Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic remains free to play in the Australian Open – at least, for now – with the Immigration Minister still weighing whether to cancel his visa for a second time.
In a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon, a spokesman for Alex Hawke said he is ‘thoroughly’ considering whether to use his discretionary powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa after it was reinstated by a judge on Monday.
‘As noted yesterday in the Federal Circuit and Family Court, Minister Hawke is considering whether to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa,’ he said. ‘In line with due process, Minister Hawke will thoroughly consider the matter.’
It is unclear how long it will take for Mr Hawke to make a decision – with the start of the Australian Open just six days away. Djokovic hopes to become the most successful male player of all time at the tournament.
The comments come as Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce admitted he was wrong about the tennis star being deported.
‘I got it wrong. I thought that it would be game, set, match that he hadn’t been double vaxxed and he would’ve been asked to go,’ Mr Joyce said.
‘I got it wrong, okay. I’m not going to pretend to be a solicitor again.’
Novak Djokovic (pictured with wife Jelena) wants to play in the Australian Open and become the first male tennis player to win 21 Grand Slam singles titles
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke was handed the poisoned chalice of deciding whether Novak Djokovic would be allowed to stay in Australia after his visa was originally cancelled upon arrival
Djokovic broke his silence over the Australian government’s first failed attempt to cancel his visa, saying he still wants to compete at the Australian Open next week
Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against Covid and contracted the virus in December, was denied a visa to enter Australia on January 6 by a Border Force official.
The Serb had been granted a medical exemption by Tennis Australia. He believed he had met criteria set by Australia’s advisory board on immunisation and been given a federal government declaration he could travel.
Mr Joyce had supported the decision to give Djokovic the boot. However, Djokovic took his case to the Federal Circuit Court where Judge Anthony Kelly quashed the cancellation of his visa on Monday.
Judge Kelly found that tearing up Djokovic’s visa had been unreasonable and he had not been given enough time by Australian Border Force officials to respond.
Having beaten the Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, Djokovic then had to contend with Mr Hawke, a close ally of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
‘Following today’s Federal Circuit and Family Court determination on a procedural ground, it remains within Immigration Minister Hawke’s discretion to consider cancelling Mr Djokovic’s visa,’ a spokesman for Mr Hawke had said on Monday night.
‘… The minister is currently considering the matter.’
It was originally speculated Mr Hawke had just four hours to make a decision on Djokovic’s visa after it was reinstated by Judge Kelly on Monday.
It later emerged that four-hour window was only relevant if the government had decided to bring in Djokovic for further questioning, which had not happened.
Mr Hawke could cancel the visa whenever he decided there was enough evidence there was a ground to do so and if it was in the public interest.
Judge Kelly had said on Monday if the government intended to cancel Djokovic’s visa the Federal Circuit Court must be given ample notice to prepare for future proceedings.
It was originally speculated Mr Hawke had just four hours to make a decision on Djokovic’s visa after it was reinstated by a Federal Circuit Court judge on Monday
There were jubilant scenes on the streets on Melbourne on Monday night after Novak Djokovic was freed from immigration detention
Mr Hawke had three options open to him.
He could have let Djokovic stay in Australia to compete in the Open, he could re-cancel his visa and ban the star from coming to Australia for three years, or he could cancel the visa but not impose a three-year ban.
Either of the second and third options was likely to lead to more legal action.
The Australia Open starts on January 17 when Djokovic wants to launch his bid to become the most-decorated men’s singles player of all time.
The Serb is currently level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 Grand Slam titles. Federer is out of this year’s tournament with injury, while Nadal will be playing.
Mr Hawke’s federal MP colleague and former Australian tennis star John Alexander had spoken out on Monday night against cancelling Djokovic’s visa a second time.
Mr Alexander said the minister’s discretionary power was meant for criminals and contagious people ‘walking our streets’ – not ‘political problems’.
Novak Djokovic is still in limbo as immigration minister refuses to rule out cancelling his visa – but posted this picture of himself practicing at Rod Laver area just hours after he was finally released from detention after a five-day-long ordeal
Members of the Serbian community (pictured) are seen marching through Melbourne on Monday night, with the scene soon becoming violent as protesters crashed with police – leading to many being pepper-sprayed
‘It would appear Covid-negative Novak has complied with all health entry requirements, the judge asking: “What more could this man have done?”,’ Mr Alexander wrote.
‘Based on this, Novak does not seem to present an unreasonable health risk to Australia.
