Australia’s PM hints Novak Djokovic WILL be booted out of the country despite the star being included in the Australian Open draw – but officials STILL haven’t decided as visa farce continues
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirms no decision has been made on Djokovic
- Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is deciding whether to cancel Serbian’s visa
- Mr Morrison said it was a matter for Mr Hawke’s department on Thursday
- Australian Open officials then announced Djokovic as the number one seed
- Competition’s draw was delayed until after Mr Morrison’s press conference
- Novak Djokovic was pictured looking tense at tennis practice on Thursday
- The world no. 1 is awaiting the decision over whether or not he will be deported
- Spain and Serbia are now investigating the tennis playing amid the visa scandal
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison hinted today that Novak Djokovic will be deported, despite the tennis star being included in the Australian Open draw.
The official draw was held on Thursday in Melbourne, although uncertainty remained about whether the government will cancel the top seed’s visa for a second time.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is currently weighing exercising his power to revoke Djokovic’s visa over concern about the star’s medical exemption from Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison hinted today that Novak Djokovic (pictured training on Thursday in Melbourne) will be deported, despite the tennis star being included in the Australian Open draw
Speaking before the announcement of any decision by Mr Hawke, Mr Morrison refused to comment directly on Djokovic’s visa but said that he expected immigration officials ‘to implement the policy of the government’.
Australia only allows people who are fully vaccinated – or those with medical exemptions – to enter the country.
The unvaccinated world number one, top seed and defending champion is looking to clinch a 10th title at Melbourne Park and to realise his dream of a record 21st Grand Slam.
The 34-year-old, who was out practicing at the Rod Laver Arena earlier on Thursday, drew unseeded fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic for his opening round match, expected to be played on Monday or Tuesday.
But the openly vaccine-sceptic Djokovic’s championship hopes remain in peril as Mr Hawke pondered whether to revoke his visa for a second time and throw him out of the country.
Something appeared to ring the alarm bells of Djokovic and his team earlier on Thursday while he was practising at the Rod Laver arena.
Despite having booked the court for two hours, the player packed up and left after being shown a text, according to German news outlet Bild. This led to speculation that he may have received a message from immigration officials.
Hawke is considering using his powers to annul the visa, his spokesman has said, although ‘lengthy further submissions’ from Djokovic’s legal team have delayed a decision.
In a lengthy press conference, Mr Morrison said no decision had yet been taken.
‘These are personal ministerial powers able to be exercised by (Immigration) Minister Alex Hawke and I don’t propose to make any further comment at this time,’ Mr Morrison said.
He referred reporters to a statement Mr Hawke made earlier in the week where the minister said he was sifting through a mountain of evidence from Djokovic’s lawyers, who are desperately fighting for him to stay in the country for the grand slam.
Tournament referee Wayne McKewen (C) and tournament director Craig Tiley (L) holds the men’s draw for the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 13, 2022
In a statement, Mr Hawke’s office said they were looking over further information provided by Djokovic’s legal team to reinforce his eligiblity for his current visa.
‘Mr Djokovic’s lawyers have recently provided lengthy further submissions and supporting documentation said to be relevant to the possible cancellation of Mr Djokovic’s visa,’ they said.
‘Naturally, this will affect the time frame for a decision.’
Mr Morrison was asked by a reporter on Thursday afternoon hypothetically if someone were to attempt to enter Australia unvaccinated whether they would be determined as a health risk to the public.
‘All I will simply say is the reason we have had since 15 December where fully vaccinated eligible visa holders could travel to Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption and enter those states allowing them to enter quarantine free, the individual has to show they are double vaccinated or must provide acceptable proof that they can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons,’ he replied.
‘That’s the policy which hasn’t changed. That is the policy and we would expect authorities to be implementing the policy of the government when it comes to those matters.
‘That relates to people who are coming to Australia. These are non-citizens, non-residents,’ he said.
‘If you’re not a citizen or resident, the health rules we have in place to protect our borders and our border protection policies have been central to the government’s achievements when it comes and Australia’s achievements generally inhabit one of the lowest death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rate in the country.’
Speaking before the announcement of any decision by Mr Hawke, Scott Morrison (pictured on Thursday) refused to comment directly on Djokovic’s visa but said that he expected immigration officials ‘to implement the policy of the government’
Djokovic flew into Melbourne airport on January 5 carrying a vaccine exemption because of a claimed positive PCR test result on December 16.
