Australia Agrees 555 Million Euro Settlement With France’s Naval Group

The HMAS Waller, a Collins-class submarine operated by the Royal Australian Navy. (File photo: AFP)

 

 

Australia on Saturday announced a massive compensation deal with France’s Naval Group for scrapping a landmark contract to build a fleet of diesel submarines.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the French firm had agreed to a “fair and an equitable settlement” of 555 million euros (US$584 million) for ending the multi-billion-dollar contract.

The agreement draws a line under a bitter spat that derailed ties between Canberra and Paris for the better part of a year.

In September 2021, then-Australian prime minister Scott Morrison abruptly ripped up the French contract, which was years in the making.

He announced that Australia would be buying US or British nuclear-powered submarines, a major shift for a country with little domestic nuclear capability.

The decision drew fury from French President Emmanuel Macron, who publicly accused Morrison of deceit.

Relations were on ice until this May, when centre-left leader Albanese was elected.

The submarine contract is the centrepiece of Australia’s race to develop its military capabilities, as it fears the threat from a more bellicose China under President Xi Jinping.

The nuclear-powered submarines are likely to give Australia the ability to operate more stealthily and pose much more of a deterrent to China.

But there remains deep uncertainty about how quickly it can be implemented.

The first US or British submarines likely will not be in the water for decades, leaving a long capability gap as Australia’s existing fleet ages.

Australia’s Conservative PM Concedes Election Defeat

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison leaves from a Liberal election night event after the Australian general election in Sydney on May 21, 2022. Saeed KHAN / AFP
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison leaves from a Liberal election night event after the Australian general election in Sydney on May 21, 2022. Saeed KHAN / AFP

 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted defeat in national elections Saturday and said he was stepping down as leader of his conservative Liberal Party.

“Tonight I have spoken to the leader of the opposition and the incoming prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and I have congratulated him on his election victory,” Morrison said.

The 54-year-old outgoing leader, who won an election three years ago that he termed a “miracle”, said he took responsibility “for the wins and the losses”.

READ ALSO: Russia Stops Gas Supplies To Finland Amid NATO Membership Bid

“That is the responsibility of leadership and as a result I will be handing over the leadership,” Morrison said.

Noting that voter support had fallen for the major parties, the prime minister said Australians had suffered “great upheaval” over the past few years, which have been marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, drought, bushfires and floods.

“It has imposed a heavy price on our country and on all Australians. And I think all Australians have felt that deeply,” he said.

Morrison’s voice cracked with emotion as he thanked his wife Jennifer and his daughters, “the loves of my life”.

“I have no doubt under strong leadership of our coalition, three years from now I am looking forward to the return of a coalition government.”

AFP

Australia Accuses China Of Paying Bribes To Win Deals

Australia on the map.

 

Australia’s defence minister on Sunday accused China of paying bribes for international deals but refused to say whether corruption played a role in Beijing’s newly signed defence pact with the Solomon Islands.

Peter Dutton made the allegations as his conservative government faced questions in the run-up to May 21 general elections about how China apparently outmanoeuvred Australia by securing the agreement.

The deal shocked the Solomon Islands’ traditional allies Australia and the United States, which fear it may give China a military foothold in the South Pacific less than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) from Australia’s coast.

“The Chinese don’t play by our rules,” Dutton said.

“If you look at what has happened in Africa, there are corrupt payments being made,” he told Sky News Australia. “We can never compete with that sort of playbook. We have values and we have the rule of law that we abide by.”

READ ALSO: Russia Slaps Travel Ban On Kamala Harris, Zuckerberg

Asked specifically if he believed corrupt payments were made to forge China’s deal with the Solomon Islands, which was announced by Beijing on April 19, the minister said he could not comment.

“The reality is that China has changed,” he added.

“China’s incredibly aggressive acts of foreign interference, the preparedness to pay bribes to beat other countries to deals: that’s the reality of modern China.”

A draft of the pact shocked countries in the region when it was leaked last month, particularly measures that would allow Chinese naval deployments to the Solomons.

A White House delegation visited the Solomon Islands capital Honiara on Friday to warn of repercussions if China was to establish a permanent military presence in the Pacific nation under the new agreement.

The White House said the officials had told Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare that the recently signed pact had “potential regional security implications” for Washington and its allies.

