“Nine years long” reads a handmade sign in a sealed window of the Park Hotel, Swanston Street, Carlton, a grim, grey, makeshift, Melbourne gaol for forty-six refugees and asylum-seekers. Most were originally locked up on Papua New Guinea and Manus Island. Now the men are held against their will indefinitely, in contempt of international convention, compassion and human decency. Their food is mouldy and has weevils in it. A couple of floors catch fire in December, but no-one is allowed to leave the building.
Novak Djokovic also lobs here, Wednesday to Monday, a world champion reduced to persona non grata, after Border Force cancels his visa, but – in a sensational comeback – after Monday’s federal court hearing, he’s released into the care of his lawyer$.
The Park Hotel is a far cry from the Serb’s mountainside mansion in Monte Carlo, where he lives tax free. True, he has an incredible portfolio of luxury properties all over the world. New York. Miami. Soho. Even a penthouse in New Belgrade. But Border Force give him no option. Cancel his visa. Lock him up with the other poor sods.
But not for ever, Federal Court Judge, Anthony Kelly quashes the cancellation of Djokovic’s visa on procedural fairness. Border Force breaks a promise.
It’s a technical victory for the tennis star. Border Force fails to keep its word that Djokovic has until 8.30am to seek advice about his pending cancellation, instead cancelling his visa at 7.42am to finish the business before one officer’s shift ends.
Now the international tennis champion, antivaxxer, kinesiologist and property tycoon awaits a call from Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, a mate of the PM, a fellow evangelical and Morrison’s numbers man in the NSW party machine.
Mike Seccombe sees Hawke as a man made in the image of his mentor “hard-charging and abrasive”, an MP reviled by both wings of the party.
Seccombe, writes in The Saturday Paper detailing how Hawke’s leadership of Morrison’s faction in NSW, the centre-right, and his work as ScoMo’s delegate on the party’s state executive has been a catastrophe for the PM. An insider claims Hawke,
“has used his time as Morrison’s representative on the state executive in an endeavour to advance their factional position to the detriment of both conservatives and the moderates – to the point now where the conservatives and the moderates are in an alliance against Hawke. And that means against Morrison.”
In brief, Morrison’s Mini-Me is just the man to forge consensus and garner party support on the Djokovic fiasco, a blunder that splits a parliamentary party already frantic at the PM’s catastrophic failure on the pandemic, the economy, trade – everything he touches. Will the Serbian serve the coup de grâce to Morrison’s corrupted, clapped-out career?
It’s a mystery drama with a dilemma. Morrison’s Pentecostal pal, Hawke has the power to cancel Djokovic’s visa. Or Morrison, a notoriously sore loser, a man with a glass jaw, who hates us to see he’s a fool, looks a right royal prat. Which way it will go?
Hawke decides not to cancel Djokovic’s visa Monday night. He has four hours to use his personal power, under section 133 A or 133C(3) of the Migration Act 1958 if the Morrison government wants to try to keep the tennis champion in detention. Instead, he’ll let us know, Tuesday. In the meantime he discovers his party is divided.
Meanwhile it’s leaked that Border Force, our PM’s personal paramilitary is concerned the Serb or his agent may have lied on his travel declaration.
An alley cat toys with a six foot two mouse. It’s a PMO tactic to stretch out the saga; string us along. Distract. Helps distance Morrison from his minister’s act.
Meanwhile, Omicron ravages the nation while rapid antigen tests (RATS) and booster shots just can’t be found. Federal government policy in the face of a catastrophic rise in cases is a DIY testing regime. PCR test centres are overwhelmed, revealing yet again the wisdom of neoliberal outsourcing and privatisation of public health.
In an echo of its former inglorious failures, our Health Department didn’t order enough RATS. Or boosters. This helps shrink ballooning case numbers. As does the shrewd requirement that you phone in your result. Or making us pay. Other nations provide the tests free. But unless you’re a concession card holder, you pay. Or if you’re one of the millions in low paid casual work, the third of the workforce with no paid sick leave entitlement of leave, you simply do without. Such are your freedoms.
