The federal government is still deciding whether or not to deport Novak Djokovic, as the delayed Australian Open draw finally gets underway.
All eyes are on Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke as he weighs up whether to kick Novak Djokovic out of Australia.
The decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa last week was overturned in the Federal Circuit Court on Monday but the Minister still has the final say on whether the tennis star is allowed to stay in the country.
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After Judge Anthony Kelly handed down his verdict the federal government said it was still considering cancelling Djokovic’s visa, saying it had the power to do so despite the court’s ruling.
Government lawyer Christopher Tran had flagged with the court the Immigration Minister could consider whether to exercise “the personal power of cancellation” — which could mean Djokovic would be unable to return to Australia for three years.
However, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed to reporters on Thursday that Hawke is yet to make a decision on whether to deport Djokovic
Djokovic is No. 1 seed at Aus Open
Despite his pending deportation, Novak Djokovic is officially in the Australian Open draw and has been named the No. 1 seed.
The Serbian will face countryman Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round — if he’s allowed to remain in the country.
PM confirms no decision had been made
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is yet to make a decision on whether to deport Novak Djokovic after his visa scandal.
“I will refer to Minister Hawke’s most recent statement in that position hasn’t changed,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Thursday.
“These are personal ministerial powers able to be exercised by Minister Hawke.
“I don’t propose to make any further comment at this time.”
Aus Open draw delayed
The Australian Open draw, which was scheduled to get underway at 3pm local time, was abruptly delayed until further notice on Thuesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called a press conference for 3.45pm AEDT.
Although many tennis pundits assumed the Morrison presser would address the Djokovic visa scandal, it turned out to be a standard post-national cabinet update.
News.com.au understands that no decision has been made on the Serbian star.
It was later revealed the Australian Open draw ceremony would take place at 4.15pm local time, with the world No. 1 included.
Andrews’ blunt message to Djoker
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said there was a simple solution to Djokovic’s conundrum.
“Just get vaccinated,” he said at a press conference on Thursday, as he again pinned the responsibility to sort out the mess on the federal government.
“That’s what I’ve done, that’s what my kids have done.
“That’s what … 93 per cent of our community has done. We’ve had to make some difficult decisions along the way to get to those numbers.”
Andrews also said the Australian Open is “bigger than any one person”, adding: “Just like the safety of our community is bigger than any one person.”
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese slammed the federal government over the visa debacle, accusing it of gross “incompetence”.
Speaking at a press conference in Rockhampton, Queensland, Albanese said: “Australia has a policy of not allowing unvaccinated people into Australia. The government is yet to explain how that occurred. And this has been a debacle yet again.
“What Australians today will be wondering: How long is the focus group taking in order for the government to get the answer before it responds to this issue?
“Novak Djokovic was fully aware that the Australian government’s position was you got a visa to this country on the basis that you were fully vaccinated. How is it that the visa was issued in the first place? That is something that has not been answered by this government and that’s something that has Australians shaking their heads.
“This government that’s had the grand slam of failures. It failed on tracing, failed on testing, failed on vaccines and failed on purpose-built quarantine. And now to add to that grand slam, we have the Novak Djokovic debacle which quite frankly is causing enormous international embarrassment.”
Novak trains on Rod Laver
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was spotted training on Rod Laver Arena in hot conditions ahead of Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision on his deportation.
Report: Novak under fresh investigation
Fresh reports emerged on Thursday claiming Spanish authorities are investigating Djokovic over his arrival into the country.
The tennis star said his agent incorrectly ticked “no” on a form asking if he had travelled in the 14 days before leaving for Australia, when in fact he had gone from Serbia to Spain in that time, where he practised ahead of the year’s first grand slam.
Spanish publication COPE reports agencies are looking into whether he entered the country illegally.
Tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg revealed Spains’s policy stipulates “unvaccinated tourists” are not allowed to enter the country and he’d need to prove his work was “essential” to get in.
Fellow tennis reporter Gaspar Ribeiro Lanca tweeted: “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.”
James Franey of the Daily Mail tweeted: “Novak Djokovic faces fresh allegations he broke Covid travel rules — this time when he visited Marbella last month, Spanish diplomats say. Spain’s government has ordered a police investigation. Djokovic’s team declined to comment.”
It means Djokovic is under investigation by three countries: Australia, Serbia and Spain. Serbia is investigating whether he broke rules around Covid isolation after he admitted to attending an interview and photo shoot even after testing positive.
In late December and early January the Soto Tennis Academy, based in Sotogrande in Spain, uploaded several videos to its official Twitter page showing Djokovic was practising there.
On January 4, the Tennis Head website reported: “Djokovic is still training in Marbella, Spain on the same surface and with the official balls for the Australian Open.”
Marbella is about a 45-minute drive from Sotogrande.
Djokovic’s trip to Spain comes after he was seen in Belgrade on Christmas.
Djokovic may be OK if he is considered a resident of Spain. The 20-time major winner bought a house in Marbella, on the south coast of Spain, in 2020, reportedly making the move from his previous base in Monte Carlo on the French Riviera.
Decision to be made after Novak’s huge admission
Journalist turned radio broadcaster Neil Breen believes Mr Hawke will cancel Djokovic’s visa — sparking yet another legal challenge.
“There is word the Govt will cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa today – and that will lead to this scenario. His legal team will file an injunction, which will be heard tomorrow. Djokovic will be drawn to play in Oz Open as top seed,” Breen tweeted.
“Injunction will be granted – case heard next week.
“He will then play, meaning he could be thrown out mid-tournament if court upholds Minister’s decision. Fun times ahead.”
Political journalist Paul Bongiorno reports Mr Hawke will kick Djokovic out.
“I am hearing @AlexHawkeMP will boot out the Joker tomorrow,” Bongiorno tweeted on Wednesday night.
Djokovic released a statement on Instagram on Wednesday, admitting he knowingly attended an interview and photo-shoot with French newspaper L’Equipe while Covid-positive. His reasoning for going ahead with the 33-minute engagement was because he “didn’t want to let the journalist down”, calling it an “error of judgment”.
“I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment,” he wrote.
Djokovic also admitted to incorrectly filling out his Australian Travel Declaration form when he ticked a box saying he had not travelled in the 14 days before flying to Australia, despite proof he had gone from Serbia to Spain in the two weeks before departing for Melbourne.
However, the world No. 1 said his agent filled the form out for him. “This was a human error and certainly not deliberate,” Djokovic said.
Mum leaps to Novak’s defence
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.
Djokovic 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.
Appearing on Sunrise on Thursday, Djokovic’s mother Dijana addressed her son’s unwillingness to be vaccinated.
“Novak is 34-35, even me as a mother I don’t have any choice to make pressure on him,” she said.
“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.”
Djokovic’s family thanked fans for their support and defended his right to be in Australia when they fronted reporters at a press conference in Belgrade earlier this week.
“Thank you to people all over the world, people have risen in defence of Novak, we have seen the footage in front of the detention centre,” his brother Djordje said.
“Novak is free, he practised on the courts. He went there to chase another title, with the best possible intent and all the documentation.
“Novak has been labelled many times, but all he stands for is freedom of choice. The justice has been done.
“Truth and justice came to the light. I would like to thank the justice system of Australia.”
Originally published as Live: Prime Minister makes no apologies as Novak Djokovic visa farce drags on