“If steps are taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power-projection capabilities, or a military installation, the delegation noted that the United States would then have significant concerns and respond accordingly,” the White House said in a statement.

 ‘No Military Base’ 

National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink led the delegation, which also included Pentagon officials.

According to the White House statement, “Sogavare reiterated his specific assurances that there would be no military base, no long-term presence, and no power projection capability, as he has said publicly”.

Sogavare’s government severed ties with Taiwan in September 2019 in favour of diplomatic relations with China, unlocking investment but stoking inter-island rivalries.

Last November, protests against Sogavare’s rule sparked violent riots in the capital, during which much of the city’s Chinatown was torched.

While the unrest was partly fuelled by poverty and unemployment, anti-China sentiment was also cited as playing a role.

When asked about China’s influence in the Pacific, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters Friday that Beijing was exerting “enormous pressure” on leaders of Pacific island nations.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian in turn accused “Australian politicians” of “coercive diplomacy” in the region.

AFP

Australia Flood Toll Rises To 20 As Thousands Evacuate Sydney

A resident looks at cars stranded in floodwaters due to heavy rain in southwestern suburb of Sydney on March 8, 2022. (Photo by Muhammad FAROOQ / AFP)

 

The death toll from week-long floods battering Australia’s east coast rose to 20 on Tuesday, after the bodies of a man and a woman were discovered in floodwaters in Sydney.

Police said the pair were believed to be a missing mother and son whose car was abandoned in a stormwater canal.

Tens of thousands of Sydney residents have been told to evacuate their homes as severe storms and flash flooding inundated swathes of Australia’s largest city Tuesday.

The national weather bureau warned of “a tough 48 hours ahead” for Sydney, with 60,000 people subject to evacuation orders and warnings, and the city’s Manly Dam beginning to spill.

Intense rainfall across Sydney flooded bridges and homes, swept away cars and even collapsed the roofs of a shopping centre and a supermarket.

In the riverside suburb of Georges Hall vehicles were semi-submerged and police had to rescue people stranded in their cars by rising floodwaters.

– A ‘watery’ Black Summer –

State emergency services have been stretched thin as the torrential rain and intense storms continued into a second week — with flood warnings in place Tuesday for the entire 2,000-kilometre (1,250-mile) coastline of New South Wales.

“It’s very much the watery equivalent of the ‘Black Summer’ bushfires,” emergency services spokesperson Phil Campbell told AFP.

In the past week the scale of the damage to property and wildlife has been similar to those devastating bushfires, he said, which ravaged Australia’s east for months in late 2019 and early 2020.

“We have also had a similar effect on communities in terms of dislocation with roads closed, infrastructure damaged, power outages,” Campbell said.

In the past 24 hours, emergency services have been called to 100 flood rescues across the state, a number that is expected to rise as the full force of the storms bears down on Sydney Tuesday.

In the city’s north, flood researchers were evacuated from their lab as water from the nearby Manly Dam began to spill over into suburban areas.

The University of New South Wales facility uses water from the dam to run large-scale experiments about one-in-100- and one-in-1,000-year flooding scenarios.

“Ironically, the conditions were happening just outside,” researcher Mitchell Harley told AFP.

When he arrived at work in the morning, floodwaters were already rising but soon the downpour caused “significant flooding” in the lab.

“We haven’t seen impacts of that magnitude in the 60 years of the laboratory,” Harley said.

He said the flooding that had inundated Sydney in recent days showed the need to consider the impact of climate change on the coastal city of more than five million people.

“We have a lot of ageing infrastructure in Sydney which were designed for historical flood events,” he said.

“A lot of this infrastructure needs to be re-evaluated in the context of climate change.”

– ‘No way to rebuild’ –

In the northern reaches of New South Wales — where floodwaters this week destroyed homes, washed away cars and stranded hundreds of locals on their roofs — a long, slow clean-up is under way.

There are 800 people in emergency accommodation in the state’s Northern Rivers region alone, said state emergency services commissioner Charlene York.

According to emergency services, almost half of the 5,000 flood-ravaged homes inspected in the region in the wake of the disaster are uninhabitable.

In Mullumbimby, a town cut off from phone service, internet and outside help for days by the floods, local Casey Whelan told AFP that “lots of people in my street can’t get flood insurance”.

“They will have no way to rebuild,” he said.

Australia has been at the sharp end of climate change, with droughts, deadly bushfires, bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef and floods becoming more common and intense as global weather patterns change.

