Topics: Cancellation by the Australian Border Force of Novak Djokovic’s visa.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Joining me now live to discuss this is Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews. Minister, thank you so much for joining us. It’s pretty clear that Novak Djokovic arrived in Australia believing he had all the documents and support required to enter the country and compete. How did it get this far before it hit a problem? Who is at fault?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, it’s clearly an issue for every traveller who comes into Australia to make sure they have the proper documentation. In terms of entry to Australia, that means you need to have a valid visa if you’re not an Australian citizen or a resident. You actually need to go through the process, as everyone does, of meeting all of the requirements of coming into Australia. So non-citizens need a valid visa to be able to come in and they also need to be able to make sure they are meeting the entry requirements. The entry requirements include that you have to have proof you have been fully vaccinated, and if you can’t provide that proof, you have to provide evidence that you cannot be vaccinated because of medical reasons.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: So why then was he granted a visa in the first place?
KAREN ANDREWS: They’re entirely separate processes. To gain entry to Australia you need both – you actually need the visa, which is determined quite separately, and then you have to meet the entry requirements. It’s the entry requirements that require that you are fully vaccinated or you have a medical clearance to say that you cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. So I know that people are putting the two issues together, but the visa application process and the granting of a visa is very separate to the additional entry requirements that every traveller needs to meet to be able to enter Australia.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: So in this case, Minister – just to clarify – he has not met the medical reasons why he couldn’t be vaccinated, is that correct?
KAREN ANDREWS: Australian Border Force made it very clear when they issued their statement that he had not met the entry requirements for Australia.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: What are the rules surrounding whether a visa is cancelled? If Novak Djokovic is unsuccessful in his court challenge, if his visa is then cancelled, is it the case that he could be subject to a re-entry ban?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, under the law it is absolutely open that someone who has had their visa cancelled may be unable to re-enter the country for a period of up to three years. So, yes, that is absolutely open. It clearly depends on the circumstances. They would be determined at some time in the future if an individual had their visa cancelled and then sought to enter Australia at a later date.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Minister, this is playing out quite publicly on the world stage, but obviously in Serbia. Their President and their Prime Minister have weighed in. Novak Djokovic’s dad has claimed that Novak is being held captive. How embarrassing is this for Australia on the world stage?
KAREN ANDREWS: My view is that Australia has always been very clear that we do have border laws, and to enter this country you need to make sure that you meet all of those requirements. So this is a longstanding position of Australia, and particularly of this government. So we have been clear what those entry requirements are, and we make no apology for the fact that we are prepared to uphold them.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: There are many other players who have entered Australia under the same application. Are you investigating any other players?
KAREN ANDREWS: We certainly are. So Australian Border Force is undertaking those investigations now. When those investigations are concluded I’m sure I will be briefed on that. But I am absolutely confident that the Australian Border Force will take the exact and appropriate steps that need to be taken if it actually finds through the course of its investigations that there are people here who have not met the entry requirements to be here.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: You always knew that this was going to be a high profile case when it comes to Novak Djokovic. Was he treated differently to other players who entered Australia?
KAREN ANDREWS: Not from Australian Border Force’s perspective as far as I’m aware. Every traveller who seeks to enter Australia is given the opportunity to provide evidence that they do meet the entry requirements. My understanding is that certainly was afforded to Mr Djokovic.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: So just confirming then, we could have a case where other players, their visas may now be cancelled. What happens to the tournament? I know this isn’t your position or your Department here, but we certainly have a case where we could see other players sent back to their homeland.
KAREN ANDREWS: Australian Border Force is undertaking its investigations. Now, it may well be that those individuals can provide the evidence they need to meet Australia’s entry requirements, in which case that’s all fine and they will be able to continue to do whatever they are here in this country to do. But if they don’t meet Australia’s entry requirements and they cannot prove that they meet Australia’s entry requirements, then Border Force will take the appropriate action.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.
KAREN ANDREWS: Pleasure. Thank you.