Novak Djokovic: Minister acted correctly in cancelling tennis player's visa, Australian court says

January 20, 2022

An Australian court has revealed why it backed the immigration minister's decision to cancel Novak Djokovic's visa.

The tennis star was deported from Australia on Sunday night, after the federal court dismissed his bid to remain in the country for the Australian Open.

It followed 11 days in which he had his visa cancelled twice, launched two court challenges, and spent five nights at a detention hotel where asylum seekers are held.

In the final hearing before the federal court in Melbourne on Sunday, Djokovic's lawyers had tried to argue against fears that his presence could galvanise anti-vaccination sentiment.

Novak Djokovic visa saga: How it all went wrong for the tennis superstar

But Chief Justice James Allsop and judges Anthony Besanko and David O'Callaghan were not convinced.

On Thursday, four days after they backed the decision to cancel the Serb's visa, they explained their reasons.

The judges said they did not consider the merits or wisdom of the minister's decision, only whether or not it was lawful.

They said immigration minister Alex Hawke had followed the correct steps under the law, which allowed him to cancel a visa if he was satisfied the visa holder "may be a risk to the health or good order of the Australian community".

Decision 'cannot be said to be irrational'

They found that Mr Hawke had reasonably believed that Djokovic, who has not been vaccinated against COVID-19, may pose such a risk.

"The minister reached that state of satisfaction on grounds that cannot be said to be irrational or illogical or not based on relevant material," they added.

The judges also rejected the argument that there was no evidence Djokovic had encouraged people not to get vaccinated, saying that the public could easily conclude he was opposed to vaccination, as he had not been vaccinated himself.

The judges said: "An iconic world tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him.

"This is not fanciful; it does not need evidence.

"It is the recognition of human behaviour from a modest familiarity with human experience.

"Even if Mr Djokovic did not win the Australian Open, the capacity of his presence in Australia playing tennis to encourage those who would emulate or wish to be like him is a rational foundation for the view that he might foster anti-vaccination sentiment."

Djokovic 'not in favour of vaccinations'

"The central proposition of Mr Djokovic's argument was that the minister lacked any evidence and cited none that his presence may 'foster anti-vaccination sentiment'," the court added in its published reasons.

"However, it was open to infer that it was perceived by the public that Mr Djokovic was not in favour of vaccinations.

"It was known or at least perceived by the public that he had chosen not to be vaccinated."

According to Our World In Data, about 78% of Australians have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, with just over 21% having received their booster jab.

On Wednesday, the country reported 67,604 new infections and 47 new deaths, with the number of cases having risen sharply in recent weeks.

Djokovic, meanwhile, also risks missing the French Open after the government there said there will be no exemptions from a new law on vaccine passes approved last weekend.

More than 95% of the top 100 male and female tennis players in their tours' respective rankings are vaccinated.

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