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Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his discretionary ministerial power late Friday afternoon to cancel the tennis star’s visa on the grounds of health and good order, saying it was in the public interest to do so.
“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 held in the public interest to do so,” Hawke said in a statement on Jan. 14.
The decision was announced at around 6 p.m. on Friday—a common tactic by politicians in the country who hope to bury stories over the weekend.
In an urgent hearing in the Federal Circuit Court Friday night, Djokovic’s lawyers sought an injunction against his deportation until a further hearing on Sunday.
As part of Judge Anthony Kelly’s court order, Djokovic will be required to attend a meeting with immigration officials on Saturday, where he will be detained.
Judge Kelly was the judge who originally reinstated the tennis star’s visa last week, deeming the cancellation “unreasonable” because the player had not been given enough time to respond to officials.
Djokovic was spared detention Friday night, but is expected to be detained at the same immigration hotel he was at last week.
His team are considering the grounds for challenging his visa cancellation in a formal application to be filed on Saturday.
Djokovic had applied for a medical exemption to enter Australia to compete in the Australian Open tennis tournament because he is unvaccinated against COVID-19.
He contended he should be granted the exemption because he had tested positive in December.
The tennis world number one player was detained by the Australian Border Force upon arrival on Jan. 6 and had his visa cancelled because he did not meet Australia’s entry requirements that overseas arrivals must be fully vaccinated.
Australia’s overseas quarantine-free border entry requirements currently require visa holders be double-vaccinated or show acceptable proof they can’t be vaccinated.
The Australian Open begins on Monday, when he was slated to play Serbian compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Djokovic’s visa cancellation was carried out because of public interest.
“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” he said in a statement on Friday. “That is what the [immigration] minister is doing in taking this action today.
“Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe, prior to COVID and now during the pandemic.”
Officials looked into potential discrepancies on Djokovic’s declaration form, which stated he did not travel out of the country in the two weeks before his flight to Australia.
The revelation that Djokovic had tested positive for COVID-19 in December also forced him to issue a public statement apologising for not isolating after getting his result.
In a statement posted to social media, the Serbian player also admitted to attending a media interview in Belgrade when he knew he had COVID-19.
“This was an error of judgement, and I accept I should have rescheduled this commitment,” Djokovic said. “I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I did not want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken.”
He said that he had felt obliged to do an interview and believed since he was asymptomatic and was practising social distancing that it would be alright.
Djokovic was filmed playing tennis in Serbia on Christmas Day and was later seen training in Spain on Dec. 31, both in the two-week window.
However, Djokovic has denied he was trying to mislead the government on the form, stating an agent had made an “administrative mistake” while filling out the form.
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