Will Djokovic be able to play in Australian Open and how much will government pay him in costs?
The Australian government's cancellation of Novak Djokovic's visa was overturned in court on Monday, but the country's immigration minister could yet have the tennis star deported.
A judge has quashed the Australian government’s decision to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa over the tennis star’s application for a vaccine exemption.
However, it remains unclear whether Djokovic’s visa will now be revoked for a second time, meaning his involvement in the 2022 Australian Open remains in doubt.
Djokovic visa was revoked after vaccine exemption deemed invalid
Djokovic had his visa dramatically cancelled on Thursday after arriving in Australia ahead of this month's tournament at Melbourne Park, after the Australian Border Force (ABF) deemed the 34-year-old had “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia”.
The nine-time Australian Open men’s singles champion, who is the current title holder, had been granted an exemption by Tennis Australia, the tournament’s organisers, to rules that require all players and staff at the Grand Slam event to be vaccinated against covid-19.
Djokovic had used a positive test in December as the basis for his exemption request, court documents submitted by his legal team on Saturday showed.
However, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed on Thursday that the Australian government had previously informed Tennis Australia that a recent covid-19 infection would not be accepted as grounds for a vaccine exemption.
Djokovic has taken up a public anti-vax stance during the pandemic, telling reporters in April 2020: “Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn't want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel.”
The men’s world number one confirmed in an interview with Australian border officials on Thursday that he has not been vaccinated against covid-19.
Judge reverses visa cancellation, orders Australian gov to pay Djokovic's costs
In a court hearing on Monday, Judge Anthony Kelly ruled that the ABF did not give Djokovic enough notice of its intention to cancel his visa, and ordered Australia’s border authorities to release the Serb from detention immediately.
Having initially told Djokovic on Thursday that he would have until 8:30am that morning to respond to the cancellation of his visa, the ABF then made the final decision to revoke his right to enter Australia at 7:40am.
Judge Kelly also ordered the Australian government to pay Djokovic’s legal fees.
Djokovic will recoup "a couple of hundred thousand" Aus dollars, says expert
Speaking to Australian TV show The Project ahead of Monday's court hearing, Justin Quill, a partner at law firm Thomson Geer Lawyers, said Australia’s authorities faced a legal bill of “close to half a million” Australian dollars if Judge Kelly sided with Djokovic.
“If they [Djokovic’s legal team] win tomorrow, [the Australian government will have to pay] $250,000 to the government lawyers [and] probably a couple of hundred thousand to Novak to pay his legal fees,” Quill said.
According to the current exchange rate, 200,000 Australian dollars is the equivalent of about 145,000 US dollars.
Immigration minister could yet use powers to deport Djokovic
In a tweet posted later on Monday, Djokovic said he was "pleased and grateful" about Judge Kelly's ruling, adding: "Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete at the Australian Open."
But although Djokovic has been handed a reprieve over his right to remain in Australia for now, the country’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, could yet use special powers to revoke the Serb’s visa again.
Under Section 133C of Australia’s Migration Act, Hawke can cancel Djokovic’s visa if he feels it is “in the public interest” to do so.
It is being widely reported that Hawke will not make a decision on Djokovic’s right to remain in Australia until Tuesday.
“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,” a spokesperson for Hawke said, per Reuters.
“The Minister is currently considering the matter and the process remains ongoing."