Mon, 24 Jan 2022

Scott Morrison gave further insight into the Australian government's stance amid the drama surrounding the tennis world number one

Novak Djokovic's participation at the Australian Open remains in the balance as Prime Minister Scott Morrison asserted that a visa does not automatically grant the right to enter a country.

Defending champion Djokovic was included in Thursday's Australian Open draw but could yet find himself deported before the tournament gets underway next week.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday largely related to cabinet matters, PM Morrison declined to comment directly on Djokovic's case, instead reiterating that the issue was in the hands of Immigration Minister Alex Hawke.

However, Morrison did give a clear indication on the government's stance regarding entry for unvaccinated foreigners and the necessity to prove why they deserve an exemption.

"All I will simply say is the reason we have had since 15 December, where fully vaccinated eligible visa holders could travel to Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption... that individual has to show they are double vaccinated or must provide acceptable proof that they can't be vaccinated for medical reason," said Morrison.

"That's the policy, that policy hasn't changed... of course we would expect authorities to be implementing the policy of the government when it comes to those matters."

Djokovic had his visa reinstated on Monday, but Morrison added: "We have to distinguish between the visa and then the condition to enter the border. They are not one and the same thing, they are often conflated, and they shouldn't be.

"You can have a visa, just like you can be a citizen or a resident returning, and the condition for you to come in and what happens after that will depend on vaccination status.

"If you're a citizen or resident, of course you can come back into your own country, but you would have to quarantine in those circumstances.

"If you're not a citizen or resident, then the health rules we have in place [are] to protect our borders - and our border protection policies have been central to the government's achievements, and Australia's achievements more generally, in having one of the lowest death rates, strongest economies, and highest vaccination rates in the world."

Reports in Australia have indicated that Immigration Minister Hawke would not make a decision on Djokovic's case earlier than Friday, although some political commentators have claimed it's more likely than not that the Serbian is "given the boot."

Djokovic arrived Down Under last week with a medical exemption to compete at the Australian Open granted by Tennis Australia and the Victoria state authorities.

That rested on the 34-year-old's recovery from a Covid infection in December, but border officials deemed it insufficient reason to enter the country as Djokovic is not vaccinated.

They canceled his visa in the early hours of last Thursday morning and detained him at a notorious hotel facility run by the immigration authorities.

A Melbourne federal court judge dramatically reversed that decision on Monday, deeming that Djokovic had been treated "unreasonably" during the process by not having more time to consult with legal representatives and tennis officials.

Djokovic has been free to train at Melbourne Park ahead of next week's tournament and the nine-time champion was included in Thursday's draw, where he was paired in the first round with countryman Miomir Kecmanovic.

Djokovic was forced to issue an apology this week after admitting that his travel declaration to enter Australia had included incorrect information.

The document, which had been completed by an agent on his behalf, stated that the world number one had not traveled in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Australia, when in fact he had moved from Serbia to Spain at the end of December, before making his way to Australia via transit in Dubai.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion also apologized for "an error in judgement" after it was confirmed that he had attended an interview with French magazine L'Equipe on December 18 when he should have been isolating following a positive Covid test.

The saga has taken on a distinctly political tone, with Australian PM Morrison being accused by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic of complicity in 'a witch hunt' against Djokovic.

Members of Djokovic's family have also hit out at the Australian authorities, with the Serbian star's father, Srdjan, telling RT that it was "all about politics."

(RT.com)

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