Djokovic saga on a medical timeout until next week
Adventure traveller/world #1 men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic will stay in immigration detention at the Park Hotel in Melbourne until Monday – a week before the Australian Open will start. Border Force stopped him at Melbourne Airport on Wednesday night. He was to be sent packing last night until an interim injunction granted late yesterday by the Federal Court was unopposed by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke. Tennis Australia wants the matter resolved by Tuesday when the Australian Open draw is set. “If I can say with the respect necessary, the tail won’t be wagging the dog here,” Judge Anthony Kelly said. But the judge wasn’t without sympathy – he enquired as to Djokovic’s access to a tennis court. (The hotel website says yes, along with a video library and 32 asylum seekers who advocates say have been held for 9 years…)
HOW DID IT COME TO THIS?
We’ve got a feeling that’s a question Team Djokovic is pondering as they get their heads around Australia’s cooperative federalism (COVID edition)… The key points are:
• Tennis Australia and the Victorian Government went through deciding if an unvaccinated Djokovic qualified for a medical exemption to compete in the tournament. As we learned this week, they gave him a thumbs up. Reports say that on the basis that he had contracted COVID-19 in the previous 6 months.
• But entering the country is a Federal Government thing, and Djokovic had his visa cancelled and was detained at Melbourne Airport yesterday. That’s because he is not vaccinated, which is a condition of entry ATM. And they say he did not provide evidence that he qualifies for a medical exemption to get around that Commonwealth requirement.
• Cue questions about how he could get on the plane to come… He had a visa, but it’s clear his vaxx/medical exemption issues were not ironed out before his departure. And now 2 other travellers connected to the Australian Open who have been let through with a medical exemption are under investigation.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Dunno… Monday’s hearing could answer that question. In the meantime, a different game of tennis will continue as officials and commentators hit the blame ball back and forth. PM Scott Morrison yesterday said Djokovic’s vaccination status problems were flagged in November and “rules are rules”. But former senior Immigration official Abul Rizvi said the situation results from process failures by the Feds. Overnight, his family have called it the “greatest sporting and diplomatic scandal”. But representing the pro-tennis community was Rafael Nadal – the vaccination advocate said “Everyone is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences, no?”
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