I Stand With Novak - Diane Lee

Why I Stand With Novak

I spent most of last week, glued to Twitter and YouTube, cheering on Novak Djokovic as he took a stand against the Australian government, firstly via the Federal Circuit and Family Court, and then before a full bench of the Federal Court.

He won his first case and his visa cancellation was overturned, but he was deported anyway a few days later, using legislation that allowed the Minister for Immigration, Alex Hawke, to exercise ‘God’ powers that were intended for terrorists, not tennis players.

‘I consider that Mr Djokovic’s presence in Australia may pose a health risk to the Australian community, in that his presence in Australia may foster anti-vaccination sentiment leading to (a) other unvaccinated persons refusing to become vaccinated, (b) other unvaccinated persons being reinforced in their existing views not to become vaccinated, and/or (c) a reduction in the uptake of booster vaccines.’ ~ Para 22, Minister Hawke

His crime? Having a view about vaccines that was apparently at odds with the Australian government’s, although Minister Hawke said he didn’t check with Novak as to his current views. And the government has a number of members of parliament and the senators who express views that go against the dominant narrative.

‘I have given consideration to the fact that Mr Djokovic is a high profile unvaccinated individual, who has indicated publicly that he is opposed to becoming vaccinated against Covid (which for convenience I refer to as “anti-vaccination”).’ ~ Para 18, Minister Hawke

Make no mistake: this was a purely political move. It was intended to send a strong message about disobedience.

Unfortunately, Novak was under the impression that he was just coming to Australia to play tennis. Scott Morrison – keen to have his Tampa moment and hopefully win the federal election with a “strong on borders” stance – turned him a whipping boy. Red herrings like his CV-19 vaccination status and visa form error aside, Novak’s real crime was not understanding the political minefield he was about to walk into, particularly in Melbourne where the Australian Open is played.

For international readers: if you want to know what it’s been like in Melbourne – the world’s most locked down city – for the last 18 months, watch this documentary:

For the past year, even before I returned to Australia, I noted how polarised the community is. Firstly, people were at each other’s throats around “two weeks to flatten the curve”. Then it was about masks. Then lockdowns. Then stranded Australians. Then human rights and freedom. Then vaccines. Then rallies. You are either for or against these measures. There is no middle ground. And this fire has been stoked by politicians, mainstream media and social media because it’s advantageous and expedient to do so. It’s a complex, tinder-box environment, caused by multiple factors, not least Australia’s convict history, behavioural economics, moral panics, Stockholm syndrome and mass formation psychosis.

As a former stranded Aussie myself and someone who has experienced what it’s like to be abandoned and betrayed by my government at a time when it was supposed to protect its citizens and permanent residents, I have a tainted and cynical view of how the government and our politicians have behaved during the pandemic. My view about the pandemic has not changed since the beginning. In fact, I’m more sure than ever that, for whatever reason – and there are many – SARS-COV-2 is flu that’s been rebranded and weaponised.

But back to Novak. Why do I stand with him? A number of reasons as it turns out. And for the record, I haven’t watched tennis in years, and had no opinion about him one way or another. That has all changed.

I stand with Novak because I have been at the mercy of another country’s immigration rules

In 2017, while I was in Vietnam and so green I was cabbage-looking, I decided to ditch my tourist visa and its three monthly visa runs to “legitimise” myself as a freelance writer with a 12 month business visa. The advice I received from my visa agent – someone I trusted implicitly – was that I could work on a business visa, just not full-time for one company. The business visa also meant that I didn’t have to leave Vietnam every three months and re-enter on a new tourist visa. Perfect.

Or at least it was, until one year later, and I wanted to revert to a tourist visa because the regulations had changed. I put in my paperwork with a different agent and found that my visa hadn’t been approved. I had been “blacklisted” by Immigration and had three days to leave the country. I was horrified. I had done nothing wrong. I obeyed the laws of the country. How could this have happened?

well, remember my first visa agent? The one I trusted implicitly? What he had done was acquire my business visa with a fake sponsor using a ghost company. This is illegal. And he didn’t tell me what he had done. If I had have known, I would have said a resounding: No, thank you. I found this out via various contacts while I was managing my re-entry to Vietnam from Bangkok, Thailand. I also discovered that this is common practice in Vietnam, and is a scam perpetuated on foreigners who were in the country long term by unscrupulous visa agents and immigration officers looking to make a stack of cash.

It cost me a lot of money to sort out, and my rose coloured glasses were shattered.  I developed crippling anxiety as a result. Dealing with the fall-out from Immigration for the next two years, and the anxiety and cash it was costing me, was the major reason I decided to come home to Australia.

I stand with Novak because I admire anyone who challenges the Australian government

In July 2020, the Australian government locked Australians and Permanent Residents out of the country by introducing caps on international flights. Of course, it’s unlawful to block entry, so they did it on a technicality: putting the onus for managing the significantly reduced number of passengers on airlines. Not only was it almost impossible to fly out of the country you were living as an expat because international flights weren’t allowed in, you now couldn’t get home to your own country even if you could get a flight. It was a nightmare.

If you could get home, you were forced into hotel quarantine, also known as hotel detention. For fourteen days, you had no fresh air, almost zero human contact, served nutritionally questionable food – and charged $3000 for the “pleasure”. I’m not going to get into how truly shitty and dehumanising quarantine is and was – you can read about it in the Coates Inquiry Report. Suffice it to say that I’m angry that the government has cost-shifted a public health measure onto individuals, and vulnerable ones at that. And the community is ok with that because those of us who were overseas when the pandemic was declared – and were told to shelter in place, despite what they media will have you believe – were sacrificial lambs.

After more than a year of challenging the $3000 quarantine fee, and having no joy from any law firm to help us fight, I’m studying law. I have to fight the government fully armed and equipped, and – given the backlog in the court system — by the time my case comes up, I will have finished my law degree. I’ll also be “in” the system and will have access to a network of legal eagles who can help me.

I stand with Novak because your medical history should be no one’s business but your own

I don’t buy the dominant narrative, and never have. Why should I be forced to have an injection for a virus that where my risk of dying is very low – if I even catch it, that is? Why should I show someone my vaccination status – my private medical information – to go to a cafe, restaurant or festival? Do they show me theirs? Why do I have to have a medical procedure to be able to earn a living? Our politicians and their staff are exempt from being vaccinated, as are judges — you know, the ones who ruled against Novak’s visa.

Vaccination mandates are not part of the fabric of Australian society. Forcing someone to have a jab in order to work, or travel, or for “things to get back to normal” is not informed consent; it is coercion. And this coercion, because I am someone who has suffered from both sexual assault and narcissistic abuse – is a equivalent to the violation of my person. It’s political and medical rape.

I have never attended protests in my life, but I feel so strongly about it that I go to regular rallies (an ex-colleague Oh, FFS’ed me on Twitter when I shared this. I blocked her. Everywhere. You know who you are.). I boycott businesses, services and activities that support medical discrimination on the basis of vaccination status. I keep my social circle, such as it is, to people who haven’t drunk the Covid Kool-Aid.

Yes, it takes a concerted effort. But being on the right side of history is worth it.


Tatiana from Moscow, Russia, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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