Federal Government cops major blow in Novak Djokovic court case

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·Sports Editor
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  • Novak Djokovic
    Novak Djokovic
    Serbian tennis player
Novak Djokovic, pictured here at the airport in Serbia.
The Federal Government's attempt to have Novak Djokovic's court case delayed has been denied. Image: Instagram/Getty

The Federal Government has had a last-ditch attempt to have Novak Djokovic's court hearing delayed rejected.

The World No.1's court fight to remain in the country and defend his Australian Open title went ahead on Monday despite a late bid by federal government lawyers to delay the case.

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Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly on Saturday rejected the application to adjourn the virtual hearing until Wednesday, directing that Djokovic's submissions be presented at 10am on Monday.

Submissions on behalf of Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews will then follow at 3pm, subject to any further adjournment application.

The application to delay the hearing, made on behalf of Andrews over the weekend, sought to adjourn the final hearing by two days - just five days from the start of the Australian Open.

Justin Quill, a partner at law firm Thomson Geer Lawyers, told The Project on Sunday night: “That tells me two things. 

"They realise there’s more in this than they first thought and they’ve got a real fight on their hands, and they’re scrambling and they’re on the back foot.”

The 34-year-old Djokovic has been in immigration detention in Melbourne since Thursday morning after having his visa cancelled by the federal government.

Documents released by the Federal Court on Saturday show Djokovic contracted Covid-19 on December 16 and was free from symptoms before he arrived in Australia.

His lawyers will argue that he met the criteria for a temporary exemption under Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines and that he was denied procedural fairness during the decision to revoke his visa.

Novak Djokovic's father Srdjan, pictured here at a rally in front of Serbia's National Assembly.
Novak Djokovic's father Srdjan speaks at a rally in front of Serbia's National Assembly. (Photo by OLIVER BUNIC/AFP via Getty Images)

"The visa holder (Djokovic) stated that Tennis Australia facilitated his medical exemption from Covid-19 vaccination requirement and completed the Australian Travel Declaration on his behalf," a Home Affairs representative said, as quoted in court papers.

"I consider that Tennis Australia would have facilitated his medical exemption and Australian Travel Declaration based on information (Djokovic) provided to them. As such, I don't consider these constitute extenuating circumstances beyond (Djokovic's) control.

"I apply significant weight in favour of visa cancellation for this factor."

Documents cite the ATAGI advice, including: "Covid-19 vaccination in people who have had PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection can be deferred for a maximum of six months after the acute illness, as a temporary exemption due to acute major medical illness".

Novak Djokovic contracted Covid-19 on December 16

Djokovic provided evidence that he was diagnosed with Covid-19 on December 16.

After his arrival on Wednesday evening, court papers show Djokovic had a sleepless night as he was questioned by authorities at times including 4am, before the visa revocation at 7.42am.

A partial transcript of that interview included: "you have stated you are not vaccinated against Covid-19".

Djokovic has previously declined to confirm his vaccination status.

An outline of his case says Djokovic had received a letter from Tennis Australia's chief medical officer on December 30 recording that he had been provided with a "medical exemption from COVID vaccination" on the ground that he had recently recovered from COVID,.

In a letter leaked to media, Tennis Australia rejected that players were knowingly misled, insisting organisers had followed "instructions".

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said his organisation received conflicting and contradictory information due to the "changing environment" of the pandemic.

The sporting body spoke to Home Affairs and other parts of government weekly to ensure it was doing the right thing, he told Nine News on Sunday.

The parties have agreed that oral submissions should not exceed two hours in court.

with AAP

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