‘Djokovic’s presence may lead to more anti-vax sentiment’
Djokovic, who is unvaccinated against COVID-19, arrived in the country last Thursday for the Australian Open, when he was detained by border officials and had his visa cancelled.
Australia’s pandemic response has included an insistence a visa holder must be double-vaccinated or show acceptable proof they cannot be vaccinated to enter quarantine-free.
While the first cancellation was later overturned by a federal court on fairness grounds, Djokovic was faced with uncertainty over his future in the Australian Open with the possibility of a second visa cancellation from the immigration minister.
Novak Djokovic practices on Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, January 13, 2022. Source: AP
In court documents uploaded online on Saturday, it was revealed Mr Hawke cancelled Djokovic’s visa for the second time as he believed the tennis star’s presence in Australia may “foster anti-vaccination sentiment” and “civil unrest”.
“I consider that Mr Djokovic’s ongoing presence in Australia may lead to an increase in anti-vaccination sentiment generated in the Australian community, potentially leading to an increase in civil unrest of the kind previously experienced in Australia with rallies and protests which may themselves be a source of community transmission,” he said.
Mr Hawke also said allowing Djokovic to stay in Australia could lead to “other unvaccinated persons refusing to become vaccinated” or reduce Australia’s uptake of COVID-19 booster jabs.
“I am concerned that his presence in Australia, given his well-known stance on vaccination, creates a risk of strengthening the anti-vaccination sentiment of a minority of the Australian community,” he said.
Mr Hawke’s also noted Djokovic’s “apparent disregard” for the need to isolate after testing positive. The Serbian has admitted to attending an interview and photoshoot in the days after contracting the virus last month.
Djokovic lawyer’s, however, said the minister was “patently irrational” in not considering that kicking the tennis star out of the country would also excite the same anti-vaccination sentiments.
They also said Mr Hawke “cited no evidence” to support the idea Djokovic’s presence in Australia could foster anti-vaccination sentiment, and that it “was not open to the Minister to make that finding”.
The Australian Open begins on Monday, with the men’s world No.1 looking to secure his 10th title at the event.
Djokovic was named in the draw on Thursday, where he is slated to face Serbian compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic.