Many people will have seen numerous video clips on Youtube in which a litter of puppies following their human around in a group and when the human is caught, jumping all over them, licking them and wagging their tails furiously1,2. They are adorable videos and they cannot but make you smile.
However, these do remind me of the Australian media, with Morrison as the human (a big ask, I know), and the media as the puppies. They follow him wherever he wants them to run. Such was the case with the Novak Djokovic saga. As Covid-19 infections are increasing at an alarming rate (now officially about 100,000 per day), especially in New South Wales, Morrison jumped on the granting of a visa to Djokovic, to create a distraction from this alarming spread. It is just another ‘dead cat’, a tactic in which Morrison specialises and which I have written about before3.
Of course, Tennis Australia, who presumably want as many top players to show up for the Australian Open tennis tournament, would really like Novak Djokovic to play in the tournament, as it is the top players who are reputed to attract the crowds and therefore the cash. I presume Djokovic would like to play because he would be in with a good chance of winning the men’s singles title, putting him ahead of Federer and Nadal, who, with Djokovic, each have 20 men’s Grand Slam singles titles4.
Tennis Australia (TA) stipulated that all participants at the Australian Open must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts. TA said Djokovic had applied for such a medical exemption which was granted after a “rigorous review process” involving two separate independent panels of medical experts. One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health, and they assess all applications to see if they meet the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines.”
It added that the process included the redaction of personal information from applications to ensure privacy for all applicants and fairness in the review process5.
The Victorian state government on Friday said it had not seen correspondence between the federal government and TA in late November that apparently stipulated unvaccinated players could not enter the country on the basis they had previously been infected with Covid-196. It is suspected that Djokovic was granted an exemption to play at the Australian Open based on his having contracted Covid-19 (which he did in May 2020). For this exemption to be allowed, he must have contracted Covid-19 in the last six months, which he seemingly hasn’t, unless of course he has suffered a re-infection7.
Home Affairs Minister, Karen Andrews, said on Friday that other international players and officials who had already been allowed into the country on a similar vaccine exemption to Djokovic were being investigated by border force officials7.
Djokovic obtained a visa to enter Australia, a visa issued by the commonwealth government. However, when he arrived on Wednesday evening he was detained by Border Force after failing to provide “appropriate evidence” of the exemption. Given that the exemption was provided by a couple of medical panels in Australia and the visa was issued by Australia, surely the evidence has already been presented and assessed in Australia8.
One can only suspect that this shemozzle was an opportunity for Morrison to fling another dead cat at the media, which would act as a distraction from the disastrous spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in all states and territories except Western Australia. At the time of writing, it has just been announced that NSW has recorded over 45,000 daily cases9.
Of course, the media immediately followed Morrison’s lead, as we all know that a tennis-player’s visa is much more important than a rampant pandemic which is killing up to 20 Australians a day.
Perhaps the greatest disappointment engendered by the media response to this dead cat is that they allowed Morrison to get away with lying that ‘nobody is above Australia’s border rules’, which he said had proven vital in the country’s low death toll throughout the pandemic. He also said that Djokovic was unable to provide acceptable explanation for why he is not fully vaccinated and that: “Rules are rules … Entry with a visa requires double vaccination, or a medical exemption. I am advised that such an exemption was not in place, and as a result he is subject to the same rule as anyone else”10.
It is clear that Morrison’s ‘nobody is above Australia’s border rules’ is another of his constant lies. Billionaire Kerry Stokes was given a ‘medical exemption’ after flying back from the Aspen ski fields in Colorado, allowing him to avoid mandatory hotel quarantine on their arrival, ensconcing himself in his Perth mansion for the requisite time. This was despite there being a Covid-19 outbreak in Aspen at the time11. If you have enough money or a media empire, it seems you can avoid the rules. It costs over $100,000 to do so; that is small change for some12.
Djokovic is an idiot who will seemingly believe anything to do with ‘wellbeing’ pseudoscience, including that positive thought could cleanse polluted water in stating “scientists have proven that molecules in water react to our emotions”, and that he felt weaker while holding a slice of bread indicating he was gluten intolerant. He has also stated that he was “opposed to vaccination”13.
However, you will likely not hear Morrison pointing out Djokovic’s anti-vaccination and pseudoscience idiocy. This is because he will be depending on antivaxxers’ votes in the upcoming election, and is why he will have preference agreements with antivaxxers like the United Australia Party (UAP), whose leader, Craig Kelly is a prominent antivaxxer and climate change denier14. This will be like the agreement the Liberal Party signed with the UAP before the 2019 election15.
Djokovic had the misfortune to arrive in Australia while Morrison was hunting around for another dead cat that could make him look ‘strong on borders’ rather than hopeless at managing the pandemic. And the media puppies followed.