Border agents rejected his exemption, saying a recent infection was an insufficient justification, tore up his visa and placed him in a detention centre.
But Djokovic’s high-powered legal team overturned the visa decision in court on Monday on a procedural matter related to his airport interview.
Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper quoted an unnamed government source as saying that allowing Djokovic to stay in Australia without a Covid-19 vaccine would set a dangerous precedent.
The source was quoted as saying Morrison’s government was expected to act despite any international ‘backlash’ because cancelling the visa would be line with Australia’s efforts to control the fast-spreading virus.
The government’s legal battle with Djokovic is politically charged in a country that has endured nearly two years of some of the toughest Covid-19 restrictions in the world, and in the run-up to May general elections.
‘Australia has a policy of not allowing unvaccinated people into Australia. It is beyond my comprehension how we have got to this point,’ Labor Party opposition leader Anthony Albanese said in an interview Thursday.
‘How is it that Novak Djokovic was able to come here?’
Prime Mininster Scott Morrison said the federal government are yet to make a decision on deporting tennis champion Novak Djokovic
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic pictured at a booth of the Australian Border Force at the airport in Melbourne on January 5
LEFT: A photo uploaded to Twitter shows Djokovic with handball player Petar Djordjic in Belgrade. RIGHT: Novak Djokovic is pictured playing on court in Marbella on January 4
Novak Djokovic is now accused of breaking SPAIN’S Covid rules
By James Franey and Inderdeep Bains for the Daily Mail
Novak Djokovic was facing questions over travels to Australia, Spain and his homeland last night after he admitted breaking Serbia’s Covid-19 isolation rules.
Along with the visa situation swamping tennis’s world number one in Australia, where he still faces the threat of deportation, Djokovic yesterday admitted to attending events in Belgrade while infected with the virus.
And the Daily Mail can reveal there are concerns he may have broken Spain’s emergency travel regulations when visiting Marbella last month.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner, 34, yesterday took to Instagram to confess he attended an interview with a French sports newspaper after testing positive for Covid.
He said: ‘I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down.’
He added that attending the engagement was an ‘error of judgment’ and he should have rescheduled.
But the star is also under fire for posing maskless when he presented awards to some of Serbia’s top young tennis talent on December 17.
Djokovic faces further scrutiny after it emerged last night his trip to Spain may have fallen foul of the country’s entry requirements.
Spanish diplomatic sources confirmed he failed to seek approval before leaving Belgrade after Christmas. The government last night ordered an investigation.
The revelations will pile pressure on Djokovic, who could still be kicked out of Australia over his lack of Covid vaccine and false travel declaration.
He told authorities he had not travelled in the 14 days before his arrival on January 6, despite several social media posts showing he had been in Spain.
Djokovic’s PR team declined to comment, citing the case’s ‘sensitivity and complexity’.
As Covid-related hospitalisations rise in Melbourne, the Victorian state government said Thursday it would cap capacity at the Australian Open at 50 percent.
Spectators must be vaccinated or have a medical exemption.
Face masks will also be mandatory at the opening Grand Slam of the year except when eating or drinking, and those watching must socially distance while indoors.
The tournament starts Monday.
As the Omicron variant races through Australia’s population, Djokovic’s anti-vaccine stance has come under scrutiny.
The tennis ace described reports about his post-infection outings in Serbia as ‘misinformation’ in an Instagram post Wednesday.
On the day of his claimed positive test in Serbia, he appeared at a ceremony to honour him with stamps bearing his image. The following day he attended a youth tennis event. He appeared at both apparently without a mask.
Djokovic said he only received the PCR test result after attending the children’s tennis event on December 17.
But he admitted that he also went ahead with an interview with French sports daily L’Equipe on December 18.
‘On reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment,’ Djokovic said.
The journalist who carried out the L’Equipe interview, Franck Ramella, said Djokovic’s representatives had told him not to ask about Covid-19 vaccinations.
The reporter said he had been unaware at the time of the interview that Djokovic was Covid-positive.
The tennis star also admitted to a mistake on his Australian travel declaration, in which a box was ticked indicating that he had not, or would not, travel in the 14 days before flying to Melbourne.
In fact, social media posts and reports show he flew from Serbia to Spain during that period. Djokovic blamed his support team for this.
‘My agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia,’ he said.
Leading immigration lawyer Christopher Levingston said the immigration minister could cancel Djokovic’s visa because the travel declaration was incorrectly completed.
