The Australian government is being accused of using the Novak Djokovic 'shambles' to distract from the country's other problems

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The Australian government is being accused of using the Novak Djokovic 'shambles' to distract from the country's other problems
Novak Djokovic had his visa revoked for a second time on Friday.Getty/William West
  • The Australian government has been accused of dragging out the Novak Djokovic visa saga.
  • Opposition figure Jim Chalmers said it was doing so to distract from the country's COVID-19 troubles.

The Australian government has been accused of dragging out the Novak Djokovic visa saga to distract from the country's ongoing COVID-19 troubles.

Djokovic had his visa revoked for a second time on Friday following a 10-day rigmarole that started when the world number one arrived in Melbourne on January 5.

The Serbian first had his visa cancelled by Australia's border forces after it was deemed that the medical exemption he had been initially granted by the Australian Open was not sufficient to enter the country.

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After just over four days being held in an immigration detention facility, Djokovic was then released and his visa was reinstated following a successful appeal in court.

But revelations that he provided false information about his movements prior to flying to Australia on his travel declaration form then led to an investigation at the hands of the Australian Border Force.

Alex Hawke, Australia's immigration minister, was expected to make a decision as to whether to revoke Djokovic's visa for a second time in light of the revelations early in the week, however it wasn't until Friday he eventually made the call to do so.

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The lengthy saga has led some in Australian politics to suggest that the government is trying to distract from other issues in the country.

According to The Guardian, at a press conference Friday, Labor's shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers accused the current government of "using this Novak Djokovic saga as a distraction from the shortages in our supermarkets, the shortages in our chemists, the shortages of workers."

On Friday, Australia reported over 130,000 new cases of COVID, largely due to surge in Omicron infections. This was its highest ever single day case number.

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Rising cases are driving up hospitalization rates and putting a severe strain on several of the country's industries, including food distribution and transport, according to Reuters.

Speaking just prior to Friday's decision to revoke Djokovic's visa for a second time, Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie called the government's handling of the situation an "absolute shambles."

"Maybe it's about time to stop this debacle, finish it once and for all," she told Channel 9's Today programme, per SBS News. "Make up your mind, Alex Hawke, and where are you? Missing in action? Make a decision."

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She added: "If you can't make a decision on Novak Djokovic, goodness me, how are you guys running the country? This is an absolute shambles.

"Let alone what it's making us look like in the face of the rest of the world. It's absolutely a shocker."

The Australian government is being accused of using the Novak Djokovic 'shambles' to distract from the country's other problems
Senator Jacqui Lambie criticized the "absolute shambles" of the Djokovic visa saga.Getty/David Gray

Djokovic's saga is far from over yet, however.

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Djokovic's lawyers appeared in front of Judge Anthony Kelly in the Federal Circuit Court for a hearing on Friday, where Kelly outlined the next steps in the Serbian's appeal case.

At the request of the player's lawyer, Nick Wood, the Australian government agreed to delay a full hearing until Sunday, and to not start the deportation process for Djokovic before then.

Djokovic's legal team and the team representing the Australian government will make submissions on Saturday ahead of Sunday's hearing. Djokovic will also attend an immigration hearing at 8 a.m. on Saturday.

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The 34-year-old is not being detained overnight Friday, but government lawyer Stephen Lloyd proposed that he be detained on Saturday prior to the Sunday hearing, to which he would have to be escorted to by Australian Border Force officers.

Wood told the hearing that he accepts that the government is within its rights to take Djokovic into detention, but warned doing so would result in a "media circus."

Should be allowed to remain in Australia, Djokovic is set to face countryman Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday or Tuesday.

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