Leading article Australia

Don’t turn tennis into Tampa

15 January 2022

9:00 AM

15 January 2022

9:00 AM

Not since the deportation of Joe Cocker in the dying days of Billy McMahon’s government has there been a celebrity immigration farce as shambolic as the saga involving Novak Djokovic. Cocker’s offence was the taking of drugs, Djokovic’s was to refuse them. Both succeeded in making an Australian prime minister look foolish in the eyes of the world, not to mention in the eyes of voters.

The attempt to refuse entry to the world’s top tennis player on the grounds of his vaccination status placed Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the middle of a fight he would have been far wiser to avoid.

With tens of thousands of new Covid-19 infections in Australia every day, barring an unvaccinated foreigner from entry to the country is a redundant regulation that should be scrapped immediately. It is also long past time that Australian health authorities recognised that infection-acquired immunity is more robust than that gained through immunisation with any of the approved vaccines. Whatever the benefits of vaccination might have been in the past, the CEO of Pfizer has made it crystal clear this week, that vaccination offers very little protection against Omicron.

The Prime Minister seems to want to dangle a sword of Damocles over Mr Djokovic and if he sniffs any electoral advantage, turn the deportation of the tennis star into a Tampa moment. This would be a grave error. Prime Minister John Howard faced down waves of asylum seekers being brought across dangerous, shark-infested waters by unscrupulous people-smugglers. All Mr Morrison risks doing is endangering the status of the Australian Open and souring the atmosphere of an event that should be one of the great pleasures of an Australian summer.

It was the Prime Minister who told Australians that our pandemic rules needed to evolve to cope with the Omicron wave, a variant which is much less virulent but far more infectious. He should practice what he preaches. Instead of poring over the visa requirements of tennis players he should focus on solving the supply chain pressures that threaten the essentials of everyday life and reopening state borders which have been closed for far too long.

Australia’s pandemic regulations have been a nightmare for everyone. Great injustices have been done. The international reputation of Australia is tatters, hovering somewhere between a collection of penal colonies and a police state. It is time to put that behind us.

Instead of punishing Mr Djokovic, Mr Morrison will win far more kudos at home and abroad if he shows grace, magnanimity, and genuine Christian charity. He should forgive whatever mistakes Mr Djokovic made in his visa application and allow him to do what he does best — play outstanding tennis.

More lefty boycotts please

Who knew it could be so easy to rid the Sydney Festival of several dozen dreary lefties? All it took was a gift of $20,000 given to the Sydney Dance Company by the government of Israel to assist with the cost of producing Decadance, the artistic creation of Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. As if by magic, this simple act of generosity inspired more than 30 Palestinian polemicists and their pals to withdraw from the festivities. Among those who were eager to  signal their virtue by relieving us of their presence was humourless comedian Tom Ballard, infamous for making Holocaust jokes, and radio host Yumi Stynes, best known for branding other people as racist.

Despite repeated complaints that almost all of Australia’s arts festivals are conservative-free zones, it has been impossible to get festival programmers or their funding bodies to redress the entrenched bias that makes these events so politically monochromatic.

Now that we know how easy it is get leftists to remove themselves, maybe we can tackle the bias at the national broadcaster where both Ballard and Stynes work.

Perhaps all that is required is for the Israeli government to provide sponsorship for ABC News and Current Affairs and ABC Comedy. With a little prompting this might trigger outrage, a boycott and an immediate exit of the virtue-signallers from their government-funded sinecures.

If the woke jokers and one-eyed reporters can be lured into departing in high moral dudgeon, it might just be possible to restore balanced reporting and light entertainment at the national broadcaster.

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