MELBOURNE (REUTERS) – The Australian government cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time on Friday (Jan 14), saying the tennis world No. 1 – who remains unvaccinated against Covid-19 – may pose a risk to the community.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used discretionary powers to again cancel the Serb’s visa, after a court quashed an earlier revocation and released him from immigration detention on Monday.
“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 in a statement.
Under the section of the Migration Act which the minister used to exercise his power to cancel the visa, Djokovic would not be able to secure a visa to come to Australia for three years, except in compelling circumstances that affect Australia’s interest.
The decision to again cancel the visa could also set up a second court battle by the Serbian tennis star.
Djokovic, the defending champion, had spent the early part of Friday on an empty court at Melbourne Park practising.
He had been included in Thursday’s draw as top seed and was due to face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic for his opening match, probably on Monday or Tuesday.
Earlier, Melbourne’s The Age newspaper cited a source in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party as saying that the government was “strongly leaning” towards revoking the visa again.
Djokovic, a vaccine sceptic, fuelled widespread anger in Australia when he announced last week he was heading to Melbourne for the Australian Open with a medical exemption to requirements for visitors to be inoculated against Covid-19.
On arrival, the Australian Border Force decided his exemption was invalid and put him in an immigration detention hotel alongside asylum seekers for several days.
A court on Monday allowed him to stay on the grounds that officials had been “unreasonable” in the way they handled his interview in a seven-hour process in the middle of the night when he was detained at the Melbourne airport.
Djokovic’s cause was not helped by a mistake in his entry declaration relating to overseas travel in the prior two weeks, which he attributed to his agent. He also acknowledged he should have rescheduled an interview and photoshoot for a French newspaper on Dec 18 while infected with Covid-19.
Australia has endured some of the world’s longest lockdowns, has a 90 per cent vaccination rate among adults, and has seen a runaway Omicron outbreak bring nearly a million cases in the last two weeks.
An online poll by the News Corp media group found that 83 per cent favoured the government trying to deport the tennis star.
“Absolutely, he should go. He hasn’t done the right thing and is being a bit cheeky about it,” said Venus Virgin Tomarz, 45, who lives in Melbourne.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said on morning television on Friday that visa decisions were a matter for the country’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, but the policy settings of the government overall were “crystal clear”.
“That is that people who enter Australia who are not Australian citizens should be double dose vaccinated unless they have a clear and valid medical exemption against that,” he said on Channel 9’s Today Show.
Some tennis players say Djokovic should be allowed to play, but not all have been supportive.
World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas criticised his behaviour.
“For sure he has been playing by his own rules,” Tsitsipas said in an interview with Indian broadcaster WION.
“Nearly everyone in the Australian Open had been vaccinated. But others chose to follow their own way which kind of makes the majority look like they’re all fools.”