In a sensational twist, Federal Circuit Court judge Anthony Kelly has ordered the immediate release of tennis star Novak Djokovic from detention after overturning the federal government’s decision to cancel his visa.
The judge told the hearing that the decision to cancel the temporary visa was 'unreasonable' and will be quashed with the respondent, the Minister for Home Affairs, to pay his costs and to take 'all necessary to steps' to release Djokovic immediately and return his passport and all other personal effects.
Proceedings regarding Djokovic’s visa application were rushed through in the hope that he will be able to defend his title and compete in the Australian Open.
A failure to succeed in this case could have caused Djokovic significant problems in accessing other countries for ATP tournaments and impact his ranking as Number One.
The hearing got off to a slow start, with the court suffering repeated interruptions – first from users gatecrashing the online event with inappropriate content, and then again as the bandwidth for the hearing was exceeded.
Lengthy delays in streaming service was more than just an annoyance for the public trying to watch, with one lawyer commenting that there was a concern about ‘open justice’ if the public could not access the feed.
“But the risk is high that if the technology [for streaming court hearings] fails, you have zero open justice, you have secret justice. And in a case like this, that can lead to rumours, speculation and innuendo about what’s really going on,” said Thomson Geer lawyer, Justin Quill, who is representing several media organisations.
The need for ‘open justice’ is even more important, as the Djokovic case has international interest, particularly from Serbia.
During proceedings, Judge Kelly appeared as frustrated as the Djokovic team, at one point declaring, “What more could this man have done?”
It has already come to light that Tennis Australia, responsible for organising the visa, had repeatedly asked the Department of Home Affairs to check that everything was in order for their players before they boarded their aircraft to Australia. The request was refused by department officials, setting in play the diplomatic mess unfolding in Victoria.
The denial was issued by the Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt and addressed directly to Craig Tiley, CEO of Tennis Australia.
“Health and Home Affairs are unable to provide or review certificates. Certificates are reviewed at check in,” said the letter.
From the correspondence detailed in court, the paperwork appeared to be in order as far as Djokovic and Tennis Australia were concerned. When Djokovic’s arrival became public, a storm of angry public opinion took over the conversation in Victoria, with blame directed at Premier Daniel Andrews and the inconsistency of health orders between sports stars and the general public.