Six Killed In Australian ‘Rain Bomb’ Floods

The overflowing Brisbane River is seen from South Bank, Australia’s Queensland state on February 27, 2022. Patrick HAMILTON / AFP

 

Flooding on Australia’s east coast claimed another life overnight, bringing the death toll from the extreme weather to six as a “rain bomb” continued to move south Sunday.

Police in the state of Queensland said a 34-year-old man had died after his car became submerged in floodwaters around 2:30 am on Sunday (1530 GMT Saturday).

While the man was able to free himself from his vehicle and tried to swim to safety, he failed to surface and his body was found a short time later.

READ ALSO: China Envoy To Ukraine Postpones Evacuation Of Citizens

Huge downpours have battered eastern Australia for the better part of a week, unleashing decades-high floods, inundating homes and roads, and sweeping away cars.

Adrian Schrinner, lord mayor of Queensland’s capital city Brisbane, described the weather system as a “rain bomb above South East Queensland”.

State premier Annastacia Palaszczuk pleaded that people living in Brisbane stay home as the weather system moved south Sunday into major residential areas.

“This water is unrelenting at the moment,” she said.

With intense rain expected to continue into next week, more than 1,400 homes in Brisbane were at risk from the floodwaters, she said.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has issued flood warnings for vast swathes of Queensland and northern New South Wales, with more than 300 mm (11.8 inches) falling in some areas in the last 24 hours.

Police continue to search for a man in his 70s who fell into the Brisbane River on Friday.

AFP

Australia Re-Opens To Tourists After Two-Year COVID-19 Closure

Staff offer flowers to passengers upon arrival at the Sydney International Airport on February 21, 2022, as Australia reopened its borders for fully vaccinated visa holders, tourists, and business travellers. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP)

 

Jubilant visitors returned to Australia Monday as the country reopened its borders to vaccinated tourists, nearly two years after the island nation imposed some of the world’s strictest Covid-19 travel restrictions.

At the country’s two major international airports in Sydney and Melbourne, tired but elated family and friends rushed from gates to embrace loved ones after years apart.

Bernie Edmonds was emotional as he hugged his eight-year-old granddaughter, Charlotte, who had just landed in Sydney.

“It’s great to have her back,” he said. “She’s got to go again but we’ll get her back again.”

The country closed its borders to almost everyone except citizens and permanent residents in March 2020, trying to slow surging Covid-19 case numbers.

The travel ban — which also barred citizens from going overseas without an exemption and imposed a strict cap on international arrivals — earned the country the nickname “Fortress Australia”.

Sydneysider Jody Tuchin was excited to pick up her best friend, who she had not seen since 2018.

“He made it back just in time for my wedding in four days,” she told AFP.

Meanwhile, Qantas pilot Paul Grant said it was “nice to have passengers back on again”.

A Qantas flight from Los Angeles was the first to touch down in Sydney at 6:20 am (1920 GMT) followed by arrivals from Tokyo, Vancouver and Singapore.

“It’s fair to say we’ve all been waiting a long time to welcome visitors back to Australia,” Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said.

The national carrier expects to bring more than 14,000 passengers into Australia this week — the start of what many believe will be a long, slow recovery for a tourism sector devastated by the pandemic.

“I think we’re going to see a very, very strong rebound,” Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said at Sydney airport, wearing a t-shirt with the words: “Welcome Back”.

Attracting tourists from China, previously Australia’s biggest market, would be difficult while Beijing enforces a zero-Covid policy, Tehan admitted.

“But as soon as that changes, Tourism Australia have been doing a lot of work to make sure that we will be ready to encourage those Chinese visitors to come.”

The Australian government has launched a AUS$40 million ($28.7 million) advertising campaign to lure tourists back, but only 56 international flights are scheduled to land in the country in the 24 hours after the re-opening — far below pre-pandemic levels.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had “no doubt” traveller numbers will scale up in time.

– ‘Fortress Australia’ –

Every month under “Fortress Australia” has cost businesses an estimated AUS$3.6 billion, according to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with tourism particularly hard hit.

Tony Walker, managing director of Quicksilver Group, which operates cruises, diving excursions and resorts across the Great Barrier Reef, told AFP he was “very excited about being able to re-open”.

International tourists “make up around 70 percent” of business for tourism operators on the reef, Walker said, making the two-year border closure “incredibly difficult”.

