Novak Djokovic's visa cancelled

By Karen Barlow
Novak Djokovic at Melbourne Park. Picture: Getty Images

In a sensational decision, the unvaccinated world No.1 tennis player Novak Djokovic has been ordered to leave Australia.

After days of deliberation, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has decided to cancel Djokovic's visa, meaning he cannot stay in the country and defend his Australian Open title.

In a statement, the minister said he made the decision in the public interest.

"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," Mr Hawke said.

"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 34-year-old Serbian superstar, who is chasing a record 21st grand slam title, is expected to appeal the decision.

The move came three days ahead of the start of the Australian Open, the first grand slam of the year.

"The Morrison government is firmly committed to protecting Australia's borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic," Mr Hawke said.

"I thank the officers of the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force who work every day to serve Australia's interests in increasingly challenging operational environments."

The Djokovic drama began just over a week ago, when the renowned vaccine sceptic announced he was heading to Melbourne with a medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

He arrived in Australia on January 5, but officials cancelled his visa and he was placed in immigration detention alongside long-term asylum seekers. A judge later quashed the decision and he was freed while the minister pondered whether to use his discretionary powers.

It was later discovered the player incorrectly stated on his travel declaration form that he hadn't travelled to other countries in the two-week period before his flight to Australia, when he had, in fact, flown to Spain.

Djokovic said this was an administrative mistake and human error by his agent.

He also admitted he attended a face-to-face interview and photoshoot with a French newspaper after testing positive to COVID-19 on December 16.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the visa controversy over a well-known vaccine sceptic and sportsman should never have come to this.

"There are so many areas whereby the Morrison government's character shows out, that it always responds too little and too late, that it never actually envisages a problem that's coming down the track, doesn't act until a problem becomes a crisis," he said.

"But what we have from a government is day after day after day not making a decision where it is now almost 60 days since his visa was granted. They have never answered the question of how is it that that visa was granted in the first place if he wasn't eligible because he wasn't fully vaccinated."

The world No.1 was named in the Australian Open draw on Thursday to face Serbian compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.

This story Novak Djokovic's visa cancelled first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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