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Senator's backhander: Time to move on from the Djokovic saga

Politics

A Nationals senator has called for the rigmarole over Novak Djokovic’s visa to be de-escalated and for Australians to move on as the Australian Open approaches.

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Matt Canavan says the country has spent long enough talking about a tennis player.

“(Djokovic) got Covid, he has natural immunity and is a low health risk but the decision was made and the court overturned it. I think we have to move on now and de-escalate it as much as possible,” Senator Canavan told the Nine Network on Wednesday.

“If he has said something wrong on his (immigration) form, OK, the law needs to apply there … (but) while I’ve never been a massive Novak fan, I thought he was honest and open through the interview process.”

Canavan said the world No.1 tennis star needed to be treated like anyone else trying to enter the country but immigration rules needed to be applied sensibly.

“He may have lied or made a mistake on the form. I am sure he is not the first person to tick the wrong box,” he said.

“I don’t want to live in a world of strict bureaucracy when if we make a mistake on a form we are hauled off to jail. If there’s been an error or a lie, he needs to be questioned again and see how or why that happened.”

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is still weighing up whether to use his discretionary powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa.

Mr Hawke is yet to make a decision on whether Djokovic should be deported after Monday’s decision by a federal court to overturn his visa cancellation.

Should such a discretionary decision be made, Djokovic could be banned from entering the country for three years.

It comes as court documents raised fresh questions about his status to enter the country.

Djokovic told authorities on a border declaration form he had not travelled in the two-week period before his flight to Australia.

However, Djokovic was filmed playing tennis in the streets of Belgrade in Serbia on Christmas Day and training in Spain on December 31, both within the 14-day window.

The declaration notes that giving false or misleading information is a serious offence, while civil penalties are also available.

Djokovic was detained in immigration detention last week for arriving into the country unvaccinated with an invalid exemption, in breach of Australia’s border laws, and his visa was cancelled as a result.

However, the Federal Circuit Court quashed the decision, after government lawyers conceded the decision made during an early morning immigration interview was unreasonable in the circumstances.

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