The visa system questioned on the Djokovic saga
The Novak Djokovic visa saga could be averted if the federal government’s promised digital passenger declaration system is in place, the home affairs secretary has said.
Mike Pezzullo said the system would have given officials near-instant access to the tennis star’s supporting documents to assess whether he met Australia’s entry requirements – including vaccination exemptions.
Under the system, the department would have been able to discern Mr Djokovic’s vaccination status and whether he had an exemption to enter the country unvaccinated before he arrived in Australia.
This means that if Mr Djokovic was unable to provide adequate documentation of his vaccination status through the digital system, the airline would have been advised not to allow him to travel.
“If we had a time machine and traveled back in time, a fully functional DPD with all the parameters set to query not only the statement but also the supporting documents, that is hypothetically possible, yes,” said M. Pezzullo during a hearing on Senate estimates.
Instead, Mr Djokovic had his visa canceled once he was in Australia by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on the grounds that it was in the public interest to do so.
The minister suggested that the unvaccinated Serb’s presence at the Australian Open could encourage residents to evade isolation rules, given the tennis star admits to having done so before, and foster a ” anti-vaccination sentiment”.
Labor Senator Kristina Keneally has asked how the tennis No. 1’s “anti-vaccine stance and public statements” could not have been picked up by an immigration officer.
“Mr. Djokovic – one of the most famous people on the planet and who has very strong anti-vaccination views – asks to come to one of the most famous events in the world, he tweets that he is coming and has permission to come – at no point…did anyone think we should cancel their visa for character reasons?”
The department’s first deputy immigration program secretary, Michael Willard, said the grounds for cancellation used by the minister were different from the grounds on which the visa was granted.
“In this particular circumstance, the person granting the visa felt that the character test was met,” he told the hearing.
Mr. Willard said that two months and other events had passed since the granting of Mr. Djokovic’s visa until the cancellation of the visa, giving rise to new evidence which was used to cancel the visa .
The department told Mr Hawke in a briefing that the DPD would be deployed in July 2021, but another briefing to Home Secretary Karen Andrews later said it would be ready in November 2021.
It will now go into service at the end of this week.