Djokovic sent packing again but challenge likely
Anthony Galloway and Paul Sakkal
Stuff NZ Newspapers
Novak Djokovic could be forced to leave Australia within hours after Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his personal power to cancel the Serbian tennis star’s visa, as his lawyers prepare to file an immediate injunction against the decision. The move last night threw the tennis world No 1’s quest for a 10th Australian Open into turmoil with the tournament to begin on Monday. Hawke said yesterday he had used his power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Djokovic ‘‘on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so’’. ‘‘This decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January 2022, quashing a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds. In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic. ‘‘The Morrison government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.’’ The personal powers granted to the immigration minister to cancel visas are extremely broad. Djokovic has been asked to present for an interview with immigration officials today. The Department of Home Affairs was talking with his lawyers last night. At this stage he is staying where he is until the interview and pending any legal action. If Djokovic doesn’t successfully appeal the decision, the laws dictate he would be banned from being granted another visa for three years – however, this can be waived. Hawke took four days to make the decision after the Federal Circuit Court ordered the unvaccinated Djokovic’s visa be reinstated over concerns he was not afforded enough time to get a lawyer when he arrived in Australia last week. The decision comes after the Serbian tennis star’s position became increasingly untenable when he apologised for taking part in a media interview while knowingly positive with Covid-19. A source close to the Australian Open defending champion, speaking anonymously to detail private planning, on Thursday said his legal team would immediately take an adverse decision by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to court. Lawyers believe the hearing could be fasttracked by minimising the length of written submissions and verbal evidence. If the case does go to court, the 20-time grand slam winner’s legal team hope the matter could be heard in court over the weekend and finalised by tomorrow, allowing him to play a match early next week if he beats the government for a second time. The case would go back to Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly for a hearing, but he then may refer it upstairs to the Federal Court. Sources earlier in the week confirmed there was a justice on standby to hear the case. Djokovic came to the country on the basis that he contracted Covid-19 in December, arguing prior infection of the virus in the past six months was a valid exemption for being unvaccinated. But the federal government always disputed his arguments, saying Tennis Australia was warned players in his position would not be allowed into the country. Djokovic on Wednesday apologised for an error of judgment for taking part in a media interview a day after receiving a positive test result and admitted that his Australian Travel Declaration form incorrectly stated he had not travelled in the 14 days prior to arriving in Australia despite being in Spain. In a lengthy post on Instagram, Djokovic said he received a positive result on the night of December 17 after submitting the test the day before. But in his sworn court affidavit Djokovic said he was ‘‘tested and diagnosed’’ on December 16. Djokovic said he ‘‘felt obliged’’ to go ahead and conduct an interview with French media organisation L’Equipe on December 18 because he ‘‘didn’t want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken’’. ‘‘While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgement [sic] and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment,’’ he said. Djokovic said he was making the social media post to address the ‘‘continuing misinformation about my activities and attendance at events in December in the lead up to my positive PCR Covid test result’’. The Department of Home Affairs’ investigation widened to include his breach of isolation requirements in Serbia, the incorrect statements on his travel entry form and other inconsistencies.