But the minister may also act if he believes Djokovic may flout Australian public health orders, based on his failure to self-isolate in Serbia, he said.
Various options to appeal would be open for both Djokovic and the government, but at the end of the day, the immigration minister can exercise his personal power to cancel the visa, the lawyer said.
Djokovic could also be facing trouble at home. Under Serbian law, where anyone Covid positive must isolate for 14 days, a breach of the measures can carry a maximum sentence of three years behind bars.
And in Australia, lying on travel documentation can result in a 12-month prison sentence, while providing false information to to the Federal Circuit Court under the Crimes Act can carry a maximum jail sentence of five years.
This could be of concern to the tennis star, who wrote in a sworn court affidavit he was ‘tested and diagnosed’ for Covid on December 16 – contradicting his claim he was told of his positive result on the 17th after attending the event with children.
Key moments in Novak Djokovic’s Aussie Open bid
By Karen Sweeney in Melbourne for Australian Associated Press
Tennis world No.1 Novak Djokovic is still focused on defending his Australian Open title and winning a record-breaking 21st men’s grand slam tournament but the road to Melbourne has been bumpy and the path is not yet clear.
October/November – Djokovic applies for a temporary visa to enter Australia and compete in the 2022 Australian Open.
November 18 – Granted a Temporary Activity (subclass 408) visa.
December 14 – Attends a basketball match in Belgrade, Serbia, where attendees contract COVID-19.
December 16 – Djokovic is ‘tested and diagnosed’ with COVID-19. Documents show he was tested at 1.05pm and the result was returned at 8.19pm.
December 17 – Attends events in Belgrade, including a trophy presentation for junior tennis players. Pictured not wearing a mask and posing side-by-side indoors with a large group of children.
December 18 – Djokovic says he learned of the positive test and cancelled several scheduled events. Goes ahead with an interview and photoshoot with French newspaper L’Equipe, saying he felt ‘obliged’ because ‘I didn’t want to let the journalist down’.
December 22 – Returns a negative PCR test.
December 25 – Filmed by a fan playing tennis on a street in Belgrade. He is also photographed alongside Serbian handball player Petar Djordjic.
December 30 – Tennis Australia notify Djokovic he has been granted a temporary medical exemption, allowing him to play in the Australian Open despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19. The exemption was granted on the basis of a previous infection, based on the opinion of one panel of medical experts and reviewed by another.
December 31 – Filmed training at a tennis academy in Sotogrande, Spain. The academy post photos on its Instagram of him posing for pictures with fans a day later.
January 1 – Authorises his agent to complete his Australian Travel Declaration. The document says Djokovic had not travelled in the 14 days prior to his intended arrival in Australia. Later admits the form contained an error in not acknowledging his travel between Serbia and Spain. Djokovic said his agent was notified by the Department of Home Affairs that the declaration had been assessed and he met the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival.
January 2 – Granted a border travel permit by the Victorian government.
January 4 – Announces on Instagram he is ‘heading Down Under with an exemption’. The post was made shortly before he departed for Melbourne, via Dubai. News of his impending arrival sparks controversy in Australia.
January 5 – Arrives in Melbourne at 11.30pm.
January 6 – Australian Border Force officials detain Djokovic. After a series of early morning interviews his visa is cancelled at 7.29am. His lawyers are granted a temporary injunction by the Federal Circuit Court. Djokovic is taken to the Park Hotel, which is being used as an immigration detention centre.
January 7 – Spends Orthodox Christmas in his hotel room.
January 10 – After a lengthy hearing, a judge quashes the government’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa after lawyers concede the decision was unreasonable in the circumstances. Judge Anthony Kelly rules Djokovic be paid his costs and freed from immigration detention. Government lawyers note Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still has a personal power to revoke Djokovic’s visa.
January 11 – Djokovic posts a photo of himself training at Rod Laver Arena. ‘Despite all that has happened in the past week, I want to stay and to try to compete at the Australian Open,’ he says. Questions are raised over his Australian Travel Declaration after documents released by the court revealed he answered ‘no’ to the question about travel in the 14 days before his arrival.
January 12 – Posts a statement on Instagram to correct ‘continuing misinformation’. He admits knowingly going through with the L’Equipe interview while positive for COVID-19. He also apologises for the ‘administrative mistake’ on the travel declaration. Mr Hawke’s office say the minister is still considering whether to exercise his power to revoke Djokovic’s visa.
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