Topics: Departure from Australia of Mr Novak Djokovic.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Home Affairs Minister, Karen Andrews, joins us live now. Minister, thanks for your time this morning, as always. So is Novak out now for three years?
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning. Yes, he is. That is an outcome of the decision that was taken that was upheld by the Federal Court. So, yes, Mr. Djokovic is now subject to a three-year exclusion. It can be waived in compelling circumstances, but that’s not a matter for today or tomorrow. That’s a matter for some time in the future.
PETER STEFANOVIC: So what are some of those compelling circumstances?
KAREN ANDREWS: Any applicant would need to go through a process. So it doesn’t matter if it’s Mr Djokovic or whether it’s someone else. If you’ve been excluded from entry to Australia previously, you would have to demonstrate some compelling reasons. Now, I’m not going to go through what those compelling reasons would be, but we have been very clear. The Morrison Government has always maintained very strong border protection policies. So for anyone who has been excluded from entry to Australia who has had their visa cancelled, it is not going to be an easy or a straightforward process to get entry to Australia.
PETER STEFANOVIC: So he might well have played his last tennis match in Australia. He’s 34 now. He’d be 37 then. If the ban is lifted, might we have seen the last of him?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, potentially that will be a matter for him to consider at some stage in the future. I’m not going to comment on how long he or any other player may continue to play, but a three-year exclusion does apply.
PETER STEFANOVIC: What if he were to get vaccinated? Would that change the game?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, it may be something that could be taken into account at any time that he may choose to apply for a visa to come back to Australia; that would be assessed. But he had the opportunity to be vaccinated, and he never took that opportunity in the past. If he had been vaccinated, it would have been an entirely different scenario at the airport when he was attempting to come into Australia.
PETER STEFANOVIC: This whole saga could have been avoided. Why was a visa even granted in the first place?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well the whole saga could have been avoided if Mr. Djokovic was vaccinated. But in terms of visas, it’s an entirely separate process – the granting of a visa. Now, it’s not necessary to demonstrate that you are vaccinated at the time you apply for a visa, it’s not taken into consideration in terms of awarding a visa or granting a visa. Those reasons are very clear because it’s a two part process, at least, and there are multiple steps to entry into Australia. The first step is to make sure you have a valid visa. The second part is to meet the entry requirements that apply at the time that you are seeking to come to Australia. I’m very comfortable with vaccination not being a requirement of the granting of a visa, simply because – and this is actually an important point – when visas are granted, that could be for a few years at a time, and entry requirements into Australia will change. That’s why the visa process and the granting of a visa is very separate to the entry requirements that apply at the time that individual is seeking to enter Australia. Now, at the moment, one of the requirements is that you are either fully vaccinated or you provide acceptable proof that you cannot be vaccinated for a medical reason – that’s very clear and that’s been in place for some time. At some stage in the future, that may well be amended or it may well change. That is not being contemplated at all at this point in time, but the entry requirements to Australia do change from time to time, and it is the individual traveller’s responsibility to make sure that they have a valid visa and they have met requirements.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Do you believe that Tennis Australia is at fault here, knowing his stance and his position on vaccination? Tennis Australia is at fault for encouraging him to come, even though he’s the world’s number one tennis player?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, I haven’t had a conversation with Tennis Australia about their processes at all. Quite frankly, as I said before, an exemption to play tennis in Victoria is not a medical exemption to enter Australia. So it will be up to Tennis Australia to review what those processes were, but clearly they cannot determine who enters Australia, and that has been played out.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. You just heard some pretty strong commentary from Serbia, which has accused Australia of torturing Novak Djokovic. Is that true, and is there a diplomatic issue now between us and Serbia?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, I disagree with the view that has been put, but I do understand that the Serbian President and Serbian officials will be doing all that they can to support one of their citizens. That’s understandable. You would absolutely expect them to do that, just as you would expect that our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is going to do all that he can to protect Australia and Australians. So understand the position of the Serbian President and why he is arguing the matters that he is. But I disagree.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay, just a final one here Minister, on Tonga – can you just elaborate on what extra help is being provided and what reports you are getting from the ground?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, firstly, the situation in Tonga is absolutely terrible and our hearts go out to all those people who have been affected by it. I think the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister have already made it very clear that we are ready to provide the support that Tonga needs. So I know that we are speaking with them. We will go through the processes of support; Australia stands ready and that’s the important thing at this point in time
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, thanks for your time.
KAREN ANDREWS: Thank you.