British far-right figure Katie Hopkins has been dumped as a cast member of Seven’s Big Brother VIP and will leave the country after breaching her contract, Guardian Australia can reveal.
Hopkins, 46, broadcast a live video from what she claimed was a Sydney hotel room on Saturday morning, describing Covid-19 lockdowns as “the greatest hoax in human history” while joking about elaborate plans to breach quarantine rules.
On Saturday home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, ordered an urgent review of whether Hopkins has breached her visa conditions by publicly flouting quarantine rules.
But the review has been superseded by a decision to terminate her contract, Guardian Australia understands.
Talent contracts have an out-clause: don’t bring the network into disrepute.
It is also a requirement of any overseas personality to comply with visa conditions.
Seven confirmed the decision on Sunday afternoon.
“Seven Network and Endemol Shine Australia confirm that Katie Hopkins is not part of Big Brother VIP,” the network said. “Seven and Endemol Shine strongly condemn her irresponsible and reckless comments in hotel quarantine.”
Hopkins was contracted to Shine rather than Seven.
Last year, Hopkins had her Twitter account with 1.1m followers permanently suspended for violating the platform’s “hateful conduct” policy.
Hopkins, who was repeatedly retweeted by former US president Donald Trump, was removed to “keep Twitter safe”, according to the social media platform.
Hopkins previously compared migrants to cockroaches and claimed the photograph of a dead Syrian boy lying on a beach that sparked a wave of compassion across Europe was staged, as well as stating that people with dementia should not “block” hospital beds.
The production company making Big Brother VIP, Endemol Shine Australia, and Channel Seven were scrambling on Sunday to respond to the growing crisis which threatened to overshadow the broadcast of the Tokyo Olympic Games which starts on Seven on Friday.
Seven has booked hundreds of millions of dollars of advertising and cannot afford for sponsors to pull out due to public pressure.
Toyota, Woolworths, Optus and McDonald’s lead the list of major sponsors, while Harvey Norman, AAMI, and HP are also signed on. Social media activists and the public have started to target advertisers.
Dear @Channel7 we will be targeting EVERY advertiser during your Olympic coverage to ensure they are aware they are advertising with a media company who gives the racist Katie Hopkins a platform.#Auspol pic.twitter.com/CD6JOGLDNl
— 💧 Sleeping Giants Oz 📣 (@slpng_giants_oz) July 17, 2021
The government-ordered review comes as Labor says the federal government should never have granted Hopkins a visa or border exemption in the first place, releasing a ministerial briefing that outlines the minister’s powers to deny entry to anyone considered a “controversial” visitor.
The deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, has also suggested Hopkins be deported, saying anyone who flouts Australian law should “pack your bongo and get out of the country”.
Hopkins has been allowed into the country despite tens of thousands of Australians being stranded overseas and unable to return home due to reduced flight caps.
The limit on the number of international arrivals coming into Australia via commercial flights was halved from 14 July over concerns from some state premiers about the infectiousness of the Delta variant of Covid-19.
Andrews said she had requested the Australian Border Force review the case.
“It is despicable that anyone would behave in such a way that puts our health officials and community at risk,” Andrews said on Sunday.
“Yesterday I directed Australian Border Force to immediately consider the facts of this matter and urgently review whether this individual is complying with the requirements of her visa.
“Border Force have been responding to that overnight, and continue to do so today.”
She said the Big Brother contestants had received an exemption to come into the country “based on support by the NSW government”.
“The NSW government approved quarantine for Big Brother contestants above the quarantine cap,” Andrews said.
The immigration minister, Alex Hawke, also said temporary visa holders needed to “obey public health orders”.
“Where visa conditions are breached, individuals may face visa cancellation in accordance with the law,” Hawke said on Twitter.
When asked about whether Hopkins should remain in the country after breaching quarantine rules, the deputy prime minister said he would happily see her deported.
“I‘m the one who wanted to send home Johnny Depp’s dogs so I have no problem sending home someone who wants to flout our laws,” Joyce told the ABC.
“If you want to do that, pack your bongo and get out of country.”
Labor’s acting home affairs spokesman Andrew Giles released a ministerial briefing received by Andrews when she took over the portfolio, obtained through freedom of information laws, which outline the powers available to the government under section 501 of the Migration Act.
The document says that the act allows the minister to cancel or refuse a visa to persons who are considered to be controversial visitors.
Giles said the minister did not use the powers available to her and accused her of hiding behind NSW for “what is the most fundamental responsibility of national government”.
“Ms Andrews was told about her powers – and responsibility – to deal with people just like the notorious Ms Hopkins. Why did she ignore this, putting at risk workers and our social cohesion?”
The Australian Muslim Advocacy Network also criticised the move, writing to the prime minister, Scott Morrison, to question whether a character assessment had been undertaken before her visa was granted.
“The decision to allow Katie Hopkins into Australia for a public-facing purpose is highly controversial and should have triggered a serious character assessment,” the letter from AMAN’s Rita Jabri-Markwell said.
“Hopkins has socialised and mainstreamed the conspiracy theory of an ‘Islamic invasion’ and ‘Islamic takeover’ to broad public audiences, heightening the risk to families and communities who experience hate speech, harassment and threats in public places and other forms of hate crime.”