15.01.22. The world watches with disgust the pos and cons as Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, behaving like a Covid infected sloth, has intervened to cancel the visa of world No.1 tennis player Novak Djokovic for a second time, just days ahead of the Australian Open, sparking a late-night court appeal by the Serb to stay in the country. The decision throws into chaos Djokovic’s attempt to claim a record 21st grand slam title and pull ahead of rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with the Serb named the number one seed for the Australian Open, which he has already won a record nine times. Djokovic’s lawyers – who succeeding in reversing the initial decision by Border Force to cancel the tennis champion’s visa – appeared before Federal Circuit Court judge Anthony Kelly seeking a hearing on Sunday to reverse Mr Hawke’s decision.
Source: Joe Kenny and Remy Varga, NCA
Judge Kelly ordered Djokovic not be removed from Australia until the court case had been resolved and transferred proceedings to the Federal Court.
Judge Kelly said the commonwealth will also not detain Djokovic until 8am Saturday morning when he must present at a location agreed upon between the parties. The hastily called late-night court hearing finished at 11.12pm.
Nick Wood SC, for Djokovic, argued that a hearing was urgent because his client was due to play either Monday night or Tuesday night. Mr Wood indicated his case would challenge Mr Hawke’s assertion, given in his reasons for cancelling the player’s visa, that if Djokovic were allowed to stay in the country it would fan anti-vaccination sentiment.
Djokovic had claimed a medical exemption to enter the tournament on the grounds he was infected with Covid-19 in December but Australian immigration entry requires double vaccination against Covid-19.
Mr Hawke, in a statement issued late on Friday afternoon, said he used his powers under section 133C (3) of the Migration Act to intervene and cancel the visa on “health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so”.
“In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic,” Mr Hawke said. “The Morrison government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Home Affairs officials were in talks on Friday night with the tennis star’s lawyers. Senior government sources said Djokovic would be allowed to stay in his current location for the time being.
The grand slam champion is understood to be staying in luxury accommodation in Melbourne that includes a tennis court, and was set to be interviewed by Home Affairs officials on Saturday.
Just hours before the decision to deport him, Djokovic was practising at Melbourne Park on Friday after being confirmed at the head of the Australian Open draw in his bid for a 10th title. The number one seed was slated to take on fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.
Scott Morrison said Mr Hawke’s action was taken on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so. “This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods,” the Prime Minister said.
“Together we have achieved one of the lowest death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rates in the world.
“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected. This is what the minister is doing in taking this action today.”
Following an adverse decision made under section 133C (3), Djokovic would not be able to be granted a visa again for a period of three years unless he received an exemption or special waiver.
Government sources said an exemption could only be granted in “compelling circumstances that affect the interests of Australia” or in “compassionate or compelling circumstances affecting the interests of an Australian citizen or permanent resident”.
Djokovic is attempting to revive his battered public reputation. His team revealed he had donated $1m to the Australian Open’s junior tennis program. In a Facebook statement in which he was called “a hero in the resistance movement against small bullies”, Djokovic’s team also outlined his past $25,000 charitable contribution to efforts to rebuild Australian towns after the black summer bushfires of 2019-20.
The post also listed monies for Covid-19 projects such as €1m to Italian hospitals, €1m to Serbian hospitals, an unspecified amount to Spain and, again, an unspecified amount for poor children at the Melbourne City Mission.
The intervention was taken after Djokovic admitted his travel declaration to enter Australia contained false information and that he had made an “error of judgment” after attending public events in Serbia following his December 16 test, which returned a positive Covid-19 result.
In his affidavit to the Federal Court, Djokovic said he tested positive for Covid on December 16. But after photos emerged of the sportsman maskless at a children’s tennis event in Belgrade on December 17, Djokovic issued a new statement on January 12 saying he did not discover the positive result until after the event.
Djokovic was also in Serbia in the two weeks before he flew to Australia from Spain, conflicting with his declaration that he had not travelled in the past 14 days.
The tennis champion said in his January 12 statement this was the result of an “administrative mistake”.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the drawn-out decision-making process revealed the government had been caught flat-footed and should have ensured the tennis star was never granted a visa in the first place.
Djokovic arrived in Australia late on January 5 and was interrogated for about eight hours by Australian Border Force officials.
His visa – initially granted on November 18 – was cancelled, with ABF officers saying his recent positive Covid diagnosis was not grounds for a vaccine exemption.
But the federal government was forced to concede in a court battle on Monday that the tennis champion had been denied procedural fairness and the Federal Circuit Court overturned the cancellation of his visa at the airport.
Additional reporting: Jacquelin Magnay, Ivica Profaca
Video source: Sky News and WION