During the pandemic, his company had to reduce its employees from 650 to the 300 it has today.

Key to Australia’s reopening is a government requirement that all overseas travellers must be fully vaccinated.

At Sydney Airport, American tourist Robert Landis said this had not dissuaded him from visiting.

“I’ve just been looking for any opportunity to get down here,” he said.

However, the Australian Tourism Export Council warned this week that “there are worrying signs consumers are wary of travelling” to Australia, with “confusion over our various state travel restrictions and concern about snap border closures” a key issue.

– No west just yet –

Western Australia will not re-open to international travellers on Monday, holding off until March 3.

Until recently, the state had pursued a strict Covid-zero policy, cutting itself off from the rest of the country.

The decision sparked lawsuits — and the observation that it was easier for Australians to travel to Paris than Perth — but proved popular with West Australians.

Australia To Reopen Borders To Tourists On February 21

A man wearing a face mask walks towards tram station at Circular Quay in Sydney on July 19, 2021, amid a lockdown in Melbourne and Sydney as Australia seeks to contain a surge in coronavirus cases. Saeed KHAN / AFP
A man wearing a face mask walks towards tram station at Circular Quay in Sydney on July 19, 2021, amid a lockdown in Melbourne and Sydney as Australia seeks to contain a surge in coronavirus cases. Saeed KHAN / AFP

 

Australia will reopen its borders to tourists from February 21, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Monday, ending some of the world’s strictest and longest-running pandemic travel restrictions.

“It’s almost two years since we took the decision to close the borders to Australia,” Morrison said after a meeting of the national security cabinet.

He announced the borders will reopen to all visa holders “on the 21st of February of this year,” adding, “if you’re double vaccinated, we look forward to welcoming you back to Australia.”

Australia’s borders slammed shut in March 2020 in the hope of protecting the island continent against a surging global pandemic.

For most of the time since then, Australians have been barred from leaving and only a handful of visitors have been granted exemptions to enter.

READ ALSO: Indonesia Bus Crash Kills 13, Injures Dozens

The rules have stranded nationals overseas, split families, hammered the country’s multi-billion-dollar tourist industry, and prompted often bitter debates about Australia’s status as a modern, open and outward-looking nation.

Every month of border closures has cost businesses an estimated US$2.6 billion, according to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In recent months, rules have been gradually relaxed for Australians, long-term residents and students.

The latest decision will see almost all remaining caps lifted.

It comes after the country’s long-standing “Covid-zero” policy was abandoned, vaccination rates rose and the once stellar track-and-trace system collapsed under a wave of Omicron cases.

Only a handful of countries remain closed to tourists — among them Japan, China, New Zealand and several Pacific Island nations.

– ‘Come visit’ –

For Australia’s travel and tourism sector — which struggled as visitor numbers fell almost 98 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels — the news brought elation.

“We’re very excited about being able to reopen,” said Tony Walker, managing director of the Quicksilver Group, which operates cruises, diving and resorts across the Great Barrier Reef.

“The last couple of years have been incredibly difficult for us,” he told AFP, urging people overseas to “come visit”.

During the pandemic the firm went from 650 employees down to the 300 it has today.

Walker said he expected “it will take some time to recover” from the past two years.

Many tourism operators around Australia are experiencing staff shortages, given how few backpackers and working holidaymakers are coming to Australia.

Despite the announcement, travel within Australia will still be restricted.

The vast state of Western Australia remains closed to most non-residents. It is currently easier to travel from Sydney to Paris than Sydney to Perth.

Australia Coach Covid-Positive Ahead Of World Cup Qualifier

The Covid-19 vaccine is prepared for administration at a vaccination clinic. Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

 

Australia’s build-up to a crunch World Cup qualifier this week suffered a setback Sunday when coach Graham Arnold tested positive for Covid-19 and was forced into isolation.

The Socceroos face Vietnam in Melbourne on Thursday with Arnold’s deputy, former Manchester United assistant coach Rene Meulensteen, taking the reins.

Football Australia chief executive James Johnson said no one else in the set-up had failed a test so far.

“Graham and the Socceroos staff have sacrificed a lot over the past year to guide the team on a qualification campaign in the middle of a pandemic,” Johnson said, with Australia forced to play all their home games so far overseas.

