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Morrison government accused of using Novak Djokovic to ‘distract’ from COVID-19 issues

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“I understand that following careful consideration, action has been taken by the Minister to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa held on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.

“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods.”

Former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd accused the government of using Djokovic to distract from the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia.

“What a surprise! Morrison’s govt cancels Djokovic’s visa to win the weekend media cycle – showing us all how hairy chested he is. Why on earth did they issue the visa in the first place?” he wrote on Twitter.


“One big political distraction from empty shelves & the national shortage of boosters & [rapid antigen tests].”

Serbian President Aleksander Vucic again accused the government of harassing the tennis star.

“If you wanted to ban Djokovic from winning the trophy for the 10th time, why didn’t you return him immediately, why didn’t you tell him it was impossible to get a visa? Why are you harassing him?” he said, according to local media.

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The International Tennis Federation said in a statement while it respected the government’s decision, the saga has been “disappointing for everyone involved”.

“Protocols need to be clearly communicated in a timely manner and the proper process must be respected by all for it to be effective,” it said.

“And while the ITF believes that full vaccination is a personal decision, we believe this is the responsible action we must all take in order to ease restrictions and avoid such occurrences happening in the future.”

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Three-time men’s Grand Slam champion Andy Murray said it was “unfortunate that it’s ended up in this sort of situation”.

“Just want it to get resolved. I think it would be good for everyone if that was the case. It just seems like it’s dragged on for quite a long time now, and yeah, not great for the tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak,” he said. 

Former men’s world number one Boris Becker told the BBC “no tennis player is bigger than a tournament”.

“We have to concentrate, as sportsmen or women, back on the action on the court, not what’s happening in the court of justice. It is a political game he got involved in and that’s unfortunate.”

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Former Serbian tennis player Janko Tipsarevic took to Twitter and said the whole process had been “toxic”. 

“Shame on each and everyone involved in this process,” he wrote.

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After Djokovic’s visa was cancelled the first time, he was taken to the Park Hotel in Carlton, an immigration facility where dozens of asylum seekers are housed.

Some of the men at the facility have been in Australia’s immigration system for nearly a decade and have not been allowed to leave detention centres during legal battles.

A fire has broken out at the facility in recent weeks and detainees have reported being given meals with maggots and mould to eat.  It’s also been the site of a COVID-19 outbreak, where half of the detainees and around 20 staff became infected.

Elaine Pearson, Australia’s director at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter cancelling Djokovic’s visa “again exposes the Kafkaesque nature of Australia’s immigration regime”.

“Minister claims it is in the ‘public interest’ when it conveniently serves a political purpose. Meanwhile 32 refugees & asylum seekers remain detained in Park Hotel,” she wrote.

With Reuters.

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