Djokovic heading back into detention,deportation on hold

Novak Djokovic is set to be detained on Saturday morning before a legal showdown to remain in Australia,with his lawyers claiming his visa was cancelled on the grounds the world No.1 is stoking anti-vaccination sentiment.

Djokovic is challenging Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to cancel his visa,announced late Friday,which has thrown his quest for a 10th Australian Open into turmoil days before the tournament begins on Monday.

Alex Hawke has cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa.

Alex Hawke has cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa.Alex Ellinghausen,Getty Images

After an emergency court hearing on Friday night prevented his immediate deportation,he is expected to appear at immigration offices or another location on Saturday morning and be formally detained. He cannot be removed from Australia while the legal action is afoot.

Mr Hawke said he had power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Djokovic “on health and good order grounds,on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.”

“This decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January 2022,quashing a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds,” he said.

“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.”

The personal powers granted to the Immigration Minister to cancel visas are extremely broad.

Djokovic’s lawyer Nick Wood,SC,foreshadowed in the Federal Circuit Court on Friday night the grounds on which the visa cancellation could be challenged.

Mr Wood told the court the minister had justified the cancellation on the basis Djokovic’s presence in Australia would excite anti-vaccination sentiment.

He said Mr Hawke had given no consideration whatsoever to what the forceable removal of Djokovic may have on anti-vaccination sentiment,adding it was “patently irrational”.

Mr Wood said the challenge was a question largely of “inferences to be drawn from the minister’s reasons” and rationality and perversity in approach to his decision-making.

Djokovic’s lawyers said they would file a formal application to the court and submissions on Saturday by midday.

The case has been transferred to Justice O’Callaghan in the Federal Court,who will hold a hearing on Saturday at 10.15am.

The decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa has thrown the tennis world No.1’s quest for a 10th Australian Open into turmoil with the tournament to begin on Monday.

His team was served documents at 6.03pm,after the decision was announced by Mr Hawke at 5.53pm. His lawyers were verbally informed at 5.35pm,about 20 minutes before the public announcement.

Novak Djokovic has had his visa cancelled by Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on 'health and good order grounds'.

If Djokovic doesn’t successfully appeal the decision,the laws dictate he would be banned from being granted another visa for three years – however this can be waived on “compassionate grounds” if he applies for another visa.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr Hawke had made the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa on the basis that it was in the public interest.

“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic,and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected. This is what the minister is doing in taking this action today,” Mr Morrison said.

“Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe,prior to COVID and now during the pandemic. Due to the expected ongoing legal proceedings,I will not be providing any further comment.”

Mr Hawke took four days to make the decision after theFederal Circuit Court ordered the unvaccinated Djokovic’s visa be reinstated over concerns he was not afforded enough time to get a lawyer when he arrived in Australia last week.

The decision comes after the Serbian tennis star’s positionbecame increasingly untenable when he apologised for taking part in a media interview while knowingly infected with COVID-19.

With the case to go to back to court,the 20-time grand slam winner’s legal team hope the matter can be heard in full over the weekend and finalised by Sunday,allowing him to play a match early next week if he beats the government for a second time.

The chief government whip,Bert van Manen,sent Coalition MPs a note on Friday night asking them not to comment on the case.

“Following the decision by the Minister for Immigration regarding Mr Djokovic,the PMO has asked colleagues refrain from any public comments as immigration decisions are sometimes preceded and followed by legal action,” he said.

“The PMO has asked that no public comment be made on today’s decision – only the Minister for Immigration Minister and Prime Minister will comment as required.”

Djokovic came to the country on the basis that he contracted COVID-19 in December,arguing prior infection of the virus in the past six months was a valid exemption for being unvaccinated.

But the federal government always disputed his arguments,saying Tennis Australia was warned players in his position would not be allowed into the country.

Djokovic on Wednesday apologised for an error of judgment for taking part in a media interview a day after receiving a positive test result and admitted that his Australian Travel Declaration form incorrectly stated he had not travelled in the 14 days prior to arriving in Australia despite being in Spain.

A match even the world No.1 could not win. Video by Tom Compagnoni.

In alengthy post on Instagram,Djokovic said he received a positive result on the night of December 17 after submitting the test the day before. But in his sworn court affidavit Djokovic said he was “tested and diagnosed” on December 16.

Djokovic said he “felt obliged” to go ahead and conduct an interview with French media organisationL’Equipe on December 18 because he “didn’t want to let the journalist down,but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken”.

“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period,on reflection,this was an error of judgement[sic] and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment,” he said.

Djokovic said he was making the social media post to address the “continuing misinformation about my activities and attendance at events in December in the lead up to my positive PCR COVID test result”.

In recent days,the Department of Home Affairs’ investigation into the tennis star widened to include hisbreach of isolation requirements in Serbia,theincorrect statements on his travel entry form andinconsistencies on the date of his COVID-19 test.

The opposition earlier on Friday accused the Morrison government of drawing out the process to distract from its other problems.

Labor’s shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers accused the government of “using this Novak Djokovic saga as a distraction from the shortages in our supermarkets,the shortages in our chemists,the shortages of workers”.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said Djokovic should never have been given a visa in November and it should “never have come to this”.

Anthony Galloway is foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Paul Sakkal is a Victorian political reporter for The Age.

Tammy Mills is the legal affairs reporter for The Age.

Marta Pascual Juanola is a breaking news reporter at The Age.

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