Judges deliberate as Novak Djokovic awaits Australian Open fate

Novak Djokovic’s wait to find out his fate at the Australian Open continued as three judges retired to consider their verdict in his appeal against the cancellation of his visa before the Federal Circuit and the Court of family from Australia.

The world number one’s lawyers and Immigration Minister Alex Hawke took their cases to the judicial triumvirate following Hawke’s decision on Friday to re-cancel Djokovic’s visa.

As more than 80,000 people watched on YouTube, Chief Justice James Allsop told the court he expected to be able to announce a decision by late afternoon or early evening, but the case could still drag on Monday morning.

Novak Djokovic was arrested a second time on Saturday and taken to the Park Hotel (Channel 9/AP)

Djokovic, who spent another night at Park’s detention hotel on Saturday, is due to face compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round at Melbourne Park on Monday.

Djokovic was released from custody six days ago after an initial decision to revoke his visa was overturned last week, but Hawke used his personal power to reimpose the sanction.

The nine-time Australian Open champion immediately mounted another legal challenge and the sides were back in court on Sunday morning.

Hawke’s decision on Friday was unexpectedly based not on the validity or otherwise of Djokovic’s exemption from the Covid-19 vaccination, but on the idea that his presence in the country could stoke anti-vaccination sentiment, making from him a danger to public health, as well as civil unrest. .

To succeed on appeal, Djokovic’s legal team had to prove that Hawke either acted outside of his powers or that his decision was irrational.

Nick Wood, acting for the Serb, focused on three aspects – that there was no evidence his presence would fuel anti-vaccination sentiment, that there was also a lack of evidence for the idea that Djokovic opposes vaccination and that Hawke had not considered expelling the nine-time Australian Open champion would lead to increased support for the anti-vaccination cause.

Wood said: “Not a single source of evidence in the material has provided any specific or logical basis that Mr Djokovic’s mere presence in Australia in itself could in any way foster anti-vaccination sentiment.”

Djokovic made global headlines at the start of the pandemic for being quoted as saying he was “opposed to vaccination”, although he later clarified that he was against being forced to get vaccinated to go to tournaments and that he would keep an open mind on the matter.

Wood criticized Hawke for not referring to this clarification, while he argued that the response to the cancellation of the initial visa cancellation, which included police pepper spraying Djokovic supporters in the street , demonstrated that his deportation could have a negative impact on public health and public order rather than the reverse.

“The clearest and most attractive window through which to view error is the lens of public interest,” he said. “It is irrational or unreasonable to only look at one side of the coin.”

Hawke’s attorney, Stephen Lloyd, spent considerable time countering this argument.

“The Minister was aware that his decision to cancel would cause some level of further unrest, but the Minister’s main concern was that Mr Djokovic’s presence would encourage people to emulate his position and that it would endanger the health of Aussies,” Lloyd said.

On whether it was fair to portray Djokovic as taking an anti-vaccination stance, Lloyd said: “His pending non-vaccination status suggests that someone in the claimant’s position could have been vaccinated if she had wanted it.

“Even before vaccines became available, he was against it – his prima facie position was to be against them.”

He referenced anti-vaccination groups “treating the claimant like a hero” as he moved on to Hawke’s central claim that Djokovic’s presence could negatively impact public health.

Lloyd said: “He’s a top person who is in many ways a role model for a lot of people. His presence in Australia would more strongly introduce Australians to his anti-vaccination views.

Hundreds of Djokovic supporters protested his initial detention
Hundreds of Djokovic supporters protested his initial detention (Hamish Blair/AP)

“People use top athletes to promote ideas and causes all the time. His connection to a cause, whether he likes it or not, is always there.

He concluded: “We would say that each of the grounds should be dismissed and there should be an order requiring the plaintiff to pay the Minister’s costs.

Wood said Djokovic’s legal team would seek the Serb’s release within half an hour if the appeal is successful.

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