Novak Djokovic has won his legal challenge against the Australian government and has been released from detention, but he could still be deported if the Immigration Minister decides to personally intervene.
The Serbian tennis champ’s stay in Australia is still in limbo and he even risks being banned from entering the country for another three years.
“The stakes have now risen, rather than receded,” Judge Anthony Kelly said.
“And I’m very concerned – I cannot, of course, in any way purport to encroach upon a valid exercise of a minister of executive power – but these parties need to get down to tin tacks.”
According to legal experts, there’s a real possibility of Djokovic being deported in the near future, but it would be bad publicity at home and further escalate Australia’s diplomatic row with Serbia.
Djokovic’s tentative victory
He said the move was “unreasonable” because Djokovic wasn’t given enough time to consult lawyers and authorities to make his case, as is required under the Migration Act.
The Australian government was ordered to pay the tennis player’s legal costs after the ordeal.
Djokovic had been given a medical exemption for COVID-19 vaccination, as well as a document with an Australian government letterhead stating he was allowed into the country.
He had told the Australian Border Force he was unvaccinated.
The court heard a transcript of Djokovic’s interview with an ABF official on the night of his detention at Melbourne Airport.
“So you’re giving me legally 20 minutes to try to provide additional information that I don’t have? At four o’clock in the morning?” he said at the time.
“I mean, you kind of put me in a very awkward position where at four in the morning I can’t call [the] director of Tennis Australia, I can’t engage with anybody from the Victorian state government through Tennis Australia.
“I just […] you put me in a very uncomfortable position.”
At midday, Djokovic was allowed to leave the Park Hotel, where he had been held alongside 40 detained asylum seekers, in order to be present with his lawyers for the ruling, which had been mired by technical difficulties and trolls.
Judge Kelly said the court had “bent over backwards” to accommodate Djokovic and the government, including making sure the tennis player was able to meet his lawyers in person on Monday.
High-profile barristers Paul Holdenson, QC, and Nick Wood, SC, confirmed that Djokovic was with them.
Another minister enters the ring
The ruling was a loss for Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, but there are still other avenues for the government to deny Djokovic entry into Australia.
Immediately after the ruling in Djokovic’s favour, the government’s lawyer, Christopher Tran, informed Judge Kelly that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still had the power to personally revoke Djokovic’s visa.
If this were to happen, Djokovic would be banned from entering Australia for the next three years, dashing his chances of competing in the Australian Open in future.
“It would be fair to say that I could have been something approaching incandescent if I discovered that for the first time in the later hours of this evening, or the earlier hours of tomorrow,” Judge Kelly replied.
Mr Hawke’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Former Department of Immigration official and border expert Abul Rizvi told The New Daily it would look “really, really bad” for the minister to send Djokovic packing after the star won his legal battle.
“I feel they’re making these statements in anger rather than considered thought,” Mr Rizvi said.
“Frankly, the better thing to do now would be to ring Mr Djokovic, talk him through the issues and say, ‘Look, can we come to an agreement that you will do A, B and C to protect the public health in Australia, and in exchange for that we’ll allow you to play in the Aussie Open – we hope you lose’.”