Reports of profiteering or “price gouging” as our “medium” prefers, proliferate. In an inspiring act of charity, the PM shares how his Jen is shopping for RATs, scouring Sydney’s more select suburbs, on a search and supply mission. Making herself useful. Having a go. Just one of us, really. It’s an uplifting fantasy of a Mum on struggle-street where Dad earns half a mill a year plus free board, lodging, transport and healthcare.
Also consoling to a nation wracked by coronavirus psychosis, a heady blend of fear, anxiety, depression and sheer despair is Spud’s uplifting shopping news.
Defence minister Dutton orders 120 yank tanks and other armoured vehicles, because you just don’t know when you’ll have to quell an ugly uprising by the poor. Suddenly submarines and long range anti-panda missiles are out Tanks and Humvees are in.
Spud finds a lazy $3.5 billion down the back of Abbott’s padded Defence Budget. The budgie smuggler pledged two percent of GDP to waste on war toys and other defence over-expenditure. Just for the optics. Make Labor look weak on national security.
Billions are wasted on new toys: replacing the ’59 Abrams M1A1s we bought in 2007, still in mint condition and unused in battle bar the odd ‘Roo shoot and bush bash.
As US imperialist running dogs of the century, we love buying America’s castoffs. Even obsolete military hardware can be a boon in a pandemic. A tank, or two, can help clear any congested supermarket carpark. Counter insurgency thrives in tight corners. Be just in time to quell bread riots as shelves empty across the nation. Besides hunger games, there’s the prospect of ugly insurrection over our fossil fuel mania, our ecocide.
Equally comforting in Morrison’s PsyOps is an image of the PM with a platter of two barramundi. Let’s just get Humpty Doo Barra home delivered like the Morrisons. It’s heady, aspirational stuff that helps us pull ourselves together in time of need. Almost as helpful as knowing we’ve got government ministers who can do what they like.
Hawke’s “personal power” as Immigration Minister allows him also to let the men banged up in the Park Hotel be released into the community. Or hospital. At least twenty are now sick with Covid. Not that you’d find space for ten now. Still, a triage in a taxi or a tent can save your life. If you can afford the fare. Or you can still walk.
But Hawke goes MIA. At The Park, medical care means you get one Panadol, dry, although a guard does say hospitalisation will be provided to the one or two who may need it, based on Omicron’s mild effect on the rest of the population. But that’s it.
A chap who asks for ginger to gargle to ease his Covid-affected sore throat is ignored.
Formerly, The Rydges on Swanston, The Park was May’s COVID-19 top super spreader, triggering Victoria’s second, deadly wave of coronavirus. Hundreds die. Almost all seven thousand infections, which devastate the state, are traced back to overseas arrivals at the hotel. Now it’s shaping up for an Omicron encore.
It’s a timely reminder of the Morrison government’s wisdom in not providing dedicated quarantine – and it also highlights our ongoing war on The Other which helps keep us safe, feeling relaxed and comfortable and gets Tory MPs re-elected.
Political prisoners, hidden in our midst, in shabby hotels, across Australia are suddenly thrust into the spotlight when Djokovic, Tennis World Champion, has his Visa cancelled by Border Force on arrival at Melbourne to play in The Australian Open. Is the refugee publicity an unforced error? Or are non-citizens now completely invisible?
We lead the world in secret prison camps. Calling them “detention centres” stops any hint that they are gulags. And how good is the word “processing” instead of indefinite, detention? But where we really shine is in throwing away the key.
On average, an asylum-seeker sentence in Australia is currently 689 days. Even in the US, it’s 55 days, unless they put you in Gitmo. In Canada it’s a fortnight. All you need do is arrive here by sea. It’s not a crime to seek asylum but the government still call you illegals. Neglect, maltreat and abuse you. Call you by a number, never your name.
Then PM, Abbott tells the UN to butt out in 2015, when Professor Juan Mendez, Special Rapporteur on Torture finds Australia’s asylum seeker policies violate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Bugger rules-based order. Abbott is quick to declare “Australians are “sick of being lectured to by the United Nations.” Professor Mendez says Australia has failed to provide adequate detention conditions and that it should end the detention of children. Biloela? None of his business. Now the Park Hotel is a stark reminder on nightly TV.
