CANBERRA, 14 Jan 2022:
Australia’s immigration minister today used his personal powers to cancel the visa of world tennis No 1 Novak Djokovic, throwing the Serbian’s Australian Open defence into turmoil.
On Monday, a Melbourne court overturned the Australian border authorities’ decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa after he arrived in the country last week with a medical exemption for not being vaccinated, citing recovery from a recent Covid-19 infection.
Immigration minister Alex Hawke spent the past days deciding whether to use his ministerial power to overrule the court and cancel it again.
“Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” Hawke said in a statement.
“This decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January 2022, quashing a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds.
“The Morrison government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It is expected that Djokovic’s lawyers will appeal Hawke’s decision, but it is unclear how this will affect the 34-year-old’s defence in the Australian Open, which begins Monday. His legal team were served documents at 6.03pm, after the decision was announced by Hawke at 5.53pm.
If the Serbian does not appeal, or if he loses his appeal, he faces deportation and a three-year ban on returning to the country.
Prime minister Scott Morrison said he had noted Hawke’s decision, and referred to the “many sacrifices” Australians had made during the pandemic, saying “they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected”.
“This is what the minister is doing in taking this action today,” he said. “Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe, prior to Covid-19, and now during the pandemic.”
On Wednesday, Djokovic admitted “human error” was made in his travel declaration to enter Australia, and that he attended an interview with a French media outlet last month in Belgrade despite knowing that he had Covid-19.
He was included yesterday in the draw for the Australian Open where he is seeking his 10th Australian Open title and a record 21 Grand Slam trophies.
Australia is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, which have gone from less than 2,000 infections a day in December to almost 150,000 this week.