Guest post by longtime ex-pat in Australia Marc Lederman
Most conservative Americans are greatly and justifiably worried that our immigration laws are not being properly enforced, and the United States Southern border is being left open for millions of illegals to pour through virtually unimpeded. Worse, this flood of illegal immigrants is not being required to follow the same rules as legal visitors, such as, being fully vaccinated against Covid and providing evidence of negative Covid-19 tests.
The question of whether to allow Novak Djokovic to enter and stay was within Australia is politically very closely related to Australia’s treatment of illegal immigrants. Simply put, migrants who enter Australia illegally are almost without exception permanently barred from ever immigrating or settling in Australia in the future, even if they are proven to be legitimate refugees. Instead, these ‘refugees’ are sent to offshore detention centers and offered the chance to migrate to other safe (but less desirable) countries, such as Thailand.
To make this arrangement work, Australia’s government has deliberately greatly limited the role of courts in administering Australia’s immigration laws. In essence, Djokovic’s lawyers argued that the Federal Court in Melbourne (and not Australia’s Minister of Immigration) should determine whether Djokovic’s presence in Australia is contrary to Australia’s interests. This argument if successful, would have allowed unelected activist judges to administer Australia’s immigration laws as they see fit. In no time at all, it would likely become impossible for Australia’s elected Federal government to properly enforce Australia’s duly enacted immigration laws.
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Moreover, the U.S. articles and commentary on Djokovic’s Australian visa problems, fail to provide context on how Australian citizens and permanent residents who choose to remain unvaccinated are being treated.
Compared with the United States, Australia’s Federal and state governments have been far less heavy-handed in imposing vaccination mandates on its citizens. There is certainly nothing here remotely resembling the Federal vaccine mandates that President Biden tried to broadly impose in the U.S. In part due to the fact that Australia’s workers enjoy much stronger rights than their American cousins, with few exceptions (such as nursing home workers and airline employees) vaccine mandates for employees are uncommon here.
Nevertheless, the Australian government has noticed that foreign arrivals have been (and will continue to be) the source of new Covid-19 strands. Understandably the local authorities wish to minimize these unknown and possibly great risks. For this reason, foreign visitors to Australia are required to be double vaccinated against Covid-19 or provide a legitimate medical exemption. As a healthy adult in the prime part of his life without any known unique medical issues, Novak Djokovic is an unlikely candidate for a valid medical exemption.
Regardless of whether Djokovic contracted Covid in mid-December 2021 as he so claims (but many Australians doubt based on him not isolating during his contagious period, and the highly fortuitous timing of his infection), for most of 2021 Djokovic had not recently contracted Covid and simply decided not to vaccinate himself against Covid without any medical contraindications. Remaining unvaccinated against Covid-19 was certainly Novak’s right and interestingly judging by Serbia’s Covid-19 adult fully vaccinated rate of below 50% (versus Australia’s double vaccinate rate of above 92% for people over 16) vaccine skepticism does seem to be popular among Djokovic’s compatriots.
Unlike the U.S. where foreigners and certainly illegal aliens often have greater rights than the tax-paying (and voting) local citizens, the Australian electorate and government are strongly of the view that for foreigners visiting and staying in Australia is a privilege and not a right. To earn this privilege foreigners must abide by and be seen as abiding by Australia’s rules. Despite Novak Djokovic being arguable one of the greatest tennis players of all time and being a nine-time past Australian Open champion, Australia the country (as opposed to Tennis Australia) owes him no special favors. Indeed, due to Djokovic’s fame and well-known anti-vax views, the Australian government was more (not less) obligated to unapologetically enforce its entirely reasonably medical-related visa rules.