Australia’s political class and mainstream media commentators have wasted no time congratulating themselves on kicking out World No.1 tennis champion Novak Djokovic.
Immigration minister Alex Hawke ultimately conceded that the tennis star did have a valid exemption, but deported Djokovic him because he deemed Novak's presence in the country a threat of spreading dissent against the government.
"A lot of Australians were really angry in the beginning when Novak got an exemption because, as I said over 90% at least in Victoria, are double vaccinated and that's not because people chose to, it's because pretty much to live life here you need to be fully vaccinated so people felt like they were forced to get vaccinated," Rebel News reporter and Chief Australian Correspondent Avi Yemini told Fox News in an interview this morning.
"And this superstar came here and he was given an exemption. I think the federal government rode that wave for some political points and they essentially went to take him out for the most bizarre reason."
Novak isn’t only banned from defending his title at the 2022 Australian Open, the cancellation of his visa by Minister Alex Hawke and deportation means that he is banned from entering Australia for three years – removing him from the Australian leg of the ATP circuit.
This has a significant impact on Novak’s career and ability to maintain the points required to stay World Number One – not to mention as yet unknown consequences for the star’s sponsorship contracts. He will also have to pay the government’s court costs.
“The visa was cancelled by [The Minister for Immigration] Hawke,” said Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews on the Today Show. “That cancellation was upheld by the Federal Court, so as a result of that, he will be banned from entry for three years into the country.”
There is some leeway to allow Novak back into Australia before that time, but given his treatment over the last week by the Australian bureaucracy, it’s difficult to imagine them going out of their way to help Novak return.
“Anyone coming into Australia it is their responsibility that they are meeting the entry requirements… just because you have a valid visa does not guarantee you will be able to enter Australia,” added Ms Andrews. “What was given to Mr Djokovic on arrival in Australia – before he cleared our immigration processes – was the opportunity to be able to produce the documentation that was needed, which he could not. He wasn’t fully-vaccinated, which is a requirement. If you are not you have to be able to provide medical evidence to support there is a medical reason why you can’t be vaccinated – that was the issue at the border.”
Except it was not the reason cited by Minister Hawke for the cancellation of Novak’s visa.
Mr Hawke’s decision was based on ‘health and good order grounds’ where he told the court that Novak’s presence in the Australian Open would risk ‘exciting’ anti-vaccination sentiment in Australia. Stephen Lloyd – the government’s barrister – went so far as to say that Novak had become an ‘icon’ for the anti-vaccination movement.
President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Pauline Write points out that even if Novak is able to influence others, it does not make him a risk to public health – especially with 95 per cent of NSW vaccinated and similar numbers in other states.
A spokesman from the Australian Lawyers Alliance added, “While we understand the importance of public health … it’s dangerous in a democracy to refuse entry to an individual who happens to have views contrary to government policy, particularly when the person is coming to Australia for a purpose that is unrelated to those views.”
In order to overturn such a decision, Novak would have had to prove that the action from the Minister was unreasonable or irrational.
Many Australians view the entire saga from the government as ‘unreasonable’ and ‘irrational’ given that Australia has hundreds of thousands of active Covid cases, very low hospital rates, and a grassroots freedom movement that exists without any help from Novak.
The Federal Government deported Novak on Sunday night where he was escorted to Melbourne Airport by police.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that, “This tournament [Australian Open], this Grand Slam tournament – one of the big four – is much bigger than any one person. It’s very simple, just get vaccinated. And then everyone’s time wouldn’t have to be wasted with this.”
“Well, it’s very clear that Australia has not tortured Mr Djokovic,” Scott Morrison was forced to confirm in a press conference, after comments made by the Serbian president who said that Novak’s detention amounted to ‘physical torture’.
It comes after Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said, “You saw in the pointless court proceeding how much the prosecution lied. They are simply lying. They say there are fewer than 50 per cent vaccinated people in Serbia and officially the number is 58 per cent. Don’t forget that’s higher than in many European Union countries. That was a pointless argument, but that’s possible in Orwellian performances.”
Ana Brnabic, Serbia’s Prime Minister, added her concerns and support, “As the Prime Minister I am not happy, but one should not be too emotional. I cannot wait to see Novak Djokovic in his country, in Serbia, so we can somehow get past this together and support him in these difficult moments.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke in favour of the decision, insisting that it ‘keeps our borders strong’ – which is rhetoric usually brought out by the Coalition to talk about illegal immigration, not high profile sports stars that have been subjected to months worth of medical reviews before hopping on a plane.
Novak’s father, Srdjan Djokovic, spoke harshly about Australia’s treatment of his son. “The assassination attempt on the best sportsman in the world is over, 50 bullets to Novak’s chest.”
Piers Morgan, who is due to begin with Sky News Australia shortly, took to Twitter on Sunday night.
‘BREAKING: Covid rule cheat, immigration form liar, & anti-vaxxer icon Novak Djokovic loses final appeal against deportation & will be thrown out of Australia without being able to compete in Aus Open. Good.’