Chief Justice James Allsop’s verdict came following a unanimous decision from the three judges hearing the case at the Federal Court of Australia on Sunday.
The rejected appeal based on public health grounds means that the unvaccinated sports star will not be defending his title at the Australian Open, which kicks off on Monday. He could also be unable to travel to Australia for three years.
Piers Morgan turned to Twitter to celebrate the decision, calling the 34-year-old “anti-vaxxer icon” a “cheat” and a “liar”.
He said: “Covid rule cheat, immigration form liar and anti-vaxxer icon Novak Djokovic loses final appeal against deportation and will be thrown out of Australia without being able to compete in Australian Open. Good.”
BREAKING: Covid rule cheat, immigration form liar, & anti-vaxxer icon Novak Djokovic loses final appeal against dep… https://t.co/3PPvlTd4FJ
In a statement, Djokovic confirmed his withdrawal from the Australian Open.
It read: “I would like to make a brief statement to address the outcomes of today’s Court hearing.
“I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this.
“I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open.
“I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.
“I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love.
“I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.
“Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support. You have all been a great source of strength to me.”
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision on Friday was unexpectedly based not on the validity or otherwise of Djokovic’s exemption from Covid-19 vaccination, which was the reason for the initial cancellation, but on the notion his presence in the country could stoke anti-vaccination sentiment, making him a danger to public health, as well as civil unrest.
To succeed in an appeal, Djokovic’s legal team had to prove that Hawke had either acted outside his powers or that his decision was irrational, and Chief Justice Allsop made a point of stressing the judges were not able to assess the merits of the case.
Nick Wood, acting for the star, focused on three aspects – that there was no evidence his presence would stoke anti-vaccination sentiment, that evidence was also lacking for the idea Djokovic opposes vaccination and that Hawke had not considered whether deporting the nine-time Australian Open champion would lead to increased support for the anti-vaccination cause.
Wood said: “Not a single line of evidence in the material provided any specific or logical foundation whatsoever that the mere presence of Mr Djokovic in Australia in itself may somehow foster anti-vaccination sentiment.”
Djokovic created global headlines early in the pandemic for being quoted as saying he was “opposed to vaccination”, although he later clarified that he was against being forced to take a vaccine to travel to tournaments and would keep an open mind on the issue.