Team Morrison banks on most of us not caring. Scoring points with the “tough on borders” voter. PMO advisers hope to capitalise on public outrage that a travel exemption has been made for a multi-millionaire sporting star, while families are unable to get together at Christmas. Time for a quick pivot on the politics of Djokovic’s entry.
“People are welcome in Australia. But if you’re not double vaccinated and you’re not an Australian resident or citizen, well, you can’t come,” the PM says 6 January.
Could this be the PM’s Tampa Crisis? A show of manly decisiveness. Upstage his pandemic catastrophe. Curiously, they said the same of Morrison in 2019, normalising Howard’s chicanery and cynical dog-whistling to racists, xenophobes and One Nation supporters. Yet now, opinion polls suggest that wedging your opponents with the politics of race to is unlikely to be the silver bullet Morrison so desperately needs. People just can’t avoid seeing him as a monstrous failure, a fraud and a career liar.
Guardian Australia’s Essential Poll finds that only 37 percent of us believe immigration levels are too high, down from 56 percent in 2019. Yet it remains a divisive issue.
But how good is a distracting scapegoat – especially one which lets Mo remind us all how he invented Border Force, border protection, boat turnbacks to politicise xenophobia, racism and total indifference to the plight of those forced to flee their countries of origin by boat? Two-year-wonder- PM Tony Abbott did much the same toward the end of his miserable prime ministership, largely run by his office.
“I stopped the boats,” Abbott reminds us, a lie that overlooks the Rudd government’s 2013 Pacific Solution announcement that “asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia”. Push factors such as the end of the Afghanistan war helped. Neither Tony Abbott nor Scott Morrison, stopped the boats.
Morrison is on to Djokovic’s extradition like a rat up a drainpipe. But it’s a rapid backflip even for a shit-house rat or a cunning, opportunistic politician. The PM hasn’t bothered to tell Home Affairs’ head, Karen Andrews. Someone has to go under a bus when there’s a country to run. Yet Andrews is on record as expressing a dissenting view.
Djokovic’s unvaccinated status disqualifies him for a visa but, somehow, in cahoots with one of our overweening, “peak bodies” in our pantheon of sport, the temple of Tennis Australia, (TA) Home Affairs Minister Andrews has written to the grand slam champion telling him that he has “a medical exemption”. Did TA dictate, ever mindful of its gate?
So powerful are our sporting organisations that they can tell federal governments what to do. Or at least they can try. And some are down on their luck in a pandemic.
Or was there federal government collusion to waive the big star through the visa process until it discovered that such an exemption did not sit at all well with fans?
Tennis Australia is said to be on its last $2.4 million after what The Australian (paywalled) reports as a $100 million Covid hit. Now TA’s borrowed $80 mill from the State of Victoria. It’s not only keen to get back in the game, clearly, it also has a formidable fan base. Our sports empires, or “governing bodies” as they are known are no strangers to wheeling and dealing. The game of mates. Or a bit of power play.
Tennis Australia puts the lob into lobbying.
Now things get messy. Health Minister, Greg Hunt, writes to Tennis Australia, CEO Craig Tiley, 29 November 2021, stating clearly that people who had tested positive to Covid-19 within six months do not meet exemption requirements to enter the country. But does he show the letter to Kaz? Does he ever intend to? It’s a line-ball decision.
Has Ms Andrews been set up? Morrison’s office is a Bermuda Triangle of careers that just disappear without trace -especially women’s careers -despite PMO lip-service to internal inquiry and promises, one day, to implement every one of Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ recommendations in her Set The Standard review.
Or could Home Affairs’ letter of acceptance be a figment of Djokovic’s imagination? His quack doctor has him on a weird diet. What he fails to provide is evidence in the form of a positive PCR test of his having had COVID-19 in the last six months. Or twice, depending on which account you read. Is he on some macrobiotic hallucinogen?
Or is it just testosterone? What is clear is the outrage from Belgrade. Is Serbia’s hero lured to Australia to be humiliated? Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vučić says he’d do the same to Morrison should our PM ever visit. He’d have no trouble selling tickets.
