The tennis star’s lawyer, at an urgent hearing before Judge Anthony Kelly of the Federal Circuit and Family Court on Friday night, said every minute was “extremely precious” in the “extraordinary circumstances” given the tournament begins on Monday.
Nick Wood SC sought an immediate injunction to stop Djokovic being removed from Australia and it was agreed that he will not be deported before the court proceedings are completed.
However, Judge Kelly ruled in favour of the government’s lawyer, Stephen Lloyd, to have Djokovic taken back into detention from 8am on Saturday, when he is due to be interviewed again by immigration officers.
Djokovic will be allowed to be at his lawyer’s office on Saturday, but will be under the supervision of two Australian Border Force officers and will be kept in detention on Saturday night. He will be allowed to return to be with his legal team on Sunday for the planned hearing over the visa cancellation.
Judge Kelly also ordered that the case be transfered to the Federal Court.
Mr Wood was scathing of the time it took the minister to make the decision to cancel the Serb’s visa, drawing attention to the fact it was only made late on Friday.
“We are where we are because of the time the minister has taken,” Mr Wood said at the urgent hearing on Friday night.
“We are moving as fast as we can.”
Mr Wood revealed one of the reasons Djokovic’s visa was cancelled was the concern over the Serb “exciting anti-vax sentiment” if he was allowed to stay in Australia.
Mr Wood described the reasoning as “patently irrational”, saying the decision did not consider whether removing Djokovic from the country would have a similar effect.
“The minister only considers the potential for exciting anti-vax sentiment if he (Djokovic) is present,” he said.
Minister cancels visa ‘in public interest’
It had been expected the Serbian tennis star would fight Mr Hawke’s decision, which was announced just before 6pm on Friday.
“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.
“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.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a statement on Friday evening addressing Mr Hawke’s decision, saying it was made to protect the “sacrifices” of Australians.
“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” the statement read.
“This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today.”
It is possible Djokovic will not be able to return to Australia for three years following the decision, as Judge Kelly confirmed in court on Monday when the possibility of the minister cancelling Djokovic’s visa was raised that such a ban could occur. However, the Australian Government could use its discretion to not apply that ban to the tennis star.
Djokovic was included in the Australian Open draw yesterday after no decision to allow or cancel his visa was made on Thursday.
Djokovic was detained by the Australian Border Force on his arrival in Melbourne last week, on the grounds that he did not qualify for a medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccine requirements.
Independent Tasmania Senator Jacqui Lambie this morning called for an end to the long wait.
“Why does this keep dripping out of the tap? Why hasn’t the minister done anything about this?” Senator Lambie said on Today.
“If he’s going to do him on character, because they believe that his submission has been lied on, then, you know, this is what we do when our kids play up at school. They get sent home.
“So maybe it’s about time to stop this debacle, finish it once and for all without the tap keep dripping and make up your mind.”
She asked why Immigration Minister Alex Hawke was “missing in action”.
“If you can’t make a decision on Novak Djokovic, goodness me, how are you guys running the country? This is an absolute shambles,” she said.
“Let alone what it’s making us look like to the rest of the world. It’s absolutely a shocker.”
Former Australian tennis star Sam Groth said the Djokovic situation was frustrating his fellow players.
“A lot of the players made the decision to get vaccinated, whether they wanted to or didn’t, to be able to come and play in the Australian Open,” he told Today.
“A lot of the players who made that decision just to be able to come down to Melbourne Park feel like it is one rule for Novak and one rule for everyone else.”
The Border Force is investigating whether Djokovic provided false information on his travel declaration.
The saga initially sparked a massive outcry in Djokovic’s native Serbia, with his family leading rallies in the streets, while in Melbourne, crowds gathered outside the hotel Djokovic was temporarily confined to over the weekend.
But that ardour has cooled somewhat after Djokovic admitted to breaking COVID-19 isolation rules in Serbia, an offence which could reportedly net him prison time.