Novak Djokovic‘s court battle to stay in Australia so he can play in the Australian Open could cost taxpayers half a million dollars in legal fees.
The World No. 1 will fight deportation back to Serbia at the Federal Circuit Court on Monday after his visa was cancelled on Thursday.
Djokovic has been detained in a Melbourne hotel used to house refugees since his unsuccessful bid to enter Australia last Wednesday, where he was denied entry on the basis he was unvaccinated and did not have a valid exemption.
Justin Quill, a partner at Thomson Geer Lawyers, believes Djokovic will not only win his case but that it will come at a great cost to Australian taxpayers.
Novak Djokovic’s (pictured, with wife Jelena) court battle to stay in Australia so he can play in the Australian Open could cost taxpayers half a million dollars in legal fees
Djokovic has been detained in a Melbourne hotel used to house refugees since his unsuccessful bid to enter Australia last Wednesday, where he was denied entry on the basis he was unvaccinated and did not have a valid exemption (pictured, supporters for Djokovic rally outside the Melbourne hotel)
‘Novak Djokovic, if he wins this case, he’ll seek his costs,’ he told The Project on Sunday night.
‘If they win tomorrow, $250,000 to the government lawyers, probably a couple of hundred thousand to Novak to pay his legal fees. We’re getting close to half a million and that’s just if there’s no appeal.’
Mr Quill said the federal government’s case did not look good after it requested the court case be postponed for two days – before the demand was rejected by a judge.
‘That tells me two things,’ he said. ‘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.’
Lawyers for the Minister of Home Affairs filed their submissions at 10.30pm on Sunday – less than 12 hours before the case will be heard in the Federal Court.
The government maintains the decision to tear up Djokovic’s visa was correct on the basis he failed to justify his purported medical exemption, and that his team was using outdated vaccination advice.
Djokovic’s high-powered lawyers argue border officers acted unjustly and made critical jurisdictional errors in cancelling his temporary worker visa in the early hours of Thursday.
They claim the Australian Travel Declaration assessment, which arrivals on most visas must complete before boarding, said he had met quarantine-free arrival requirements.
Djokovic’s high powered legal team argues border officers acted unjustly and made critical jurisdictional errors in cancelling his temporary worker visa in the early hours of Thursday (pictured, Djokovic with Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley)
Some protesters looked solemn, with others left in tears, as they gathered outside Djokovic’s hotel to lend their support (pictured on Sunday)
Results of the assessment are processed by a computer in just 60 seconds, with the government saying the document isn’t official proof someone can enter the country and exists purely to give travellers an idea of whether they’re eligible to enter or not.
His team also argues he was not given time to rest, having travelled for 25 hours, or speak to a lawyer during hours of questioning at Melbourne Airport, with the star left ‘confused’.
Mr Quill said the Border Force’s handling of the situation would not act in its favour in front of a judge.
‘He [Djokovic] had no sleep, he was 25 hours in transit, he wasn’t give access, so he says, at least, wasn’t given access to a lawyer,’ he said.
‘The actual decision, what they relied on and took into account, and didn’t take into account, are also the grounds that Djokovic is arguing makes this deportation order invalid.’
Mr Quill believed the judge was likely to decide the deportation order was invalid and refer the matter back to the Minister for Home Affairs to make a decision.
Djokovic (pictured with his wife Jelena) was reportedly denied access to a lawyer on even an hour’s sleep during his initial gruelling questioning, despite having travelled for 25 hours
NOVAK DJOKOVIC VISA SAGA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
What happened when Djokovic arrived in Australia?
Novak Djokovic touched down in Melbourne about 11.30pm on Wednesday night, and was swiftly taken in for questioning by Border Force officials.
He spent about six hours speaking with officials before a decision was made to cancel his visa on the basis that he could not validate his medical exemption to arrive in Australia without a Covid-19 vaccine.
He was swiftly taken to a detention centre in the heart of Melbourne, where he remains.
Why is Djokovic in court?
Immediately after his visa was cancelled, Djokovic and his team indicated they would fight the decision.
They appeared before the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia on Thursday afternoon, where the matter was postponed until Monday, 10am.
On Monday, Djokovic’s lawyers will argue to reverse the decision to cancel the visa. The government hope to have the decision supported.
If Djokovic loses his appeal, he could be deported as early as Monday night, but it is likely to be more complex than that.
Who is responsible for the bungle?
Court documents and leaked letters have helped piece together the puzzle of how the messy visa situation occurred.
Since Djokovic was detained, officials have hand balled responsibility between themselves.
Djokovic was informed by Tennis Australia that he was exempt to travel to Australia and play. It’s understood his application was assessed by two bodies – one assigned by TA and the other by the Victorian state government.
On Saturday night, it was revealed via court documents that Djokovic had also received correspondence from the Department of Home Affairs – a federal body – which indicated he was free to travel to Australia.
But this has been revealed to be an arrivals assessment form, and not official confirmation he was granted quarantine-free travel.
No single party has accepted responsibility for the debacle, and at least one other tennis player has been sent home after they were initially approved with the same exemption.
Will Djokovic play in the Australian Open?
Djokovic will likely know if he will be competing in the Australian Open 2022 by 4pm Monday.
Commentators and legal experts are finding it challenging to predict an outcome for the case given it is constantly developing and has happened so quickly.