Immigration expert stunned by the ‘extreme powers’ used to cancel of Novak Djokovic’s visa


Immigration expert floored by the ‘extreme powers’ used to cancel of Novak Djokovic’s visa – but insists there is still a chance he will be able to play in the Australian Open

  • Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic has had his visa cancelled for a second time
  • Immigration Minister Alex Hawke made decision based on ‘public interest’
  • Djokovic, 34, can appeal, the Australian Open begins in Melbourne on Monday 


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A leading immigration expert has been stunned by the decision to cancel the visa of tennis superstar Novak Djokovic just days out from the Australian Open.

Abul Rizvi, a former Deputy Secretary of the Immigration Department, told Channel 10’s The Project on Friday night the move from Immigration Minister Alex Hawke shocked him.

Mr Rizvi also added that world number one Djokovic, 34, can appeal the decision via his lawyers – meaning he could still feature in the Grand Slam at Melbourne Park come Monday.

Former Immigration Department Deputy Secretary Abul Rizvi told Channel 10's The Project on Friday night the move from Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to cancel Novak Djokovic's visa shocked him

Former Immigration Department Deputy Secretary Abul Rizvi told Channel 10's The Project on Friday night the move from Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to cancel Novak Djokovic's visa shocked him

Former Immigration Department Deputy Secretary Abul Rizvi told Channel 10’s The Project on Friday night the move from Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa shocked him

World number one Djokovic, 34, can appeal the decision via his lawyers on legal grounds - meaning he could still feature at Melbourne Park come Monday

World number one Djokovic, 34, can appeal the decision via his lawyers on legal grounds - meaning he could still feature at Melbourne Park come Monday

World number one Djokovic, 34, can appeal the decision via his lawyers on legal grounds – meaning he could still feature at Melbourne Park come Monday

‘So what the minister (Mr Hawke) has done is use second 113C of the (Migration) Act,’ Rizvi said.

‘It gives him a power to cancel a visa-holder’s visa, if the minister considers it is in the public interest to do so. 

‘And he can do that without giving the visa holder any natural justice. That is what he’s done. It is a very, very extreme power.

‘I recall when it was developed we only thought it would be used in the most extraordinary and rare circumstances, where someone presented a very serious risk  to the Australian population. 

‘I did not ever expect it to be used in these circumstances.’ 

Mr Rizvi labelled the decision a ‘high wire act’ – and that he would have advised Mr Hawke to go down a different path. 

The panel on The Project also labelled the timing of the news – 6pm on a Friday – a ‘classic political move.’ 

It comes after Mr Hawke said he acted on ‘health and good order grounds on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so’.

The cancellation effectively means Djokovic would be barred from a new Australian visa for three years, except under certain circumstances.

The visa decision put the Serbian world number one’s dream of a 10th Australian Open title and a record 21st Grand Slam in peril.

He Djokovic successfully appeals the decision and wins – again – he will be granted a bridging visa due to his ‘work’ as a professional tennis player. 

The megastar first flew into Melbourne airport on January 5, claiming a vaccine exemption because of a positive PCR test result on December 16.

Novak Djokovic Australia row timeline

Novak Djokovic Australia row timeline

Novak Djokovic timeline ahead of the Australian Open (pictured) – on January 4 he told his social media followers he was heading down under – despite being unvaccinated

Key moments in Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open bid 

By Karen Sweeney in Melbourne for Australian Associated Press

Tennis world No.1 Novak Djokovic is still focused on defending his Australian Open title and winning a record-breaking 21st men’s grand slam tournament but the road to Melbourne has been bumpy and the path is not yet clear.

October/November – Djokovic applies for a temporary visa to enter Australia and compete in the 2022 Australian Open.

November 18 – Granted a Temporary Activity (subclass 408) visa.

December 14 – Attends a basketball match in Belgrade, Serbia, where attendees contract COVID-19.

December 16 – Djokovic is ‘tested and diagnosed’ with COVID-19. Documents show he was tested at 1.05pm and the result was returned at 8.19pm.

December 17 – Attends events in Belgrade, including a trophy presentation for junior tennis players. Pictured not wearing a mask and posing side-by-side indoors with a large group of children.

December 18 – Djokovic says he learned of the positive test and cancelled several scheduled events. Goes ahead with an interview and photoshoot with French newspaper L’Equipe, saying he felt ‘obliged’ because ‘I didn’t want to let the journalist down’.

December 22 – Returns a negative PCR test.

December 25 – Filmed by a fan playing tennis on a street in Belgrade. He is also photographed alongside Serbian handball player Petar Djordjic.

December 30 – Tennis Australia notify Djokovic he has been granted a temporary medical exemption, allowing him to play in the Australian Open despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19. The exemption was granted on the basis of a previous infection, based on the opinion of one panel of medical experts and reviewed by another.

December 31 – Filmed training at a tennis academy in Sotogrande, Spain. The academy post photos on its Instagram of him posing for pictures with fans a day later.

January 1 – Authorises his agent to complete his Australian Travel Declaration. The document says Djokovic had not travelled in the 14 days prior to his intended arrival in Australia. Later admits the form contained an error in not acknowledging his travel between Serbia and Spain. Djokovic said his agent was notified by the Department of Home Affairs that the declaration had been assessed and he met the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival.

January 2 – Granted a border travel permit by the Victorian government.

January 4 – Announces on Instagram he is ‘heading Down Under with an exemption’. The post was made shortly before he departed for Melbourne, via Dubai. News of his impending arrival sparks controversy in Australia.

January 5 – Arrives in Melbourne at 11.30pm.

January 6 – Australian Border Force officials detain Djokovic. After a series of early morning interviews his visa is cancelled at 7.29am. His lawyers are granted a temporary injunction by the Federal Circuit Court. Djokovic is taken to the Park Hotel, which is being used as an immigration detention centre.

January 7 – Spends Orthodox Christmas in his hotel room.

January 10 – After a lengthy hearing, a judge quashes the government’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa after lawyers concede the decision was unreasonable in the circumstances. Judge Anthony Kelly rules Djokovic be paid his costs and freed from immigration detention. Government lawyers note Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still has a personal power to revoke Djokovic’s visa.

January 11 – Djokovic posts a photo of himself training at Rod Laver Arena. ‘Despite all that has happened in the past week, I want to stay and to try to compete at the Australian Open,’ he says. Questions are raised over his Australian Travel Declaration after documents released by the court revealed he answered ‘no’ to the question about travel in the 14 days before his arrival.

January 12 – Posts a statement on Instagram to correct ‘continuing misinformation’. He admits knowingly going through with the L’Equipe interview while positive for Covid-19. He also apologises for the ‘administrative mistake’ on the travel declaration. Mr Hawke’s office say he is still considering whether to exercise his power to revoke Djokovic’s visa.

January 13 – The draw for the Australian Open is delayed pending news of Djokovic’s visa. When the draw eventually happens at 4.15, he is drawn against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic

January 14 – Djokovic’s visa is cancelled for a second time, with Immigration Minister Alex Hawke declaring the decision was made in the ‘interests of public safety’

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