Tennis player Novak Djokovic’s appeal against having his visa reinstated has been upheld in Australia’s federal court.
After a hastily called appearance from both legal teams, a brief hearing was held following Immigration Secretary Alex Hawke’s decision to annul Djokovic’s visa a second time on “health and order” grounds.
In it, Judge David O’Callaghan confirmed that the case was transferred from the Federal Circuit Court and that the main hearing will take place on Sunday at 9.30am (10.30pm Saturday UK time).
Djokovic will play his first round match at the Australian Open against fellow Serbian player Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday.
A timetable was agreed that Djokovic would be arrested for a meeting with immigration officials before meeting his lawyers. He was then expected to be held overnight, possibly back at the Park Hotel.
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It turns out Hawke was not basing his finding on the validity or invalidity of Djokovic’s TUE, but on the potential of his continued presence in the country to foment anti-vaccination and a threat to public order.
Hawke cited Djokovic’s status as a “high profile unvaccinated person who has publicly stated that he is opposed to vaccination against Covid-19” and said he had “publicly expressed anti-vaccination sentiment”.
Hawke explained his belief that not canceling the visa could encourage Australians not to take the vaccine, increasing pressure on the public health system.
“I think his continued presence in Australia could pose a risk to the good order of the Australian community,” he said.
Hawke gave significant weight to Djokovic’s admission that he attended an interview with l’Equipe last month despite knowing he had tested positive for Covid-19, arguing Australians could follow suit.
“I have also taken into account that in the past Mr Djokovic has evidently disregarded the need to isolate after receiving a positive Covid-19 test result,” he said.
Djokovic’s release from custody on Monday led to police pepper spraying his supporters and Hawke cited the possibility of civil unrest, although his lawyers will argue the same could result from his deportation.
Hawke, meanwhile, dismissed Djokovic’s arguments that canceling his visa would be seen as either politically motivated or jeopardize the viability of the country hosting the Australian Open.
Djokovic had been waiting since a judge overturned the original decision on Monday to find out if Hawke would use his powers to reimpose the sentence.
And yesterday just before 6pm (7am UK time) Hawke released a statement saying: “Today I exercised my power under Section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to withdraw Mr Novak Djokovic’s visa on grounds of health and to cancel good order as this was in the public interest.
“This decision followed orders by the Federal Court and Family Court dated January 10, 2022, overturning a previous annulment decision on procedural fairness grounds.
“In making this decision I have carefully considered the information provided to me by the Home Office, the Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic.
“Morrison’s government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The decision means Djokovic also faces a three-year ban from the country, which could mean he never plays at the Australian Open again, although that can be waived.
The situation has dominated global news since Djokovic was arrested at Melbourne Airport last Thursday morning after Border Force officers concluded he did not have the correct paperwork to enter the country.
The nine-time Australian Open champion had been granted an exemption from the strict coronavirus vaccination rules for those entering the country by Tennis Australia after testing positive last month.
Two other people – Czech player Renata Voracova and an official – with the same exception were later told they could not stay in the country and left before judge Anthony Kelly ruled in Djokovic’s favor on Monday.
Djokovic went straight to Melbourne Park upon his release and had been training every day since, but his hopes of staying in the country seemed to dwindle over the week after revelations about his behavior following his positive test.
He also admitted his declaration form falsely claimed he had not traveled in the 14 days prior to his trip to Australia, which he attributed to a mistake made by his agent.
There has been heavy criticism of the way the Australian government has handled the situation, but public opinion was adamant that Djokovic be sent home.
Sympathy was also scant among his teammates, many of whom were skeptical about taking the vaccine. World number four Stefanos Tsitsipas told Indian news channel WION: “A very small group have decided to go their own way and it kind of makes sense. The majority looks like they’re all idiots.”
Andy Murray struck a more forgiving tone after beating Reilly Opelka in Sydney, saying: “It’s not a good situation. I’m not going to sit here and start kicking Novak while he’s down. It’s not a good situation for anyone.
“I just want it to be resolved obviously. I think it would be good for everyone if that were the case. It just seems like it’s dragging on for quite a while now and it’s not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak.
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