READ ALSO: UAE Bans Drones For A Month After Yemeni Huthi Attack

“So it is extremely unfortunate that on the eve of this important home qualifying match Graham has returned his first positive Covid result.

“We are pleased that our thorough protocols picked up this result early so that the risk of infection to players and staff leading into match week was controlled.”

After falling out of the two automatic-qualifying positions in their Asian group with a loss and two draws in their past three games, the Socceroos cannot afford a slip-up against Vietnam.

Only the top two countries from each of the two groups will book an automatic ticket for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with the possibility of a fifth securing a spot through a play-off involving the third-placed teams.

Arnold said he had full faith in the players and his backroom staff.

“My staff and I have always planned that there could be a day that I might not be able to come to a match, so I believe with great planning and people in place, everything will run smoothly this week,” he said.

Djokovic Lands In Dubai After Australia Deportation

File photo: Novak Djokovic of Serbia attends a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 14, 2022. MARTIN KEEP / AFP

 

Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic landed in Dubai on Monday after his sensational deportation from Australia over his coronavirus vaccination status shattered his dream of scoring a record 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne.

As the Australian Open got under way, the men’s defending champion stepped off an Emirates plane carrying two bags and wearing a mask — his final destination unknown.

The dramatic deportation followed a protracted and high-stakes legal battle between the unvaccinated Djokovic and the Australian authorities that polarised opinion and tarnished reputations on both sides.

Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” after a Federal Court unanimously upheld the cancellation of his visa on public order grounds.

READ ALSO: Djokovic’s Family ‘Disappointed’ Over Deportation From Australia

He now faces a possible three-year ban from Australia, where he was won nine of his 20 Grand Slam titles — a tally that equals the all-time record alongside Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is wrestling with record coronavirus numbers, said “there was a very clear message sent”.

But he hinted that Djokovic could be allowed to return within three years “in the right circumstances”.

“It (the ban) does go over a three-year period, but there is the opportunity for them to return in the right circumstances and that would be considered at the time,” he said in a radio interview.

Legal Drama 

The humbled Djokovic boarded a flight from Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport for Dubai late Sunday, accompanied by a retinue of aides and officials.

Emirates flight EK409 took off at 10:51 pm local time (1151 GMT), according to an AFP reporter on board, and landed before dawn in Dubai.

Twice in the last 11 days Australia’s government had ripped up Djokovic’s visa and placed him in immigration detention  — saying his presence could fuel anti-vaccine sentiment amid a wave of Omicron cases.

Twice the Serbian star fought the decision in court, winning one round but losing Sunday’s decider in Australia’s Federal Court, James Allsop, ending a week of legal drama.

“I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love,” Djokovic said, acknowledging the game was up.

The controversy looks set to rumble on, with Djokovic’s image seriously damaged and Australia feeding a growing reputation for hostility towards visitors.

But Morrison, who faces a tough reelection battle this year, is unlikely to suffer much of a public backlash over the saga, even among those with misgivings about his hardline immigration policies.

Many Australians — who have suffered prolonged lockdowns and border restrictions that effectively kept families and loved ones apart — believe Djokovic gamed the system to dodge vaccine entry requirements, and are happy to see him go.

“I think they did the right thing asking him to leave. If he was still here it would be all Djokovic. But the tournament is about so much more than him,” one tennis fan, Simon Overton, told AFP as the Australian Open got under way in Melbourne Park.

But others, including Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, condemned the Australian decision to deport Djokovic.

“They think that they have by this, this mistreatment of 10 days, humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves,” Vucic told a state media outlet.

‘With or Without Him’ 

 

During the roller coaster days leading up to the Australian Open — and Djokovic’s deportation — it emerged the tennis ace contracted Covid-19 in mid-December and, according to his own account, failed to isolate despite knowing he was positive.

Public records show he attended a stamp unveiling and a youth tennis event, and granted a media interview around the time he got tested and his latest infection was confirmed.

Djokovic declined to give evidence in the case to dispel the notion that he is opposed to vaccines.

“He has now become an icon for the anti-vaccination groups,” government lawyer Stephen Lloyd said. “Rightly or wrongly he is perceived to endorse an anti-vaccination view and his presence here is seen to contribute to that.”

“He could set the record straight if it needed correcting. He has not — that has important consequences.”

Spanish great Nadal took a swipe at his rival on Saturday as players complained the scandal was overshadowing the opening Grand Slam of the year.

