good.*

  9. David, you say
    ‘The judgement of the federal court should send a shiver down the spine of everyone who believes in the rule of law – and in equality of the law for all. The federal court has determined that the immigration minister has the right to deport anyone he wants on the basis that he thinks they ‘might’, ‘could’ or ‘may be’ a perceived threat to the health of the nation. ‘
    Since the court hasn’t given its judgement yet, how certain are you that the law has actually changed from what it was before?
    And I’m glad that you are commenting on the refugee situation in Australia.

    1. The court has given its judgement. They upheld the governments case and expelled Djokovic on the grounds that the immigration minister has the right to expel anyone who he thinks ‘might’ be a danger to the health and good order of the nation. It’s chilling. The same could happen to me or anyone else. The rule of law has nothing to do with it. It is entirely arbitrary.

      1. David, the Federal Court has NOT given its judgment yet.
        https://www.fedcourt.gov.au/services/access-to-files-and-transcripts/online-files/djokovic
        They ordered that Djokovic’s application is dismissed but we are still waiting on their reasons (that is, their judgment). So as far as we know the current law is the same as it was BEFORE Djokovic’s case. And no, the Minister of Immigration &c cannot just expel anyone on a whim. Those people here on (certain?) visas, yes. But that is the case in any other country as well.

      2. The Federal Court has given its judgement – what you mean is that they haven’t given the reasons. Of course that does not matter because despite your comment, the Minister of Immigration can refuse a visa on a whim – he doesn’t need to provide legal reasons. This may help you – I suggest you also look at some of the lawyers writing on this – such as Nicholas Aroney – and the legal group mentioned in my article. I know you like to believe what you want to believe but sometimes it’s good to get facts first before making up your mind! – https://www.theaustralian.com.au/commentary/how-to-make-a-martyr-out-of-a-molehill/news-story/d4c500164e8eb781ccaf35cb5b78a35b?utm_source=TheAustralian&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=editorial&utm_content=TATodaysHeadlinesSubAM

      3. David, this discussion is probably going to be overtaken by events since their Honours’ reasons are due to be released later today. You referred me to The Australian, which is behind a pay wall. Also, Nicholas Aroney but all I can find is a couple of Tweets by him basically saying wait for the Court. And surely the most crucial lawyers writing on this at the moment are the Federal judges? Yes indeed, get the facts first.

      4. The Federal Judges have released their reasons – which is basically as they said. You stated that that had not released their judgement. They had – their judgement was in favour of the government. They have upheld the view that the immigration minister has the right to cancel the visa of anyone he chooses – provided that is ‘reasonable’. Of course they don’t say what reasonable is…and they the minister does not have to give his reasons! It was Djokovic who had to appeal – and he was on a hiding to nothing. Always good to get the facts right.

  10. Thank you so much.

    It might be worth mentioning that Djokovic was detained, after sleep deprivation torture, in the early morning of his, Serbian, Christmas Eve and been held over whole of Christmas in detention, separated from family and fiends.
    For what? Visa violation? After being invited to play tournament he played and won many times?
    Does it get more cruel than that?

    Serbs have a saying that all happens for a reason – “Snow doesn’t fall to cover the hill, but for every beast to leave its trace”.

    Thanks once again.

  11. This just demonstrates how important it is to have a consistent rule of law administered by accountable representatives, rather than arbitrary judgement calls made by powerful individuals. The population of a Western nation will only tolerate the latter when they are terrified of some existential threat.

    For the vast majority of people, Covid clearly isn’t as dangerous as it’s made out to be, but it’s been a godsend to corrupt and power-hungry narcissists in the media and government.

  12. Your Manton books – look great, but will make me feel uneasy until I know they have been re-ordered with 1 on the left and 22 on the right.

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