Novak Djoković Novak Djoković. Photo: Carine06 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0, license linked below article

The Australian government is to blame, not a tennis player, says Dragan Plavšić

The crude attempt by the Australian government to distract from its own Covid failures by exploiting – indeed, manufacturing – the Djoković affair appears to have ended ignominiously. A judge has now ruled in the tennis player’s favour.

Unless the immigration minister resorts to wielding executive powers to circumvent the judge’s decision and deport Djoković – a step many will see as vengefully authoritarian – he will compete in the Australian Open.

From the very start it has been obvious that the Morrison government granted Djoković a visa only to revoke it for manifestly political reasons when he landed.

Already under fire for failing to plan for the Omicron surge, for being slow to order vaccines, and for adopting a ‘let it rip’ policy that has put hospitals under severe pressure, the government snatched at the opportunity to scapegoat a Serbian tennis player and deflect attention from its troubles. This is now backfiring.

To say all this is not of course to condone Djoković, whose refusal to be vaccinated has given a boost to vaccine scepticism. He is wrong about this, and claims made on his behalf that he is a fighter for freedom are frankly laughable.

Nevertheless, to say all this is to bring much-needed perspective to the furore. Djoković is not the key problem here. The Morrison government is.

This was reinforced by Djoković’s detention. For it just so happens in class societies like ours that when the rich fall unexpectedly into straitened circumstances – as Djoković did when detained in a hotel for refugees – their fall exposes the far greater plight of thousands of others detained by the authorities to languish, sometimes for years, in misery and penury. All the refugees should be free too.

The Australian left now has an opportunity to turn the spotlight back to where it should always have been – on the Morrison administration for its mishandling of the Covid crisis and its disgraceful treatment of refugees.

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Dragan Plavšić

Dragan Plavšić is a member of Counterfire in London and of Marks21 in Serbia. He jointly edited The Balkan Socialist Tradition and the Balkan Federation 1871-1915 (2003).

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