The Federal Court of Australia on Thursday released the ruling of a three-judge panel that supported the immigration minister’s revocation of Novak Djokovic’s visa, revealing for the first time the judges’ reasoning.
The minister’s justifications for revoking the visa were not “irrational or illogical or not based on relevant material,” the ruling said. The minister had argued that Mr. Djokovic’s position as a role model who chose to remain unvaccinated against Covid-19 could “foster anti-vaccination sentiment.”
The court’s decision, which ended Mr. Djokovic’s chance of winning a record 21st men’s Grand Slam title in Melbourne this year, concluded a volatile saga that prompted debate over immigration law, celebrity entitlement and Covid vaccinations.
“An iconic world tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him,” the panel of three judges found. “This is not fanciful; it does not need evidence.”
Once held up as an example of how nations could keep Covid cases low, Australia is now tackling its most severe surge since the pandemic began.
The court noted the broad authority of the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, to control entry into the country and found he was well within his rights to cancel Mr. Djokovic’s visa on the grounds of “health and good order.”
The legal question, the judges said, was not whether Mr. Djokovic actually posed a risk to health, safety and good order to the country, but whether Mr. Hawke was “satisfied” that his presence in the country might amount to one.
Though Mr. Hawke did not have to provide his reasons for canceling Mr. Djokovic’s visa, the judgment said they were “carefully drafted,” and showed that he had exercised the discretionary power lawfully.
Mr. Djokovic accepted the decision and left the country, returning on Monday to his home in Serbia.