Topics: Cancellation by the Australian Border Force of Novak Djokovic’s visa.
ISKHANDAR RAZAK: Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews joins us now. Karen Andrews, good morning. Thank you so much for your time. I just want to try and understand exactly what’s gone on here, if we can. Can you explain what role Tennis Australia has or had, what role the Victorian government had in granting anything, and then what exactly happened at the Melbourne Airport when Novak Djokovic arrived?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, good morning. Let me start by saying this: an exemption by the Victorian government to play tennis in Victoria is entirely different to any exemption for entry requirements for Australia’s purposes. So I actually cannot provide any more detail than is currently in the media at the moment in relation to any action that the Victorian government might have taken or Tennis Australia. What I can tell you about, is what the Federal Government is entirely responsible for – and that is the issuing of visas. That is our responsibility. It is the first part of effectively, in simple terms, a two-part process to enter Australia. Firstly, you need a visa to enter Australia, and secondly you have to meet the entry requirements to come into Australia. Now, currently that includes making sure you have a negative PCR test before you’re uplifted – so it’s three days before you’re uplifted; you need to complete an Australia Travel Declaration, and you need to – and this is the important part – you need to make sure you have proof that you are fully vaccinated against COVID. If you cannot provide that proof, you actually have to provide acceptable proof that you cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. So it’s a two-part process; the issuing of the visa, and then the entry requirements to come into Australia; very separate processes.
ISKHANDAR RAZAK: So was Novak Djokovic ever granted a visa and, if so, what kind of role does Tennis Australia play in any of that?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, two things: yes, there was a visa issued. That is actually not the issue. It is the second part of that process which is the specific entry requirements to be able to cross Australia’s border and to enter Australia lawfully. Now, it is the individual traveller’s responsibility to make sure that they have in place all the necessary documentation that is needed to enter Australia. So ultimately the individual traveller is the one that’s responsible. I can’t say with any level of clarity at all what Tennis Australia’s involvement was specifically in relation to Mr Djokovic or to any individual. What I can do, of course, is refer to the two letters that were made public yesterday from the Health Department and also from the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, to Tennis Australia, which outlined very clearly what was required for medical proof of vaccination. That was outlined to Tennis Australia. How they communicated that, I cannot provide you with any clarity of that. That is clearly a question for Tennis Australia.
ISKHANDAR RAZAK: So Minister, how many others associated with tennis right now – players or staff – are now in Australia are being investigated by the Home Affairs office?
KAREN ANDREWS: I’m aware of investigations in relation to two individuals by the Australian Border Force. They’re going through their processes of investigation and at some in time they will brief me, but what I can absolutely assure you and the rest of Australia of is that the Australian Border Force will take absolutely the appropriate action. So they’re conducting their investigations and they will take the appropriate action.
ISKHANDAR RAZAK: So if there are two individuals that there are now questions about, that they arrived, they had a visa, they got through customs at some point in time, why was Novak Djokovic singled out when he arrived?
KAREN ANDREWS: Any person who comes through our border can at any time be asked to provide evidence that they have the appropriate documentation and that they meet Australia’s entry requirements. It is a multi-relayed approach to be able to get into Australia, and at any point in that process you can be asked to provide the evidence that is necessary to prove that you are eligible to enter Australia. So that can be at the border, which is what happened in the case of Mr Djokovic. It could be earlier in the process as well. It could be at the point of boarding the aircraft to come into Australia. But what we’re also seeing now, is that you are still required to have valid proof that you are able to be in Australia, and that’s why Border Force is investigating two other individuals – that I am aware of – in relation to whether or not they have the evidence to prove that they are eligible to be in Australia.
ISKHANDAR RAZAK: Novak Djokovic is now in a hotel that normally houses asylum seekers, and there are asylum seekers there now. There have been tense scenes there overnight – refugee advocates out the front trying to raise the plight of what else is going on there in terms of asylum seekers. Novak Djokovic’s family say he’s being kept prisoner – a prisoner in a prison-like situation there. What does this say to the world about how Australia treats asylum seekers?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, can I say firstly that Mr Djokovic is not being held captive in Australia. He is free to leave at any time that he chooses to do so, and Border Force will actually facilitate that. In relation to other people who are in immigration detention, whether it be in a hotel in Melbourne or whether it be elsewhere in Australia, those people are there because they don’t have a valid visa or they are here illegally in Australia for maybe a number of reasons. We treat all people who are in immigration detention fairly and equitably. For those people who are protesting, all I can say is people in Australia do have the right to voice their opinions and to protest, they just need to do that lawfully.
ISKHANDAR RAZAK: What message does this entire situation send to the world though?
KAREN ANDREWS: That Australia has very strong border policies and has done for many years, particularly under the Coalition Government, and we will make sure that entry to Australia meets the requirements that we have established through our Government’s policies.
ISKHANDAR RAZAK: Karen Andrews, Home Affairs Minister, thank you so much for your time.
KAREN ANDREWS: Pleasure. Thank you.