“The Australian Open is much more important than any player,” Nadal told reporters at Melbourne Park.

However, Djokovic’s compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic, who was set to face the nine-time champion in the first round on Monday, called the incident a “bitter pill to swallow”.

“Our little Serbian team here in Melbourne is upset and disappointed,” Kecmanovic wrote on Instagram.

AFP

Djokovic’s Family ‘Disappointed’ Over Deportation From Australia

Novak Djokovic was denied aces to participate in the Australian Open despite ab exemption from two panels of medical experts
In this file photo taken on October 22, 2020, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic attends an open air press conference in Belgrade. – Djokovic has pulled out of the ATP Cup in Sydney, organisers said on December 29, 2021, amid speculation about his vaccination status and whether he will defend his Australian Open title. (Photo by Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP)

 

The family of Novak Djokovic said they were “disappointed” by an Australian court’s decision to deport the top ranked tennis star Sunday, in a statement published by Serbian media outlets.

“We are very disappointed by a federal court ruling and the fact that Novak has to leave Australia,” the family said in the statement.

“These are difficult moments, notably for Novak, but what we all have to do — namely us, his family — is to give him support more than ever,” the family added.

The statement was published just hours after Djokovic lost his last-gasp bid to avoid deportation from Australia, ending a sensational legal battle over his coronavirus vaccination status and dashing his dream of an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam singles crown.

Djokovic’s family have been amongst his most vocal supporters throughout the ordeal in Australia.

Back home in Serbia, his father Srdjan rallied hundreds of fans of the tennis world number one and at one point said Djokovic had been “crucified” much like Jesus.

“We believe he will come out of this situation stronger and that the time will show what he has been proving beyond any doubt so far, that he is a great champion and a man,” the family said Sunday.

Earlier in Australia, Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” by the federal court’s ruling that upheld the government’s right to rip up his visa over fears he is stoking anti-vaccine sentiment.

Djokovic: Australia ‘Humiliated Themselves’ With Court Ruling, Says Serbian President

File photo: Novak Djokovic of Serbia attends a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 14, 2022. MARTIN KEEP / AFP

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic lashed out at Australian authorities Sunday morning, hours after a federal court paved the way for the deportation of Novak Djokovic on the eve of the Australian Open over his vaccine status. 

“They think that they have by this, this mistreatment of ten days humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves. Djokovic can return to his country with his head held high,” Vucic told a state media outlet.

Vucic has remained steadfast in his support for Djokovic throughout the drama, calling the earlier detention of the unvaccinated tennis star a “political witch hunt”.

“I spoke earlier to Novak Djokovic after the decision and I encouraged him. We look forward to seeing him return to his country, where he is always welcome,” the president added.

READ ALSO[Djokovic] Australian Open More Important Than Any Player, Says Nadal

Earlier in Australia, Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” by the federal court’s ruling that upheld the government’s right to rip up his visa over fears he is stoking anti-vaccine sentiment and dashed his dream of a record 21st Grand Slam

In Serbia, the ruling stoked outrage among Djokovic’s fans.

“It’s a farce … All this has nothing to do with the sport,” Nebojsa Viskovic, a journalist covering notably tennis, told AFP.

“All the criticism about whether he was vaccinated or not doesn’t hold water.”

Many other Serbs echoed the view.

“The decision is not a surprise but is still shameful,” said Jadranka Misic, a 29-year-old sociologist from Belgrade.

For tennis fan Milovan Jankovic, Australia and the tournament itself had secured little more than a Pyrrhic victory.

“It’s going to be ridiculous to hold the tournament without the defending champion and nine-time winner.

“If I were Djokovic I would never set foot in Australia again,” the 57-year-old salesman added.

An “extremely disappointed” Djokovic said he would comply with the unanimous ruling.

AFP

‘Disappointed’ Djokovic Deported From Australia 

File photo: Serbia’s Novak Djokovic leaves the court after being defeated by Germany’s Alexander Zverev in their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s singles semifinal tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 30, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia Sunday having lost a sensational legal battle over his coronavirus vaccination status and with his dream of clinching a record 21st Grand Slam in tatters.

An “extremely disappointed” Djokovic said he would comply with a unanimous Federal Court decision to uphold his visa cancellation over fears he could stoke anti-vaccine sentiment.

“I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open,” he said on the eve of a tournament that he has dominated for a decade.

