Novak Djokovic's fate in the hands Immigration Minister Alex Hawke

The Morrison government would be "mad" to deport Novak Djokovic, according to a former senior Immigration Department official, who has argued the longer the visa saga drags on the more likely it is the tennis star is allowed to remain in Australia.

Djokovic has resumed preparations for the Australian Open after the Federal Circuit Court overruled the government's decision last week to cancel the tennis star's visa.

Former Immigration Department deputy secretary Abul Rizvi has spoken to The Canberra Times about the three options before Mr Hawke.

'The quickest and easiest' 

Just moments after Judge Anthony Kelly handed down his verdict on Monday, lawyers for the government confirmed Mr Hawke would consider re-cancelling Djokovic's visa under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act.

That section grants the minister the power to cancel a visa if they are satisfied it would be in the public interest to do so.

Djokovic's visa was originally cancelled on the basis that the unvaccinated tennis star might pose a risk to the health, safety and good order of the Australian community.

However, Judge Kelly's verdict overruling that decision was not based on that issue, but rather the government's concession that Djokovic had been denied "procedural fairness" when his visa was cancelled in the early hours of last Thursday morning.

If Mr Hawke chooses to exercise that sweeping power, Djokovic wouldn't have a chance to respond and he would be marched back into detention. He would face a three-year ban from Australia.

That would be the "quickest and easiest" option for the government, Mr Rizvi said.

However, it wouldn't be the end of the matter.

Mr Rizvi said Djokovic's lawyers could mount another legal challenge, possibly to argue for an injunction to prevent immediate deportation and allow the Serbian to compete in the tournament while the proceedings continue.

But Mr Rizvi said given the tournament starts on Monday, the prospect of Djokovic lining up to defend his Australian crown if his visa was re-cancelled were extremely small.

'Two shit sandwiches' 

A second option has come into the frame following revelations Australian Border Force was investigating whether Djokovic had lied on his travel declaration form.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is considering whether to cancel Novak Djokovic's visa. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is considering whether to cancel Novak Djokovic's visa. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Court documents show Djokovic told authorities he had not travelled in the 14 days before he flew from Spain to Melbourne via Dubai on January 4.

However, footage has emerged which suggests Djokovic was in Serbia on Christmas Day, meaning he had travelled within the two-week window.

Border Force would not comment on Djokovic's case when contacted by The Canberra Times, however a spokesperson noted that providing false or misleading document to the Commonwealth could lead to visa cancellation.


Mr Rizvi said the revelations raised the prospect of Mr Hawke instead using section 133C(1) of the Migration Act to cancel Djokovic's visa.

Under that option, Djokovic would have an opportunity to respond. Mr Rizvi said the situation could get messy if, after considering Djokovic's response, Mr Hawke still decided to cancel the visa.

He said border officials would need to hand Djokovic his cancellation notice, which might involve travelling to his hotel or the Melbourne Park tennis precinct.

"The two options I have described are shit sandwiches. They are both awful, awful."

'Sit down for a cup of tea'

The third option, Mr Rizvi said, was that Djokovic came to an agreement with the government which allowed him to remain in Australia under strict conditions.

That might include daily COVID-19 tests and mandatory mask wearing, which would reduce the public health risk. He should also face sanctions if found to have lied on travel forms.

Almost two days on from Judge Kelly's ruling, Mr Rizvi believed that the two cancellation options were "just about out of play".

"I think the government would be mad to go down the cancellation route," he said.

"The media furore would be huge. Taking him back into the detention would be just an unbelievably bad look. The risk that you would lose the case on appeal is also still there.

"Why would you take all that risk? Why would you keep the issue just going and going and going, when you could kill it in a day or two."

Mr Rizvi argued that permitting Djokovic to stay was the right policy decision, not just a quick political fix.

"Preventing Djokovic from playing - how does that make any difference in terms of the risk of COVID in Australia?" he said.

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This story The three options to decide Novak Djokovic's fate first appeared on The Canberra Times.