Prime Minister Scott Morrison has kept the door open for Novak Djokovic to return to Australia before the completion of a three-year ban on entering the country.
The tennis star’s visa was cancelled by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday using discretionary powers, a decision upheld by a Federal Court.
Under such a decision, Djokovic would be banned from re-entering the country for a three-year period.
While some ministers have said Djokovic, 34, might have played his last tennis match in Australia, Mr Morrison said there was a possibility of him returning before the completion of the ban.
He told radio station 2GB Djokovic could be allowed to return under the right circumstances.
“I’m not going to precondition any of that or say anything that would not enable the minister to make the various calls they have to make,” Mr Morrison said.
“It does go over a three-year period, but there is the opportunity for [Djokovic] to return in the right circumstances and that would be considered at the time.”
The world No.1 flew out of Melbourne on Sunday night, hours after the Federal Court rejected his bid to stay in the country and compete at the Australian Open.
He arrived in Dubai on Monday afternoon, Australian time.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said Djokovic had potentially played his last Australian Open match, due to entry requirements stipulating travellers must be vaccinated or have a valid medical exemption.
The three-year ban could be eased sooner, but Ms Andrews said there would need to be compelling reasons for that to happen.
“Any applicant would need to go through the process, it doesn’t matter if you’re Novak Djokovic or anyone else … it’s not a straightforward process,” she said.
“The saga could have been avoided if Novak Djokovic was vaccinated.”
While Labor’s home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally welcomed the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa, she said the situation had been handled poorly by the government.
“This has been a situation that is entirely preventable because the Morrison government gave Novak Djokovic a visa on November 18 and for 60 days failed to act,” she said in Sydney.
“They should have cancelled his visa back on November 18. They shouldn’t have given him one.”
However, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Djokovic was initially granted the visa through an automated process.
“We get lots of visas, there’s a computer-generated process. It relies on the applicant putting in what they believe are their conditions,” he told the Seven Network.
“[Djokovic] said that he had a legitimate exemption, but that wasn’t the case, and ultimately the decision of the minister was upheld.”
The deportation decision has also led to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accusing Australia of “torturing” the tennis star.
Speaking on the BBC, Mr Vucic criticised Australia’s handling of the situation, likening it to a witch hunt.
Labor also hit out at the government for cancelling Djokovic’s visa due to fears the tennis player would incite anti-vaccination sentiment, when multiple government members have expressed anti-vaccination views previously.
However, Mr Morrison said such criticism was conflating two separate issues.
“If you’re an Australian, you’re a resident and you’re a citizen, you can be here and you can express your views,” he said.
“If you’re someone coming from overseas and there are conditions for you to enter this country, well you have to comply with them, it’s as simple as that.”