Credit score…Diego Fedele/Getty Photos

For hours on Sunday, legal professionals representing Novak Djokovic and the Australian authorities argued over the issues that the nation’s immigration minister did or didn’t keep in mind when he canceled Djokovic’s visa final week, declaring that the unvaccinated tennis star may pose a menace to public well being in Australia.

The arguments, earlier than a panel of three judges, represented Djokovic’s remaining effort to play within the Australian Open and the federal authorities’s final try to stop him from staying within the nation. The judges’ determination might be remaining.

Within the afternoon, the listening to was adjourned, and the judges retreated to deliberate. They have been anticipated to challenge a ruling later Sunday on whether or not the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, was inside his rights to revoke Djokovic’s visa on the grounds that his presence in Australia may stoke anti-vaccination sentiment and result in “civil unrest.”

It was the second time Djokovic had taken the Australian authorities to courtroom for canceling his visa in a twist-filled saga that escalated quickly after Djokovic’s plane touched down in Melbourne on Jan. 5. Australia requires all international guests to be vaccinated, however grants exemptions in restricted circumstances. Djokovic’s visa was canceled by immigration officers after an airport interview about his medical exemption, however it was reinstated by a decide on procedural grounds earlier than the most recent transfer by Hawke to maintain Djokovic from staying. Once more, Djokovic challenged.

Hawke mentioned when he canceled Djokovic’s visa that permitting him to remain in Australia may encourage Australians to refuse vaccines or disregard pandemic restrictions, provided that he was a high-profile determine who was not vaccinated towards the coronavirus and had beforehand expressed anti-vaccination sentiments.

Credit score…Dave Hunt/EPA, through Shutterstock

Djokovic’s lawyer, Nicholas Wooden, argued on Sunday that Hawke, in making that call, didn’t contemplate what impact deporting Djokovic may have, and had due to this fact failed in his obligation to make a rational and logical determination.

If Djokovic had his visa canceled regardless of Hawke recognizing he was a person of excellent standing, and was “expelled from the nation, precluded from taking part in within the event and impaired in his profession, it’s fairly apparent that in itself would possibly act to generate anti-vaccination sentiment,” Wooden mentioned.

He mentioned it was not sufficient for Hawke to point out that he was merely “conscious” of the influence that canceling Djokovic’s visa may have on such sentiment, however that he had “thought of” it.

Hawke’s lawyer, Stephen Lloyd, countered that whereas Hawke had not explicitly acknowledged in his reasoning that he’d thought of the results of canceling Djokovic’s visa, he had certainly weighed the potential reactions.

“The minister was nicely conscious of anti-vaccination teams, he was conscious they idolized the applicant for his stance on vaccination, he was conscious of the prospect of discord,” Lloyd mentioned.

He mentioned that even when Hawke had not thought of the impact of a deportation, as Djokovic’s legal professionals asserted, he wouldn’t have modified his determination to cancel the visa, as a result of that was “an incremental drop of considered what was already a really substantial pool of pondering.”

Lloyd mentioned that Djokovic’s authorized staff wanted to show — however couldn’t probably show — that Hawke had failed to contemplate the results of canceling Djokovic’s visa. Lloyd mentioned the immigration minister didn’t have the burden of proving the alternative.

Djokovic’s authorized staff additionally contended that Hawke didn’t have sufficient proof to claim that Djokovic had expressed anti-vaccination sentiments, saying he had relied on quotes cited in a information article that Djokovic had made earlier than coronavirus vaccinations have been accessible.

Hawke additionally couldn’t show that Djokovic’s mere presence in Australia may trigger unrest, Wooden argued. Anti-vaccination sentiment and activism had been triggered by the federal government’s vaccination mandates and by its determination to cancel Djokovic’s visa, he mentioned, “not just by letting Mr. Djokovic play tennis.”

If Djokovic’s presence on the tennis courtroom may stoke anti-vaccination sentiment, Wooden added, there would have been anti-vaccination protests at earlier tournaments the place Djokovic performed.

Lloyd mentioned it was cheap for Hawke to imagine that Djokovic was against coronavirus vaccinations as a result of, with vaccines having been accessible for greater than a yr, “somebody who had by this time not been vaccinated was doing so by alternative.”

Rallies towards vaccination mandates and pandemic restrictions in Australia have elevated in latest months, generally turning violent, although almost 80 p.c of Australia’s inhabitants is absolutely vaccinated.

Forward of the Sunday listening to, photographers crowded round a automotive transporting Djokovic from a resort the place he had been detained to his lawyer’s workplace.

The choice to carry the listening to earlier than three judges was made by Justice David O’Callaghan on Saturday on the request of Djokovic’s legal professionals, and despite opposition by a lawyer for Hawke. As a result of a full panel of judges will make the ruling, it can’t be appealed.

Chief Justice James Allsop reiterated that floor rule at the beginning of the listening to Sunday. He mentioned the choice was made to listen to the matter earlier than a full panel of judges due to the importance of the matter — to Djokovic personally, and since Hawke had mentioned in his determination that it went to the center of the “very preservations of life and well being of many members of the group and to the upkeep of the well being system of Australia.”

Credit score…James Ross/EPA, through Shutterstock

The dispute is operating up towards the beginning of the Australian Open, a Grand Slam championship occasion that is among the largest tournaments of the yr in tennis together with the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Djokovic, the highest seed within the males’s singles event, drew a first-round match for Monday towards a fellow Serbian participant, Miomir Kecmanovic, however the match schedule has not been finalized with Djokovic’s standing unsure.

Along with chasing his tenth Australian Open males’s singles title, Djokovic is hoping to interrupt a tie with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for essentially the most Grand Slam championships. They every have 20.


An earlier model of this text misidentified a lawyer for Novak Djokovic who was talking on the listening to. It was Nicholas Wooden, not Paul Holdenson.


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