Watching the spectacle between Novak Djokovic and Australian bureaucracy made me feel quite bad about the country where I grew up.
The facts are simple:
Court documents show that Australian Border Force officials tried to pressure Novak into accepting deportation after his 25 hour journey. They denied him access to lawyers and documents. Let us put that in context: Victoria Police do an excellent job promoting safety on the roads in our state. One of their campaigns tells us that lack of sleep is equivalent to intoxication and drugs. Therefore, if the border police ask for a traveller to give consent to a serious topic like deportation after 25 hours without proper sleep, it is not real consent. Their insistence is on par with date rape.
The Tampa affair in 2001 was just a few weeks before an election. The next election in Australia has to be between February and May. Novak Djokovic is the new Tampa. Around the world, the incarceration of Novak has provoked ridicule and anger at Australia's apartheid-like immigration system. Yet in Australia, the Government is hoping to win votes from bullying a foreign athlete.
Humiliating foreign athletes in competition is acceptable. In cricket, it is fairly common. Humiliating visiting athletes at the border is not acceptable.
When we tried to travel to Australia, we found ourselves dealing with officials of the Australian Border Force who can't even spell their job title or the name of their agency. Reading their forms and their questions, I felt betrayed and I felt ashamed to be an Australian. Contemplating the way people have died waiting for their visa, I felt like I was dealing with nazis. How can such people be competent to make decisions about careers, families, Covid and the world's best tennis player?
I attach some examples:
From: QLD PP Processing <email@example.com>
Sent: 3 September 201x
Please see the attached information.
We prefer contact with this office concerning your application to be by email. We try to respond to all email enquiries within seven (7) working days. If you do not have access to email or need to contact us urgently, refer to the details below.
Position Number: 60022884
Permanent Partner Processing Centre - Queensland
Department of Immigration and Border Protection
and another example:
From: QLD PP Processing <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: 23 September 201x
Thank you for your e-mail responding to the letter I sent you via e-mail on the 03/09/2014. Please be advised that under Australian migration law I am required to assess your application against the legal criteria in regulation ...
Department of Immigration and Boarder Protection
Telephone: (07) 3136 7239
Please note that I only work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday’s.
There is a video of a candidate in one previous election, boasting about his love for apartheid. In a four minute interview, he can't remember any of his policies, except the harassment of immigrants.
The quarantine hotel where Novak is imprisoned is in the middle of the University precinct
I studied computer science and engineering in buildings barely 200 meters away from Novak's prison, I walked past that hotel almost every day
Novak has conjured an anti-vax mob in the street barely 500 meters from the Doherty Institute. That was the first lab in the world to cultivate Covid and sequence the genome outside China. Their brilliance in health is on par with Novak's brilliance in tennis.
Novak is a leader in sport and Australians have great respect for that. The best leaders are willing to listen to all sides of the story. While Novak is in this unique corner of Melbourne, I hope he will take the time to seek the opinion and advice of world leaders on pandemics and vaccination. In equal measure, I hope to see Novak playing in the tournament without further excuses from the Boarder Force officials.