Vučić vows to “fight” for Djokovic to be able to enter Australia. Another diplomatic shit storm brews. Morrison’s government alienated France after the PM lies about welching on our submarine deal in favour of AUKUS and nuclear subs we can’t even crew.
As for our biggest trading partner, China, President Xi won’t even speak to Canberra; responding instead with a trade war after Australia calls for an inquiry into the origins of the “Wuhan Flu”, pandering to conspiracy theorists and others who would like to blame China for the coronavirus pandemic. Sabre-rattling Defence Minister Dutton talks up war, Canberra must be prepared for whatever lurks “on or below the horizon”.
Across the ditch, Jacinda Ardern is miffed that we repatriate Kiwi-born Australian residents who break the law. Many were children when they left the land of the long white cloud. “Taking the trash out,” Peter Dutton calls his deporting of New Zealand offenders. If that sticks in your craw, kiwi crayfish are selling for a hundred dollars a pop in China as our federal government’s trade war sinks our own export businesses.
A $3 million marketing campaign by federal government to entice New Zealanders, is not going so well. Bookings are down 76 per cent year-on-year for the four weeks from April 19. Our pacific island workforce is also inexplicably smaller this year.
Migrant workers are critical to Australia’s farming sector and food security. What is shameful are the conditions leading so many to abscond, notes Deakin University’s Victoria Stead.
Is Morrison aiming for his own grand slam in alienating the world? Pay them back for treating him as a sick joke on curbing carbon emissions, flouting refugee conventions, and lying. Or does he just not care? As he tells Annabel Crabb on Kitchen Cabinet.
Lying? Djokovic does have a document bearing the Serbian Institute of Sport’s letterhead, which says he caught Covid 16 December. Yet there’s no medical test evidence, sniffs Home Affairs Supremo Andrews who is refused an extension to postpone the federal circuit court hearing of his case until Wednesday.
Clearly, she’s been left right out of the loop, standard operating procedure for Federal Liberals with their record of misogyny, sexism, secrecy and captain’s calls.
“The tail won’t be wagging the dog here”, Judge Anthony Kelly says
Kelly’s quip may be a sly dig at PistoI and Boo, Johnny Depp and then partner Amber Heard’s Yorkshire Terriers who, accidentally, helped us to show our borders are tough.
The stars forgot to quarantine their pets. In 2015, a righteously “tough on illegal immigrants” Barnaby Joyce threatened to euthanise the “illegally imported” pair of mutts (the pets not the actors) if they weren’t out of the country on the next plane. A document was alleged to be forged.
Heard has recently named one of her new dogs Barnaby Joyce in honour of the fiasco.
Djokovic is known for his dogged tenacity. Certainly, for a man with Covid, the star has wasted no time lying doggo in iso. A photo emerges on social media of the Serbian hero unmasked in public 17 December at a state ceremony to honour him by presenting him with a set of Serbian National postage stamps bearing his photogenic image.
For someone with a potentially deadly viral infection, Djokovic is quite the social butterfly, appearing not only to be in rude good health, but actively engaging with young people. Hugs and back pats. On December 17, he participates an open PR event. Images appear of the star embracing children at an awards ceremony at an event organised by the Tennis Association of Belgrade. Talk about infectious goodwill.
But that’s not all that’s caught in the spotlight; illuminated is an inept, cruel and increasingly desperate Morrison government which will do anything to divert us from its failures. Our PM threatens to shirt-front the Serb; put him on the next plane home. By Monday, this is toned down and Morrison’s office puts out word of amicable discussion between our PM and his Serbian counterpart – in which Morrison explains our rules.
But Djokovic is used to winning from behind. It’s his trademark. Along with abusing injury time out. With help from friends in high places in Belgrade “the Serbinator” successfully lodges an appeal against his extradition.
This is not the outcome that Morrison’s office had in mind. Or is it?
