Novak Djokovic has sought an injunction to prevent the government from deporting him following today’s decision by Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to cancel his visa.
During a hastily scheduled late-night hearing in the Federal Circuit Court on Friday, Judge Anthony Kelly suggested an injunction until 4pm on Saturday to allow Djokovic’s legal team to make a written application.
Nicholas Wood SC, representing Djokovic, said the written application could actually be ready as soon as 10:15pm Melbourne time, and his team is expected to file its final submissions by midday on Saturday.
He suggested requiring the government’s lawyers to make their submissions by 10pm on Saturday, allowing a hearing to take place on Sunday.
Wood stressed that any legal proceedings would involve the “chewing up of time that is extreme precious, “every minute that we have before the tournament commences”.
“I don’t wish to be critical. The position we find ourselves in today is the product of being given reasons for decision material shortly after 6pm on a Friday. More than four days after the original decision was made,” he said.
“We are where we are because of the time the Minister has taken. We are moving as fast as we possibly can.
Wood said he wanted the matter to be decided in time for Djokovic to play on Monday night, should he succeed.
Hawke’s decision to cancel the visa was announced a bit before 6pm on Friday, and delivered in writing to Djokovic’s lawyers soon afterwards.
The Australian Open, for which Djokovic is the number one seed, begins on Monday.
Djokovic has not yet been taken back into custody and is expected to spend Friday night at a residential address. He has been asked to attend an interview with officials on Saturday morning.
Djokovic’s initial visa cancellation was overturned in court on Monday, but Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still had the final say on whether the world No. 1 is allowed to stay in the country.
Hawke was tasked with choosing whether the 34-year-old was a risk to the health and safety of the Australia community, but “lengthy further submissions” from Djokovic’s legal team delayed a decision.
And Hawke finally came to a decision on Friday afternoon, invoking his discretionary power and immediately seeking to deport the tennis star.
“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,” Hawke said in a statement.
“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 Morrison Government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic. 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.”
Djokovic’s lawyers are expected to seek an immediate injunction which would allow him to stay and play his first round of the Australian Open pending an expedited trial next week.
'Stop this debacle': Senator fires up
Earlier, Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie called on Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to make a decision over the Novak Djokovic visa saga, calling the situation an “absolute shambles”.
“Maybe it’s about time to stop this debacle, finish it once and for all,” Lambie said on Channel 9’s Today this morning.
“Make up your mind, Alex Hawke, and where are you? Missing in action? Make a decision.
“If you can’t make a decision on Novak Djokovic, goodness me, how are you guys running the country? This is an absolute shambles. Let alone what it’s making us look like in the face of the rest of the world. It’s absolutely a shocker.”
Shane Warne weighs in
Shane Warne has weighed into the scandal, taking to Twitter on Friday to say Australia is “entitled” to boot Djokovic out if he has misrepresented himself on border entry forms and mixed in public while Covid-positive.
“Novak is a great tennis player & one of the all time greats. No doubt. But he’s lied on entry forms, been out in public when he knew he had Covid & is now facing legal cases,” Warne tweeted. “He’s entitled to not be jabbed but Oz is entitled to throw him out! Agree?”
'Clearly lied': Djoker pile-on intensifies
US journalist Jemele Hill joined the Djokovic pile-on during a live cross with CNN on Friday (AEDT).
“If you are someone who lives in Australia, a country which has been under some of the stricter rules that we’ve seen worldwide, and you’ve had to be vaccinated, you’ve had to social distance, you’ve had to adhere to all these different regulations,” Hill said.
“And here comes this guy who clearly lied on his application about when he travelled to another country.
“There are still lots of questions about when he actually contracted Covid last month. He’s clearly trying to skirt the rules.”
Players have also raised concerns. Australian Open fifth seed Andrey Rublev told Russian news agency TASS: “The situation with Novak is very confusing. We don’t know all the details.
“Personal agreements do not give an athlete the right to cross the border, the law of the country is the law.
“None of us would want to get into such a situation. I can only shrug my shoulders and regret that instead of tennis, everyone is discussing these things.”
Ex-Aussie star Sam Groth said the situation was causing drama in the locker room.
