Australia Novak Djokovic appeals against visa cancellation in Federal Court hearing ahead of Australian Open

03:22  16 january  2022
03:22  16 january  2022 Source:   abc.net.au

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Lawyers for Novak Djokovic have argued Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has misinterpreted media reports about the tennis star's views on vaccination, and the level of support he receives from anti-vaxxers.

They also say the minister failed to produce evidence the tennis star could fuel anti-vaccination sentiment by staying in Australia.

The full bench of the Federal Court began sitting on Sunday morning to hear Djokovic's appeal against his visa cancellation.

The high-stakes court case comes less than a day before the Australian Open begins and with the eyes of the world watching for the outcome of the weeks-long saga.

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The visa of the world men's number one was cancelled for a second time on Friday, with Mr Hawke citing "health and good order grounds".

In an application lodged with the Federal Circuit Court on Friday night, Djokovic's lawyers argued the cancellation of the tennis player's visa for the second time was not legally valid.

They argued it was not open for the minister to find Djokovic was opposed to vaccination, that there was no evidence the tennis star's presence would foster anti-vaccine sentiment, and that Mr Hawke did not consider the effect of cancelling the visa on stoking that sentiment.

In a response tendered to the court on Saturday night and made publicly available on Sunday morning, the Immigration Minister said Djokovic's case to remain in Australia failed on all three grounds.

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More than 86,000 people tuned in to watch the YouTube live stream of the court hearing.

Djokovic's lawyer, Nick Wood, told the Federal Court Mr Hawke had used reporting by the BBC and other outlets to support his claim Djokovic was opposed to vaccination.

He had also used stories from the Guardian and ABC to back his claims Australian anti-vaccination groups had expressed support for Djokovic's vaccination status.

But Mr Wood said the minister had misinterpreted the media reports. He had failed to note Djokovic was also quoted saying that he was not an expert on vaccination and had an open mind, Mr Wood told the court.

And he said the Guardian and ABC reports did not show Mr Djokovic was attracting anti-vaccine support.

Mr Wood told the court the minister had not sought out Djokovic's current views on vaccination.

"Not a single line of evidence in the material before the minister provided any … foundation whatsoever for the proposition of the mere presence of Mr Djokovic in Australia … may somehow, to use the minister's expression, foster anti-vaccination sentiment," Mr Wood said.

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He told the court that Djokovic had competed in many international tennis tournaments, and there had been no "evidence about anti-vax protests or rallies or the like at the tennis events or grounds or surrounds".

Djokovic's lawyers spent much of their time before the court arguing the minister should have considered the effect of cancelling the visa on anti-vaccination sentiment, rather than just the effect of allowing the player to stay.

"It is irrational and unreasonable to only look at one side of the coin," Mr Wood said.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke says 'ample evidence' of anti-vaxx sentiment

Mr Hawke's response to the appeal claim argues it was clearly open to him to find that the world number one men's tennis player was opposed to vaccination against COVID-19.

"The fact, amply supported by the materials, that Mr Djokovic is not vaccinated against COVID-19, and has previously stated he is opposed to vaccination, gives rise to an immediately available inference that people will perceive him as being opposed to COVID-19 vaccination," the documents read.

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The response also argues there is "ample evidence" to support Mr Hawke's finding that Djokovic's presence in Australia may foster sentiment against coronavirus vaccinations.

Mr Hawke has also rejected Djokovic's ground that cancelling his visa was illogical or irrational because it could spark the same anti-vaccination unrest as allowing him to stay.

"This ground should be rejected because the better inference from the material is that the Minister did take it into account," the court documents read.

"In any event, Mr Djokovic cannot show that the Minister did not do so, and Mr Djokovic has the onus of proof. Further, any failure to consider it (which is denied) would not amount to jurisdictional error in the circumstances of this case."

Chief Justice James Allsop told the court the hearing should be finished by lunchtime.

Hearing comes one day before Australian Open begins

A political and sporting storm has surrounded Djokovic's visa since the world men's number one arrived in Australia just before midnight on January 5, and was subsequently taken into immigration detention.

The Serb's visa was initially cancelled by Border Force officials shortly after his arrival, then reinstated by a Federal Circuit Court judge in a hearing last Monday.

‘Lightning rod': the world reacts to Novak Djokovic's visa cancellation

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He was named as the top men's seed in a delayed Australian Open draw on Thursday before his visa was cancelled for a second time by the Immigration Minister on Friday.

At the same time, questions have swirled around Djokovic's actions in the days after he received a positive COVID-19 result in mid-December, when he was seen attending events and participated in a media interview.

The tennis star later confirmed he was unaware of his positive result during the public events, but was aware at the time of the interview.

The controversy has drawn commentary from around the globe, including from the Serbian Government and the tennis world.

Djokovic is scheduled to play in the first round of the Australian Open tomorrow.

If the Federal Court upholds the appeal it will allow Djokovic to attempt to win his 10th Australian Open and become the all-time men's leader with 21 grand slam crowns, going past Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Novak Djokovic's Covid decision before coming to Australia is revealed .
Tennis star Novak Djokovic reportedly purchased a majority stake in a biotech company looking to develop a treatment against Covid-19 in the lead up to the Australian Open.International news organisation Reuters reports the world number one holds an 80 per cent stake in QuantBioRes, who are currently developing a peptide which prevents the virus from infecting human cells.

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