- The Australian Government has only three days to decide whether to deport Djokovic before the Australian Open begins
- The court found that the withdrawal of Djoković’s visa was illegal, but the immigration minister may still kick him out of the country because he actually broke the entry regulations
- Theoretically, the tennis champion should be returning home by now, especially since if the government allows him to stay, he will show weakness in his immigration policy a few months before the elections
- But decisive action can also be unpopular due to the high-profile issue in Australia of the inhumane treatment of efforts to stay by the family of immigrants from Sri Lanka
- The expulsion of Djokovic may also harm the attractiveness of the Australian Open, and thus his future in the face of huge competition in the world to organize big tournaments.
Original article on POLITICO.eu website
The world is eagerly waiting for Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to reveal whether he will use his personal authority to deport Novak Djokovic and ban him from entering Australia for three years, or let the world’s first rocket stay in Melbourne and fight for its 10 Australian Open title.
Within days of a judge’s order to release Djokovic from hotel custody, after Australia attempted to deport the anti-vaccine recipient upon his arrival in Melbourne, Djokovic pleaded guilty to violating Serbian isolation rules and practically confirmed that he had lied on an Australian visa declaration.
In theory, the deportation shouldn’t be up for discussion, but let’s see what might be keeping Hawke from intervening after all …
Morrison’s electoral strategy even has a name: the “pub test”. Think of an ordinary Mr. Smith on the couch at home and after three beers, who is constantly probed about his thoughts about the premiere.
With the federal elections fast approaching, Morrison’s center-right Liberal Party is very vigilant about anything that might upset the average Australian.
The rules for entering Australia are clear: you must have a visa, have a current negative COVID test result, be fully vaccinated and truthfully complete a travel declaration. Djokovic is not vaccinated and his form incorrectly states that he has not traveled in 14 days prior to arriving in Australia.
As Djokovic sat in his hotel questioning the cancellation of his visa, the Australian Prime Minister and his colleagues were too eager to point out his mistakes.
“Rules are rules, and there are no special cases,” Morrison announced at a news conference on Jan. 6.
Australia’s border services are tasked with “applying the rules to everyone – and the Morrison government will always support them to do so,” Interior Minister Karen Andrews added last week.
“This is the only way we can provide a fair path for everyone, especially Australians and their families, who have made so many sacrifices in the last two years to abide by various rules in a pandemic,” she said.
However, the verdict of Federal Circuit Court judge Anthony Kelly turned the situation into a headache for the government. Kelly ordered Djokovic’s release but he did so for administrative reasons – not because his visa was valid, but because the government was forced to admit that the champion did not have enough time to complain about its cancellation.
At this point, Morrison and Co. were able to pull back, conclude that the matter was out of their control, and allow Djokovic to play. But instead the government tried to save face, noting that Hawke still had the authority to act personally and kick Djokovic out of the country.
Three days later, when the Australian Open draw was over and Djokovic is already in the bracket of the tournament, which is scheduled to start on Monday, Hawke’s inactivity is hard to bear.
If he withdraws on Friday, for example, and allows Djoković to stay, it will seem like a government weakness; voters will remember that the rules don’t matter as long as you are rich and famous enough; and Morrison’s tough stance on immigration will be undermined at the worst possible moment.
So why is Djokovic not sitting on the plane home anymore?
The Biloel family case
One possible reason why Hawke is reluctant to exercise his powers is the so-called Biloel family affair.
An asylum-seeking Tamil family named Murugappan has struggled for years to return to Biloela, Queensland, Australia, after the federal government rejected their asylum application and ordered them to return to Sri Lanka on the grounds that their parents came to Australia by boat.
Biloeli’s community was united to defend the family, waging a fervent campaign for Hawke to intervene and use his personal power to bring them back to town. So far, Hawke has effectively abstained from voting despite the dire situation of the family.
Now, the Djokovic case brings the Murugappan back and if Hawke decides to intervene, the deportation of a tennis star will show that he could easily do so in the Biloeli case as well.
There is one more important reason why Hawke may hesitate.
The future of the Australian Open
The Melbourne Grand Slam is one of Australia’s most respected sporting events, attracting thousands of visitors, which in 2020, prior to the pandemic, contributed more than AU $ 380 million (around € 242 million) to the Victoria state.
Djokovic is the best tennis player in the world, a man whom some fans love and hate others. If the Australian Open loses its main star in 2022, competition for the trophy will likely be between Rafael Nadal, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev (the latter is under investigation into allegations of domestic violence). Such a set is definitely less exciting.
(Note: If Zverev is convicted of an offense of domestic violence or subject to a court order under this law, technically he will not meet the personal demeanor requirement to obtain an Australian Visa in the future.)
Moreover, the Djokovic saga comes at a complicated moment for the Australian Open.
While the Grand Slam tournament is contracted at Melbourne Park for the foreseeable future, tournament director Craig Tiley has repeatedly warned that this future is not necessarily guaranteed, especially in the wake of the pandemic.
“Even if we have a contract with the government until 2039, that doesn’t mean that if another country were to spend a lot of money on a big event that is easy to play at, the best players would still come to Melbourne,” he said last year. – The only reason players come to us is because we offer big cash prizes and we spend a lot of time encouraging them to come.
So what happens to the Grand Slam when the best player in the world is banned for three years?
It seems Hawke doesn’t want to know the answer to this question.
Editing: Michał Broniatowski