Djokovic’s return: Australian Open players are 'not so happy'
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Novak Djokovic’s visa saga is set to drag on as the Australian government revealed they were investigating whether the world No 1 had lied on his travel entry form. Djokovic had his visa cancelled when arriving in Melbourne last week with a medical exemption granted by Tennis Australia, but won an appeal to have the decision overturned. The Immigration Minister is still yet to rule whether the Serb will have his visa revoked for a second time and be deported.
On Monday, Djokovic won an appeal to have his visa cancellation overturned and was freely allowed into Melbourne after spending the weekend in a government detention hotel.
The nine-time Australian Open champion announced last Tuesday that he was travelling to Melbourne with a medical exemption to compete in the Grand Slam tournament, but had his visa cancelled on Thursday morning following overnight interviews with border officials after landing at Tullamarine Airport, as he could not provide enough proof for valid medical exemption grounds.
But on Monday, the Federal Circuit Court ordered that the world No 1 have his visa reinstated on the grounds of “procedural fairness” as he was not given enough time to prove the validity of his exemption.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still has his personal power under the Migration Act to cancel Djokovic’s visa for a second time on the grounds of public health, but on Tuesday his office confirmed that Hawke was still deliberating over decision.
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“In line with due process, Minister Hawke will thoroughly consider the matter,” a spokesperson said on Tuesday afternoon.
”As the issue is ongoing, for legal reasons it is inappropriate to comment further.”
Although both parties consented to Judge Anthony Kelly’s ruling, the federal government stands by its decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa as recovery from Covid-19 infection in the last six months – the grounds for the Serb’s medical exemption granted by Tennis Australia – is not deemed a valid reason to be exempt from being vaccinated by the federal government.
The court did not rule on that matter, with the 20-time Major champion’s visa reinstated after the federal government accepted they failed to provide him with procedural fairness when making the decision to revoke the visa and deport him last Thursday.
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But Djokovic could still miss the upcoming Australian Open, with less than a week to go until the first Grand Slam tournament of the year kicks off, as the federal government has revealed they are investigating whether the 34-year-old lied on his Australian Travel Declaration form.
Sources confirmed the government were looking into a discrepancy on the form, on which Djokovic said he had not travelled in the 14 days prior to arriving in Australia on January 6.
However, the world No 1 had travelled from his home of Serbia to Spain in this period, spending Christmas at home and being seen in Cadiz, Spain on December 31.
On the form, all travellers are asked whether they have “travelled or will travel in the 14 days prior to your flight to Australia”, and are warned that “giving false or misleading information is a serious offence. You may also be liable to a civil penalty for giving false or misleading information”, with a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment.
The 86-time tour title winner has already informed border officials that Tennis Australia completed the form on his behalf, but it is not known whether this will work in Djokovic’s favour.
While a decision on the 34-year-old’s visa still hangs in the balance, New Zealand’s former immigration minister shed some light on a potential outcome as he said Djokovic’s visa should be cancelled.
Sir Kerry Burke said: “Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has the power, under Australian law, to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa. No amount of comment by Judge Anthony Kelly can deny the minister’s power.
“If the law requires everybody entering Australia to have two COVID-19 vaccinations, with appropriate time separation between the first and the second and, if Djokovic cannot meet this test, then his attempt to stay in Australia must fail. That will be minister Hawke’s call and it should be made.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s Prime Minister spoke with Serbian PM Ana Brnabic on Tuesday in what Scott Morrison’s office called a “constructive call”.
The Australia PM is said to have explained Australia’s border policy to Brnabic, stating it was non-discriminatory and was crucial in protecting Australia during the pandemic.
A statement said: “They both agreed to stay in contact on the issue, and to further strengthen the bilateral relationship.”
It came after the Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday that Serbian bodies were “doing everything to see that the harassment of the world’s best tennis player is brought to an end as soon as possible.”
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