It’s a super hard time just to try to exist, and if you aren’t saving your deepest sympathies for a crazy rich tennis star who has publicly opposed vaccination, well friends I very much get it.

But before you jump on the #NoVaxDjoCovid or #DjokovicOut bandwagons, consider… (🧵)
Two medical panels via a blind process administered by Tennis Australia and the Victorian govt granted Djokovic a vaccine exemption. This exemption allows him to play in the Australian Open; it had nothing to do with his visa. But the two things are being conflated *everywhere*.
Amongst those conflating the right to enter and the right to play is the PM, who a day before Djokovic’s visa was cancelled told the media that he was able to come because the Victorian Government had ‘provided him with an exemption to come to Australia’:
Hours later, the visa was cancelled & the PM said it was because ‘rules are rules’. Djokovic is now in detention. There is a public row between the Vic and Cth govts & allegations that pre-cancellation the Cth asked Victoria to sponsor Djokovic’s visa application (& were refused)
While the PM has said ‘rules are rules and no one is above these rules’, other players & officials in the same position as Djokovic were apparently allowed in to Australia, without being stopped at the border. Why this happened is now under investigation:
Is Djokovic entitled and belligerent? Did he mess up his documentation? Maybe and maybe. But I spend a large portion of my time working with Australian migration law and I am confused by all this (not least because much of public statements & reporting is incorrect or imprecise).
It’s entirely believable that Djokovic (and others in his boat) were also confused. If Tennis Australia and Victoria said they can play, why would they know this doesn’t mean they’re allowed to enter, especially when the PM has been on record saying this is in fact what it means?
And as @RizviAbul (a former immigration dept dep sec) has said, why was Djokovic granted a visa at all if he couldn’t show that he satisfied the relevant conditions? It’s reasonable for him to assume that, having been given one, he would be able to enter:
Legal proceedings are underway. These will likely involve a fine-grained look at specific questions: on what ground was the visa cancelled, what process was required, was it followed? Courts won’t look at the merits of policy decisions and quality of communication, but we should.
The Australian Open is one of our most major events. We know it happens every year, we know when it happens, we know who’s coming. There has been ample time to plan. It should have been easy to ensure communications coming from the Cth, Victoria and Tennis Australia lined up.
If players need to factor in two levels of seeking admission to play - getting a visa and gaining entry to the tournament - any differences should be made clear. Especially if getting to play is framed as the main hurdle but is easier than the prerequisite of actually getting in.
And if the same rules apply to all, we should expect the same outcome for people in the same position. That Djokovic and others seem to have been treated differently is a reason to raise an eyebrow. So are the PM's misleading comments that Victoria manages entry exemptions.
This has now attracted international attention & potentially diplomatic consequences. All else aside, for the focus to be on a federal/state fight across party lines about who is to blame in a situation where responsibilities are opaque to most is both unsurprising and weird.
That this situation, which could have been easily managed differently, has ended with hotel detention (a high risk environment for COVID transmission) is a systemic problem far more than a personal responsibility issue. Nole may be irresponsible but it shouldn’t have come to this
There are people who, as a function of the same system, have been in detention for years. Many are refugees. The average time in detention is nearly 2 years. 8% have been there over 5 years. Some have been there for 10. They can be detained indefinitely.
In the Park Hotel where Djokovic is now detained, 30+ refugees transferred from Nauru and PNG have been detained for over a year (and 7+ years offshore). There have been fires, reports of mouldy, maggot-infested food and a 20+ person COVID outbreak.
Djokovic’s temporary detention pales in comparison but has attracted far more attention. This has made some frustrated people lash out at the disproportionate concern with his situation. I get it. But the same bad system underpins both. In both cases, the system deserves critique
Too often in Australian discourse, finger-pointing at individuals deemed unpalatable by whoever is doing the finger-pointing replaces systemic critique. It’s cathartic & binds us together. It also stops us thinking which is exactly what politicians want bc they escape critique.
If you find Djokovic unpalatable I get it. If you’re tired, scared, up to your ears in this shit, feeling all the feelings & want to unload on an unsympathetic target believe me I get it. But I think if we instead direct this sentiment at the source we can actually change things.
So here’s a plea: breathe before you react. Look for context. Is the main problem really that some guy stepped out of line? Someone always will. Look instead at the lines. At where your focus is being directed and why. At who is insulated and why. At what might be constructive.
This isn’t easy. It’s intentionally exhausting. It can be frustrating & lonely. You’ll need to tap out sometimes for your own mental health. You are *not* awful if you can’t think about every issue. But if we all look a little deeper even some of the time, we’ll change things /🧵

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More from @sangpillai

10 May 21
Federal court hearing on the legality of the India travel ban kicking off now, before Thawley J. If you’re interested you can watch for yourself here:…
The plaintiff is Gary Newman - a 73 y.o. man who has been in Bangalore India since March 2020. He is in a vulnerable category and wants to return to Australia as soon as possible in the circumstances, but says he has been unable to do so.
Today the court will hear arguments about whether a fundamental common law right allowing citizens to enter Australia, or other factors, mean that the travel ban could not be made under the Biosecurity Act.
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