Novak Djokovic could miss multiple Australian Opens – not just this year’s – because of his visa cancellation. But there’s a potential loophole.
Novak Djokovic’s participation in the 2022 Australian Open is in doubt, to put it mildly, following federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to cancel his visa.
While Djokovic is expected to appeal that decision, and, it’s a slim chance at best.
And that’s not all.
Mr Hawke used his powers under section 133C (3) of the Migration Act to rescind the world number one’s visa, citing “health” and “good order” grounds.
After an adverse decision under that part of the Migration Act, the affected person is unable to be granted a visa while offshore for a period of three years.
So if Mr Hawke’s decision withstands judicial review, Djokovic could be barred from playing in the 2023 and 2024 Australian Opens as well.
Fear not, Djoker fans, as there is room for an exception to be made for him.
The three-year ban can be waived in certain situations, including compelling circumstances that affect the interests of Australia, or compassionate circumstances that affect the interests of an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
Obviously, Djokovic is not an Australian citizen or resident. So next year, or in 2023, he would likely petition the government with the argument that his presence at the Australian Open would help the national interest.
Whether that argument is true or not is a matter of opinion.
“Djokovic can apply to the government to ask for the ban to be waived on compelling and compassionate grounds. I imagine if he wants to play in next year’s Australian Open, he may apply,” former deputy secretary of the Immigration Department Abul Rizvi told The Project on Friday night.
“I suspect whoever is the minister would probably allow that.”
Mr Rizvi also spoke at some length about the Djokovic legal team’s likely next moves.
“They will be seeking two things, I think,” he said.
“One, to argue the matter on legal grounds. Secondly, to ask the judge for permission for Mr Djokovic to be released on a bridging visa to enable him to participate in the Australian Open.
“That is a decision the judge would need to make over the weekend.”
There’s an additional complicating factor, however. Such a bridging visa would typically not allow the recipient to work.
“Playing tennis, some people may not regard it as work, but it is Mr Djokovic’s job,” Mr Rizvi said.
“(The judge) would need to consider those issues as well, whether he gets work rights with the bridging visa. That is an issue the judge will consider.
“If he thinks there is merit in Mr Djokovic’s argument, it makes sense to release him on a bridging visa while the appeal is considered.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in a statement after Mr Hawke’s decision was announced, stressed that the Covid pandemic had been “incredibly difficult” for every Australian but people had stuck together.
“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,” said Mr Morrison.
“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.”
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.
The nine-time Australian Open champion 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.
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