“I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love.”

An AFP reporter captured images of Djokovic at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport late Sunday, as the humbled star boarded a flight for Dubai.

EK409 took off at 10:51 pm local time (1151 GMT).

Just hours earlier, in a few dry words, the chief justice of Australia’s Federal Court, James Allsop, dispensed with the unvaccinated tennis superstar’s attempt to reinstate his cancelled visa and to make tennis history.

“The orders of the court are that the amended application be dismissed with costs,” Allsop said in understated remarks that ended a week of legal high drama.

Three Federal Court justices had listened to half a day of feisty legal back-and-forth about Djokovic’s alleged risk to public order in Australia.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke claimed Djokovic’s stance could inspire anti-vaccine sentiment, leading some people to face the pandemic without vaccination and inspiring anti-vaxxer activists to gather in protests and rallies.

Hawke welcomed Sunday’s verdict, saying: “Australia’s strong border protection policies have kept us safe during the pandemic.”

“(They) are also fundamental to safeguarding Australia’s social cohesion,” he said.

The player’s high-powered legal team tried but failed to paint Australia’s effort to deport him as “irrational” and “unreasonable”.

Despite the star being unvaccinated, lawyer Nick Wood insisted his client had not courted anti-vaxxer support and was not associated with the movement.

The government “doesn’t know what Mr Djokovic’s current views are”, Wood insisted.

The court did not endorse the government’s decision but ruled the action was legal under rules that give the minister exceptional and almost unquestionable executive power.

Anti-Vaccination ‘Icon’ 

Novak Djokovic was denied aces to participate in the Australian Open despite ab exemption from two panels of medical experts
In this file photo taken on October 22, 2020, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic attends an open-air press conference in Belgrade.  (Photo by Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP)

 

The Australian Open defending champion and first seed had been scheduled to play against fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday evening.

But Djokovic has spent much of the last week in immigration detention, with his visa twice being revoked by the government over his refusal to get a Covid-19 vaccine before arrival — a requirement for most visitors.

Government lawyer Stephen Lloyd said the fact Djokovic was not vaccinated two years into the pandemic and had repeatedly ignored safety measures — including failing to isolate while Covid-19 positive — was evidence enough of his anti-vaccine views.

“He has now become an icon for the anti-vaccination groups,” Lloyd said. “Rightly or wrongly he is perceived to endorse an anti-vaccination view and his presence here is seen to contribute to that.”

In a written submission the government also pointed out that Djokovic chose not to give evidence at the hearing.

“He could set the record straight if it needed correcting. He has not — that has important consequences.”

Because of the format of the court, the justices’ decision would have been almost impossible to appeal.

Scott Morrison’s government had tried and failed to remove Djokovic once before — on the grounds he was unvaccinated and that a recent Covid infection was not sufficient for a medical exemption.

A lower circuit court judge ruled that officials at Melbourne airport made procedural errors when cancelling his visa.

For a few days, Djokovic was free to train — before a second visa revocation and a return to a notorious Melbourne immigration detention facility.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic lashed out at Australian authorities.

“They think that they have by this, this mistreatment of 10 days, humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves. Djokovic can return to his country with his head held high,” Vucic told a state media outlet.

Vucic has remained steadfast in his support for Djokovic throughout the drama, calling the earlier detention of the tennis star a “political witch hunt”.

“I spoke earlier to Novak Djokovic after the decision and I encouraged him. We look forward to seeing him return to his country, where he is always welcome,” the president added.

‘With Or Without Him’ 

Many Australians — who have suffered prolonged lockdowns and border restrictions — believe the player gamed the system to dodge vaccine entry requirements.

The case has been seized on by culture warriors in the roiling debate over vaccines and how to handle the pandemic.

The tennis ace contracted Covid-19 in mid-December — allowing for the medical exemption — and, according to his own account, failed to isolate despite knowing he was positive.

Public records show he attended a stamp unveiling and a youth tennis event, and granted a media interview around the time he got tested and his latest infection was confirmed.

Djokovic is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with 20 Grand Slam titles each.

Spanish great Nadal took a swipe at his rival on Saturday as players complained the scandal was overshadowing the opening Grand Slam of the year.

“The Australian Open is much more important than any player,” Nadal told reporters at Melbourne Park.

“The Australian Open will be a great Australian Open with or without him.”

AFP