Anthony Albanese has served a stinging backhand to Scott Morrison, insisting the Novak Djokovic saga puts a question mark over the government’s record on border security.
The world number one will face another court hearing on Sunday to determine whether he will be able to remain in the country and defend his Australian Open title.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday cancelled the Serbian tennis star’s visa over concerns Mr Djokovic’s presence in the country, and his stance on the Covid-19 jab, could excite anti-vaccination sentiment.
“I consider that Mr Djokovic’s presence in Australia may pose a health risk to the Australian community, in that his presence in Australia may foster anti-vaccination sentiment,” the minister wrote in an email to the tennis player‘s lawyer.
Lawyers for Djokovic claim the cancellation of his visa is “irrational”.
The opposition leader said the fracas surrounding the government’s handling of Djokovic’s visa had become an embarrassment.
“This government says it takes borders seriously and the issue of visas seriously,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Brisbane on Saturday.
“This has been the lead sporting story in the world for months.
“The idea that it was unknown that this was coming, and the idea that only late on a Friday afternoon on the weekend before the tournament begins, after the draw has taken place, that we finally have a decision from the federal government says it all.
“There has been a great embarrassment for Australia and it’s one that could have been avoided.
“The rules are clear, you need to be double vaccinated in order to enter Australia. And we still don’t have an explanation for how it is that the Australian government under Scott Morrison issued the visa in the first place.”
Earlier on Saturday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic rallied behind Djokovic, taking to Instagram to claim he had been mistreated and harassed.
“They often preach to us about the rule of law … You can imagine what it would look like if a minister in Serbia annulled court decisions,” he said.
“If you wanted to forbid Novak Djokovic to win the (Australian Open) trophy for the 10th time, why didn’t you return him immediately, why didn’t you tell him that it was impossible to get a visa?
“Why do you mistreat him, why do you harass him, as well as his family and a nation that is free and proud?
“Is all this necessary to win some elections and please your public?”
The president’s comments followed the release of documents from Serbia’s coronavirus crisis team that confirmed Djokovic’s PCR test results were valid, following concerns over questionable time stamps and irregularities with key documents.