The diplomatic standoff between an increasingly authoritarian Australian government and World’s No. 1 Tennis champion Novak Djokovic has just taken an absurd new turn.
After Aussie immigration authorities left Djokovic to rot in immigration detention – confining him to a very modest room at the Park Hotel – for the better part of a week following his arrival in the country (despite Djovokic having all the proper paperwork to enter the country), an Australian judge on Monday decided to reject the government’s decision to abruptly cancel the tennis player’s visa (after he had already arrived in the country) and ordered that the tennis star be immediately released.
As a result of the decision, which was handed down at 1716 local time (around 0115ET), the Australian Ministry of Home Affairs – which has played a role akin to the antagonist in this saga – must pay Djokovic’s costs from his time in detention. And all of his belongings – including, especially, his passport – must be returned to him “as soon as reasonably practicable.”
Judge Anthony Kelly explained that his ruling had been made because Djokovic hadn’t been given sufficient notice of his visa cancellation, leaving him no time to prepare appropriate materials.
In response to the judge’s ruling, government barrister Christopher Tran said the government would comply with the judge’s decision, but that the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migration Services and Multicultural Affairs (whew that’s a mouthful, eh?) would now consider “whether to exercise…[the] personal power of cancelation.”
In response to this, Judge Anthony Kelly – who initially made the ruling – insisted that he must be informed if such a response might be imminent. He added that if the Australian minister decided to officially “deport” Djokovic – which is now the government’s only option, since the tennis player will likely leave the country before it has time to appeal – that it would mean that Djokovic would be officially barred from entering Australia for three years.
This leaves the Australian government in a difficult spot: the only option left to it is a rather extreme option that might intensify the diplomatic firestorm that has erupted over its treatment of Djokovic. Already, domestic critics of the Aussie government have seized on the opportunity to bash the Morrison government for its “incompetence”. Here’s former Aussie PM Kevin Rudd:
Morrison just lost his case against #Djokovic. Total incompetence! Like on everything else. If they seriously didn’t want him,why on earth did they give him a visa to fly here? This was conceived as one giant distraction strategy when out in the real world people can’t get tested
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) January 10, 2022
Let’s recap: there has been rampant speculation that the main reason the Aussie government decided to abruptly cancel the tennis player’s visa once he had arrived in the country for the Australian Open (set to start Jan. 17) because Djokovic had tweeted about being infected with COVID again in December 2021, the reason for his medical exemption allowing him to enter the country despite not being vaccinated.
The government was clearly uncomfortable with this being made public. While it had allowed these exemptions before, the Aussie government is scrambling to shore up public confidence in its authoritarian crackdowns on travel and business, even as the country’s extreme measures to combat COVID have done practically nothing to prevent infections from soaring.
Australia just reported nearly 112,000 cases, the equivalent of 1.5 million in the US, and cases are up a mind boggling 808,633% since the Washington Post said they’d almost eliminated COVID with science
I wonder if we’ll ever find out why The Science™ stopped working pic.twitter.com/dCsBFTXQTV
— IM (@ianmSC) January 9, 2022
By publicizing that he had been given an exemption over his “natural” immunity, the tennis player was perhaps inadvertently pushing the debate on natural vs. artificial immunity – a conversation that plenty of governments, not just the Australians, have been loath to have.
The world now waits to see how the Aussies will react. Will they double down and deport the world’s best tennis player, effectively barring him from the next three Australian Opens? Since they have already whipped millions of people into a frenzy by accusing Djokovic of being a “privileged” athlete wantonly putting the public’s health at risk (as if his presence in the country would have any impact on the larger COVID situation), they’re now in a difficult spot: if they turn back now, a massive loss of confidence could ensue.
And let’s not forget: Djokovic isn’t the only athlete who has seen his visa canceled. The Aussie government has been quietly cancelling visas of other athletes who had been granted similar vaccine exemptions.
According to a statement released by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, the government is still considering whether to “deport” Djokovic. The minister’s office released a statement below:
Following today’s Federal Circuit and Family Court determination on a procedural ground, it remains within Immigration Minister Hawke’s discretion to consider cancelling Mr Djokovic’s visa under his personal power of cancellation within section 133C(3) of the Migration Act. The Minister is currently considering the matter and the process remains ongoing.”
Meanwhile, Djokovic’s family is preparing to host a news conference in Belgrade at 0600ET.
In the mean time, the judge in the case has just released some documents pertaining to the case, including Djoko’s affidavit. The 41-page document includes Djoko’s account of the hostile treatment he faced at the hands of the Australians.
Read it below:
Affidavit of Novak Djokovic Sworn on 10 January 2022 by Joseph Adinolfi Jr. on Scribd