Topics: Cancellation by the Australian Border Force of Novak Djokovic’s visa.
MARK LEVY: Let’s get the latest from Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews. She joins me on the line right now. Minister, good morning.
KAREN ANDREWS: Hello, how are you?
MARK LEVY: Very well thank you. It’s been quite an extraordinary morning, and I’ve got to say the response we’re getting from our listeners is ‘thank you to the Border Force’ and ‘thank you to the Australian Government’ for correcting a wrong that should never have happened in the first place. Can you take us through what’s transpired over the last few hours down there in Melbourne?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, let me start by saying that an exemption to play tennis in Victoria is not an exemption to enter this country. So whatever the Victorian state government decided they were going to do – in conjunction with Tennis Australia – to allow for someone to play tennis in Victoria does not give a right of entry into Australia. To enter Australia, you need a valid visa. They are assessed quite separately, to actually entering into the country. So you need a valid visa, and then you need to meet our entry requirements. That includes a negative PCR test within three days of uplift; it includes completion of the Australia Travel Declaration; and it requires proof of vaccination. Now, if an individual cannot provide proof of vaccination, they have to provide acceptable proof that they can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons. Those are the requirements for entry into Australia. Every individual who wants to come in here has to meet those requirements. If they cannot provide that information, they will not be allowed to enter into this country.
MARK LEVY: Well, just on that Minister, I want to ask you this because I’ve heard that Novak Djokovic had the right visa, but he just didn’t have the documentation to prove that he satisfied it. So do you know whether Border Force was given any documentation in relation to vaccination requirements from Novak Djokovic or his team?
KAREN ANDREWS: It was the entry requirements that were the issue and Border Force has actually been very clear; they’ve actually put out a statement confirming that Mr Djokovic failed to provide the appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements. So I know that there’s a lot of chatter out there at the moment, but to enter Australia, you have to have a valid visa and you have to meet the entry requirements, which goes to issues of vaccination or if you don’t have proof of vaccination, you must have proof that you could not be vaccinated because of medical reasons.
MARK LEVY: All right. What’s the latest on a potential legal challenge? A lot of people are asking me, Minister, when will this bloke be back on a plane and sent back to Europe? Can you answer those questions for me?
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes. In relation to a legal challenge, I’ve heard the discussion about that as well. We will respond to that if and when that happens, in relation to departure of any individual once a visa has been cancelled, our expectation is that they will depart as soon as possible. My understanding is that the departure arrangements are being made now and my expectation is that Mr Djokovic will be leaving at the first available opportunity.
MARK LEVY: Should this have been headed off prior to today, Minister? I mean, this has been obviously in the pipeline for a little while now. The whole thing has been a circus. I mean, my main role here at the network is a sports commentator, and I’ve been talking about this for it seems like forever, where you just can’t get a straight answer out of Novak Djokovic and poor old Craig Tiley, the boss of Tennis Australia. He’s had to duck and weave and dodge these questions and he sort of been thrown under the bus lately with all of this. I know it was a Victoria government and health decision to grant him the exemption. Should the Federal Government have stepped in earlier and said, ‘hey, listen, we run the international borders. He ain’t coming to play the Australian Open’ or not?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, as I said right at the beginning, any exemption that the Victorian government might have decided to give to someone to go and play tennis in Victoria is not the same as an exemption to enter this country. The Victorian government does not have the authority to determine who enters this country.
MARK LEVY: Yeah, but that’s not the question, Minister. With all due respect, I’m asking you whether maybe you should have stepped in earlier than this. I mean, it’s been in the newspaper, it’s been in the news. Should you not have picked up the phone to your counterparts in Victoria and said, ‘what are you people doing? We run the international borders. He ain’t coming. It’s not happening.’
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, an individual has the opportunity to provide the evidence, so they have the opportunity to provide that PCR test within three days of their departure. They have the opportunity to complete an Australia Travel Declaration and they have the opportunity to furnish proof of vaccination or acceptable proof that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. So the individual has the opportunity to do that, and every individual is afforded that opportunity. So Mr Djokovic was no different.
MARK LEVY: That’s fair enough. That’s fair enough. I understand where you’re coming from. What about some of the other players? Because I’ve been told there’s at least two players who are entered into the Australian Open who have already arrived and who have already been granted access to Australia who are unvaccinated. Will you be looking into that? And have you been made aware of any other players who are unvaccinated and have already arrived in this country?
KAREN ANDREWS: I’m aware of those allegations, and I can assure you that the Australian Border Force is investigating that now.
MARK LEVY: All right, so there’s a chance that we could have some more people being sent home from Melbourne. Is that what you’re saying?
KAREN ANDREWS: The Australian Border Force is going to conduct their investigations, and it may well be that everyone who has come into the country has the correct documentation and everything is all in order. ABF needs the opportunity to be able to conduct its investigation. But if the evidence is not there, then they will take the appropriate action.
MARK LEVY: All right. Well, Minister, you’ve got to know – I’ve never seen the phone line here in the studio light up like a Christmas tree like it did. The amount of messages and emails that I got from people saying ‘this can’t happen! For two years, we’ve done the right thing,’ and ‘just because this world number one wants to waltz in and play tennis, we let him in?’ I know that’s not your responsibility. But what you have done through your Department, Home Affairs, and obviously, Border Force, you said ‘No, your documentation doesn’t live up to what it needs to be’ and his access has been denied. There are a lot of people saying ‘thank you, Minister. Thank you, Government. Thank you, Border Force for what you’ve done this morning. So thanks for joining us to provide us with an update, and we’ll obviously bid him farewell when Novak Djokovic gets on that plane at some point. Thanks for joining us.
KAREN ANDREWS: Take care. Thank you.