“It’s starting to affect the players, the way they prepare, yesterday they were waiting around an extra hour to find out who they play,” Groth told Today.
“A lot of the players made the decision to get vaccinated, whether they wanted to or not, to come down to play the Australian Open.
“I think a lot of the players that made the decision just to be able to come down to Melbourne Park are now feeling like it’s one rule for Novak and one rule for everybody else.”
'A tragedy': Djokovic affair embarrasses Melbourne
The Committee for Melbourne, an organisation that represents and advocates for the city’s arts and business sectors, has hit out over the Djokovic affair and its impact on the Victorian capital.
The Committee called the situation “embarrassing” and a “debacle” as chief executive Martine Letts pointed the finger at all parties involved for their mishandling of his visa mess. Speaking to The Age, Letts said the saga reflected poorly on Melbourne.
“The Djokovic visa and vaccination saga has reflected poorly on all those involved, which is a tragedy considering the excellence of our infrastructure and tournament planning,” Letts said.
“No matter who is right or wrong, (the saga) has shown a vindictive and intolerant face of Australia which we can ill afford as we seek to open up again to the world.
“As Australia’s global events and sporting capital, we really want to be seen as competent and welcoming as we emerge from being one of the world’s most locked-down jurisdictions in 2020 and 2021.
“We cannot let the Australian Open debacle set the tone for the rest of this and future years and leave the door wide open for others to step in and take our (major events) crown, which they will take every opportunity to do.”
Cold water poured on Novak rumour
Spanish authorities have rejected a rumour they are investigating Djokovic over his recent travel into the country.
Reports emerged on Thursday the 20-time major winner was being investigated after he recently travelled from Serbia to Spain, where he practised ahead of the Australian Open.
Tennis reporter Gaspar Ribeiro Lanca tweeted on Thursday: “Breaking news: COPE reports that the Spanish Government is now investigating whether unvaccinated Novak Djokovic entered the country illegally in late December. Since September 20, citizens from Serbia need a vaccine certificate OR a special exemption to enter Spanish territory but so far the authorities say they did not receive any request from Djokovic.”
However, cold water has been poured on suggestions Djokovic is under the microscope in Spain. “The news is false. Neither the government has ordered it nor is there any police investigation open on the athlete,” a spokesperson for Spain’s interior ministry told Politico.
Blame game erupts as Djoker's plan revealed
Djokovic will reportedly challenge any decision to deport him in court, should Minster Hawke decide to boot the world No 1 out.
The Age reports a member of Djokovic’s camp said legal action will immediately be launched if he is told to leave the country, even after having his visa cancellation overturned in court on Monday.
According to the report, Team Djokovic is hopeful any legal challenge would be resolved by Sunday, allowing the Serbian to continue in the Australian Open, which starts on Monday, if he is successful.
Meanwhile, the Herald Sun reports government sources are blaming Djokovic and his camp for using delaying tactics to draw the saga out.
Visa saga rolls on
Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, received a medical exemption to compete in the year’s first grand slam but when he touched down in Melbourne last week, was told by the Australian Border Force he had insufficient evidence to prove his exemption was justified.
The nine-time Australian Open champion was kept in a Melbourne hotel until the end of Monday’s hearing, when he was released from detention.
Djokovic’s exemption was based on his and Tennis Australia’s belief that having contracted Covid-19 in the past six months was a valid reason to not be vaccinated.
Djokovic’s family thanked fans for their support and defended his right to be in Australia. Speaking to Sunrise earlier this week, his mum Dijana said: “Novak is 34-35, even me as a mother I don’t have any choice to make pressure on him.
“He has his own philosophy of his life. If he thinks like that, I can just say OK.
“I know that Novak is the most healthiest guy in the world, like a sportsman. He takes care of his life and his body so much that nobody can even imagine how. He’s so dedicated to this sport and dedicated to what he’s doing. He’s playing tennis and he wants to stay on the court and I know he is doing everything to take care of his body to stay healthy.
“I don’t know what is the problem if he doesn’t want to get vaccinated. That’s his choice and each person in this world has the opportunity to make a choice. This is like human rights. You cannot pursue him or pressure him to do this.”
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