Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


United by our national scapegoat

  • 20 January 2022
It is unusual when political enemies unite. We should take note of them. The spectacular deportation of Australian Open tennis champion, Novak Djokovic, is one such unusual moment.

Many of those who are implacably against Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his border control policies remarkably stood with him and the Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke, in the deportation decision. The use of the Immigration Minister’s wide-ranging powers met with wide acclaim. Such acclaim was indicative of the public mood which the Prime Minister had sensed days earlier. Sasa Ozmo observed in the UK’s Daily Mail: ‘Let's not forget, just a day prior to Djokovic's arrival, Prime Minister Scott Morrison shrugged off Djokovic's exemption as an issue for the state of Victoria. After the public backlash, Morrison appeared to realise that there was political currency to be earnt.’

What had changed?

The UK columnist and comedian, Simon Evans, points to an answer: ‘The sheer, undigested joy, the unmistakably bilious, pinched, grim satisfaction taken on social media, relishing Djokovic’s woes, have made it clear that sending him home is the very least a lot of people wanted to see. Strung up by his ankle from a decent-sized boab tree would have been more like it….’

Feeling had risen to a mob-like fervour. One is left wondering why?

Yes, Djokovic was not vaccinated against COVID-19 and has made public statements about wanting to control what goes into his body. He made a mistake on his visa application form. He’d also transgressed isolation requirements after contracting the virus in December and didn’t initially admit to it. For the Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, this all amounted to the potential for fostering of ‘anti-vaccination sentiment’, which was the reason Djokovic was deported.

In the midst of a pandemic, the fostering of this sentiment is clearly a justified concern. Moreover, the sensitivity of the public at a time of increasing COVID infections, hospitalisations and deaths is understandable. Many seem upset at an unvaccinated person being allowed to enter the country.

"For Morrison, whose poll ratings have recently slid with the spread of COVID, deportation seems to have worked in allaying public concern."

Yet, Djokovic provided evidence for the low risk he posed for transmitting the virus as he likely had a good level of immunity to the virus, which the Immigration Minister acknowledged. Moreover, the Immigration Minister ‘assumes’ Djokovic entered Australia consistently with ATAGI documents and that Djokovic believed he had a valid medical exemption. The