Labor has accused the Morrison government of scrapping the Novak Djokovic visa saga to distract from Omicron’s woes, as uncertainty over the tennis star’s ability to contest the Australian Open enters its second week.
With Immigration Minister Alex Hawke yet to announce any decision, independent Senator Jackie Lambie accused the government on Friday of “utter chaos” in its handling of the Djokovic visa issue.
Djokovic’s lawyers are ready to challenge the visa’s revocation, which has made the Australian government reluctant to pull the trigger until it is sure it is not overturned by the court.
A protracted legal battle could drag an epic legal battle into next week, as the world’s No. 1 men’s tennis player is set to begin defending his title at the Australian Open.
Djokovic arrived in Australia on the evening of January 5. He believed that the visa granted on November 18 and the exemption approved by the chief medical officer of the Australian Tennis Club and the Victorian Government’s independent panel of experts would be sufficient to enter Australia.
Djokovic’s visa was revoked on the grounds that the recent Covid-19 infection was not sufficient by itself to be exempt from Australia’s stringent vaccination requirements.
Although the visa was restored by the Federal Circuit Court on Monday, Hawke began considering revoking it again under a separate personal authority.
The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, on Thursday declined to comment directly on the issue but emphasized that he expected authorities to enforce the requirement to vaccinate non-resident non-citizens, a sign that was interpreted to mean that a new revocation was imminent.
On Friday Lambie questioned why “the faucet keeps falling” and why “the minister has done nothing about it”.
“So maybe it’s time to stop this catastrophe, end it once and for all… and make your decision, Alex Hawke. Where are you, missing in action? Make a decision,” she told Channel Nine today.
Lampe said that if the government couldn’t make a decision on Djokovic, it had questioned how the country would be run.
“This is utter chaos. Not to mention what makes us look against the rest of the world. It is definitely a shocker.”
At a news conference in Maryborough, Queensland, Labor Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers accused the government of “using this Novak Djokovic saga to distract our supermarkets shortages, our chemists’ shortages, our workers’ shortages”.
Labour’s leader, Anthony Albanese, said he “never should have come to this” because Djokovic should not have been granted a visa if he did not qualify for an exemption.
Novak Djokovic and his participation in the Australian Open have been the number one sporting story in the world for months.
“Everyone knows he is the number one player in the world. He has won the Australian Open nine times, shot 10 times and hit the No. 21 Grand Slam to be the greatest champion of all time.”
Noting that it has been 60 days since the visa was granted, Albanese said the government “never answered a question about how this visa was granted in the first place if he didn’t qualify because he wasn’t fully vaccinated.”
On Thursday, Morrison made clear that obtaining a visa is different from meeting entry requirements to Australia, warning that they should not be “confused”.
Morrison said non-national arrivals would need to prove they were vaccinated twice or “acceptable evidence that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.”
First Counselor at the Serbian Embassy, Ivana Isidorovic, revealed on Friday that Djokovic has a diplomatic passport, and told the Herald Sun she must ensure “appropriate treatment” for the 34-year-old tennis star.
Reportedly she said, “Djokovic, as our most famous representative in the world, is the holder of a diplomatic passport, which, in theory and in consular practice, should guarantee him proper treatment when crossing the border.”
However, Djokovic’s passport is unlikely to have any bearing on vaccination requirements or visa revocation, and was not a feature of his case in federal court.