‘So what would be the “public interest” the Minister could potentially use to exercise his personal powers to deport our defending Australian Open tennis champion?
‘Retaining the Australian Open as a grand slam event, I would argue is in our national interest.
‘The minister’s “personal powers to cancel visas” are designed to prevent criminals otherwise walking our streets, or to prevent a contagious person otherwise walking our streets; they’re not designed to assist in dealing with a potential political problem of the day.’
The situation in Melbourne became increasingly hostile of Djokovic fans turned up outside his lawyers’ office to see the star released (pictured on Monday night)
Djokovic broke his silence on Monday night over the federal government’s failed cancellation of his visa, saying he still wanted to compete at the Australian Open next week.
‘I’m pleased and grateful that the judge overturned my visa cancellation,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete.
‘I remain focused on that. I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans.’
Djokovic’s family said in a press conference in Serbia that he had returned to training on the tennis court and the ‘rule of law has won’.
His father Srdjan said: ‘I call on Queen Elizabeth, the leader of the Commonwealth, to intervene and protect the human rights of my son and to stop the political prosecution carried out against him since he came to Australia.’
This black car, which many fans were convinced was taking Djokovic away from his lawyer’s office on Monday night, was quickly surrounded as police tried to keep them back
Australian Border Force is investigating claims Djokovic allegedly lied on his entry form by claiming he had not travelled in the 14 days leading up to his arrival in Melbourne.
All travellers arriving in Australia are asked if they have ‘travelled or will travel in the 14 days prior to your flight to Australia’.
They are also warned: ‘Giving false or misleading information is a serious offence. You may also be liable to a civil penalty for giving false or misleading information.’
Djokovic ticked ‘No’ in response to the question, however that appears to be in conflict with the timeline of his recent movements documented on social media.
He appears to have been playing tennis in the streets of Belgrade on December 25 and on December 31, footage emerged of Djokovic having a hit out in south-east Spain.
The maximum penalty for providing false or misleading information to the Australian government is 12 months’ imprisonment.
The Department of Home Affairs claimed Djokovic had relied on out-of-date Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation advice to enter the country.
Djokovic’s visa was originally cancelled upon his arrival at Melbourne Airport and he was held in a cheap hotel under an immigration detention order while he waited for his appeal to be held.
EXCERPT OF NOVAK DJOKOVIC VISA INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
Interview #1 begun at 12.21am on January 6:
INTERVIEWER: Thank you. So when I ask you what were your reasons for travelling to Australia today?
DJOKOVIC: I’m a professional tennis player and the main reason for me coming to Australia is participating in the Australian Open in Melbourne, Victoria.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you. Now question regarding your vaccination, are you vaccinated for COVID-19? Not vaccinated?
DJOKOVIC: I am not vaccinated.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you. Have you ever had COVID?
DJOKOVIC: Yes. I had COVID twice, I had COVID in June 2020 and I had COVID recently in – I was tested positive – PCR –16th of December 2021.
DJOKOVIC: I have the documents as well to confirm that if you want I can provide
INTERVIEWER: Thank you. I’ll just make a photocopy of those documents.
Then followed five days of chaotic bureaucracy and finger pointing between the federal government, the Victorian government and Tennis Australia.
After hours of legal argument Judge Kelly ordered Djokovic be freed from detention at Melbourne’s Park Hotel by no later than 5.46pm on Monday.
He quashed the decision to tear up Djokovic’s visa and ordered that his passport and other personal belongings be returned.
Ecstatic fans reacted with joy when they learned Djokovic was going to be released (pictured in Melbourne on Monday)
Opposition Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally described the saga as a lose-lose situation for the federal government and said it made Australia ‘look like a bit of a joke’ on the world stage.
‘The Morrison government looks like a pack of idiots that couldn’t organise a meat tray at the local raffle,’ Ms Keneally told Sky News.
‘It would be a joke, except the consequences here are so serious.’
Serbia’s parliamentary speaker Ivica Dacic had voiced his exasperation that the case was ongoing, saying ‘the process should have ended when the court ruled on the matter’.
‘The Australian authorities have obviously chosen to deport him, which also includes a three-year ban on entering Australia,’ Mr Dacic said. ‘It defies common sense.’
Victoria had 37,994 new Covid cases and 13 deaths confirmed on Tuesday, up from – up from 30,062 and two on Monday.
Fans became increasingly agitated when their hero failed to emerge from his lawyers’ office on Monday evening – before it became clear he had somehow snuck out undetected