Unvaccinated world number one tennis star Novak Djokovic has been deported from Australia after an unsuccessful Federal Court bid to have his visa reinstated.
The full bench of the court, in a hastily convened hearing on Sunday, unanimously dismissed Djokovic’s application to overturn a decision by immigration minister Alex Hawke to cancel his visa.
Hawke used his ministerial powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa due to the tennis player’s potential to pose a risk to the health, safety and good order of Australia, based on Djokovic’s public statements about not getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Djokovic’s lawyers unsuccessfully argued the visa cancellation was irrational, citing a lack of evidence he could impact health or good order, that the deportation could also fuel anti-vax sentiment, and that Djokovic’s public statements included keeping an “open mind” about getting vaccinated but wanting choice.
In a brief statement the tennis star said he was “extremely disappointed with the ruling”.
Prime minister Scott Morrison said Djokovic “was wrong” for believing he had an exemption to come to Australia unvaccinated based on previously contracting coronavirus.
“Australians here have been doing the right thing, they’ve made so many sacrifices,” Morrison told radio station 2GB on Monday. “The federal government gave him no such exemption.”
Morrison left the door open to Djokovic returning to Australia, despite the deportation barring him from the country for three years.
“There is the opportunity for them to return in the right circumstances and that would be considered at the time,” he said.
Serbia’s prime minister, Ana Brnabic, described the decision as “scandalous” and said it showed “how the rule of law is … not functioning, in some other countries”.
Srdjan Djokovic on social media likened the court ruling to an “assassination” involving “50 bullets in Novak’s chest” in comments he later distanced himself from.
Home affairs minister Karen Andrews said on Monday she was highly aware of the international commentary but saw her role as protecting Australia’s borders.
“Australians can be very confident that the Morrison government and its ministers will do all that they can to ensure we have strong borders and that those people who are attempting to come to Australia abide by the laws of the time,” she told ABC’s AM program.
Monash University human rights legal expert Maria O’Sullivan said she believed the case raised a number of concerns, including about how the perception of actions of others can determine someone’s right to remain in a country, the implications for sportspeople of less high profile in the same circumstances.
“It could justify the cancellation of any individual who is seen as a “role model” and who may be perceived as causing social unrest or protests,” O’Sullivan writes in The Conversation.