Djokovic’s lock-up is a political intercept; a stunt to distract from the Morrison regime’s disastrous mismanagement of the pandemic which by Monday, reaches 972,000 cases, after restrictions are abruptly eased in a backflip which Morrison calls Living with the Virus aka Playing with Fire as the Omicron variant rages through the population, bringing an already over-stressed hospital system to the point of collapse.
Welcome to Shitshow 2.0, an homage to Bill Shorten’s zinger: “it’s not a race” the Morrison government’s first, vaccine stroll-out fiasco, a display of extraordinary ineptitude, disinformation, outright lies and rapid back-flips.
In Shitshow 2.0 business meets the PM in secret to force sick workers in supply chains back to work. No workers’ representatives are present, nor is the ACTU invited, its secretary, Sally McManus warns. Not only does his “small” government mandate work for sick workers, it helps spread infection. Talk about sharing and caring.
But look over there! Border protection opportunity knocks. Dead cat on table time. Cancel Novak, Djokovic’s visa. What a stroke of genius.
Once again, despite a battalion of advisers and all of Scotty’s military escort, JJ Frewen’s much-vaunted, spit’n polish, military efficiency plus weapons-grade logistical expertise, it is painfully obvious that the Morrison government has stuffed up everything.
True there’s a bit of help from a friend, NSW Premier, Dom Perrottet who “lets her rip.” Now he must mend the tears to the fabric of NSW society and its tanking economy.
There are no Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) but the public must use them and phone in their results because PCR testing, heavily outsourced to private firms collapses. Boosters are dwindling. Hospitals are not coping. Doctors are angry and exhausted.
315785 active cases, underestimates the true number just in NSW. Self-administered tests are yet to be recorded, while others don’t bother to get tested. Some experts say the real number could be as much as 5-10 times higher.
- 2,186 are admitted to hospital
- 170 are in intensive care
- 51 require ventilation
Hospitals are stretched. “Elective” surgery cancelled. Not only are too many cases being admitted, thousands of workers must be spelled because they have been exposed. Some simply resign in exhaustion and frustration; cross the border to work in Queensland where wages and conditions are higher and a government which is not infected with crazy libertarianism.
Everywhere there are long queues to get tested while RATs just can’t be found. Supermarket shelves are stripped bare. Customers stay at home while shops close their doors. Making it even harder on business and consumer, there’s no JobKeeper.
Yet to hear Scott Morrison, he’s a paragon of quiet, modest diligence as he quietly reassures those attending a Sydney Institute Dinner last week.
“What is most important to me as Prime Minister is that I seek to humbly do everyday things that make Australia even stronger than we are today, both now and in the future.”
Morrison’s hypocrisy is boundless. The humble housekeeper pose is laughable coming from the man who warned Julia Banks “I. am. The. Prime. Minister.”
The Bronte bogan loves a motivational slogan,
“There’s no guidebook to COVID. We all know that. And so what I think is important is the country just focuses on the task ahead. Keep looking through that windscreen. That’s where I’m looking. We’re looking forward.”
Inspirational or terrifying? Government is not a self-driving Tesla. Shoulders right back, no hands on the wheel and eyes on the road ahead Morrison, is a black-belt in bumper-sticker wit and witless boosterism. And lashings of public self-adoration.
But no-one’s fooled. The task ahead is our Prime Narcissist’s own squalid political survival, not the public good or the welfare of the commonwealth. He’s a ruthless pragmatist, a truculent bully whose sole goal is to stay on top of the dung-heap; maintain his own undeserving, increasingly threatened ascendancy.
Today, Morrison wrests control of his party by appeasing its libertarians whose influence has grown since the charismatic John Howard inspired them to “big themselves up”. Despite presiding over our biggest government since Curtin, the PM declares stumps and pivots; announcing that it’s time for government to butt out of peoples’ lives.
No-one believes a word Morrison says but we all know he will say or do anything. And say and do something else tomorrow. Then deny both. Witness his witless excrescence at a cricket match, Saturday, “Australians taking wickets in the virus” while grandstanding in the Ashes commentary box on day three of the fourth Test at the SCG.
While shoppers fight over toilet tissue in panic buying and Australians are intubated in ICUs and hospitals are stretched beyond capacity and then some, only Scott Morrison would seek to buoy the spirits of a nation with a bizarre cricketing analogy.
Morrison excels in buck passing. Our fearless, leader’s fortune-cookie windscreen wisdom inspires a claque of fellow travellers; no ideas persons, moral pygmies, clowns, contrarian libertarians and fellow former apparatchiks in the confederation of dunces which passes itself off as Australia’s federal government.
Yet his latest move is to exhume the pernicious myth of personal responsibility, a version of Margaret Thatcher’s nonsense. No such thing as society, she declared.
2022, the Great Evader declares will be The Year of Taking Responsibility. AKA I’m all right Jack – and bugger the rest of you. There’s no guidebook for Covid, he lies. He’s an expert at not reading the map. Ignoring or contradicting expert advice. His ministers share a vision, an adolescent Hayekian fantasy that sanctions doing nothing .
Once we take personal responsibility for our own health, a free market will cure all. Cue the sound of one invisible hand clapping. A wag in the Canberra press gallery tackles health minister, Hunt, over his government’s lack of any clear plan to procure rapid antigen tests, last October. The Minister snaps “let that market develop”.
Living with Covid is Mo’s latest backflip, undoing two years of containment. No more nanny state. Buy your own bloody test kits. Under pressure, he backs down. Some of us may access ten free tests every three months. 6.6 million concession card holders across the nation are overjoyed. Such fun trying to find a test supplier.
Sensing a dip in credibility according to recent NewsPolls and still smarting at being an international laughing-stock because of his behaviour at last year’s G20 COP26 with its green hydrogen and “technology not taxes” claptrap, a green-washing of mining business as usual, Morrison opts for yet another cop-out. And a dead cat.
In a heaven-sent opportunity for distraction and tough-talking, his private militia, Border Force cancels anti-vax, health crank Djokovic’s visa and puts him up in the Park.
Acing the champion tennis player certainly gets everyone’s attention. An astute Djokovic clan member declares our PM “not a human being”. But Morrison loves a fuss, especially a heady brew of sport and the institutionalised racism of “tough on borders” rhetoric, despite some of the most porous borders in the world. If you fly in.
We’ll decide who gets into our Australian Open and the manner in which they do so.
Taking Personal Responsibility, a staple of Reagan and Thatcher political misrule, is a ruse to cover the Morrison government’s utter ineptitude. As it abandons all pretence at keeping Australia safe, it shifts the blame to the victim of the latest wave of the pandemic, a wave that appears fit to swamp us all.
Let ‘er rip. Politics trumps science, with the help of Neoliberal econobabble, the perversion of economics fetishised by such exalted local Tory politicians as NSW’s Dominic Perrottet or Josh Frydenberg, Treasurer of our nation’s federal Coalition of mining, business and finance Muppets. Omicron, the latest mutant variant of SARS-COVID-19 surges, bringing our infection rate to match the United States.
It’s a shameful, culpable dereliction of duty and abdication of responsibility that we also see in in fellow clown, Boris Johnson, muppet of the UKs Policy Exchange boffins, a front for corporate greed, fair wages and anthropogenic climate change denial.
Locally, our own mineral and Business Council flogs wag the dog of Morrison government. Rupert, Gina, Andrew and Kerry and their merry band of ruling oligarchs now urge sick workers to man the supply chains lest profits or fall or business founder.
To them, also Morrison must seem a liability. Morrison and his government may have been useful fools for a while but their future looks increasingly uncertain cloudy now they threaten to cost our oligarchs their profits.
Whilst voices with the sound of money in them call for an end to the Djokovic sideshow, there is a chance the debacle of the un-cancelling of a tennis player’s visa may alert the nation to other ways its federal government falls short in humanity and democracy. The Australian Open’s biggest drawcard may prove a Djoker in the pack.
The saga of a tennis star’s visa cancellation certainly serves to highlight the incalculable damage the federal government is suffering as it utterly fails to deal with a pandemic catastrophe which its own Libertarian easing of restrictions helped create. It also exposes a mind-boggling degree of incompetence and miscommunication, of posturing and dissembling that would be comic were it not so toxic to the health of the commonwealth.
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