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  • Mark Shaw

HR Lessons from the Novak Djokovic Visa Affair


HR practitioners and line managers can learn an important lessons from the Novak Djokovic recent visa issues entering Australia.


Always take reasonable management action in a reasonable way when dealing with workplace problems.


According to the transcript of interview (as submitted to the Federal Court challenge), the interview between ABF and Mr Djokovic commenced at 21 minutes past midnight, contained several occasions where the interview was suspended, and concluded at 7:45am.


At 3:55am, Mr Djokovic was issued with a notice of intent to consider cancellation of his visa. Mr Djokovic replied “So you’re giving me legally 20 minutes to try and provide additional information that I don’t have? At 4 o’clock in the morning” I mean you kind of put me in an awkward position where at 4 in the morning I cannot call the Director of Tennis Australia, I cannot engage with anyone from the Victorian State Government through Tennis Australia. You put me in an uncomfortable position. I don’t know what else I can tell you. Everything that I was asked to do is here.”


To which the interview is reported as replying “Yeah”


At approximately 7:40am, the border force officer ultimately advised Mr Djokovic that “after weighing up all the information available to me, I was satisfied that grounds for cancelling your visa outweighed the reasons for not cancelling”.


The key issue seems to have been that the ABF did not view the Tennis Australia issued “Medical exemption from Covid vaccination” form dated 30 December 2021 as meeting the requirements for exemption as stipulated by the Department of Home Affairs.


However, his Honour Judge Kelly, ultimately decided that the Australian Border Force was “unreasonable” in the process they followed that resulted in the cancellation of Mr Djokovic’s visa. The judge highlighted the lack of time given to Mr Djokovic to contest the decision.


He did not rule on the substantive issue of whether the Tennis Australia issued “Medical exemption from Covid vaccination” form dated 30 December 2021 did or do not meet the requirements for exemption as stipulated by the Department of Home Affairs.


The judge’s decision highlights that the importance of ensuring reasonable management action is taken in a reasonable way is at least as important as the substantive matters involved in any situation.


As you conduct your next difficult conversation with someone in your workplace, take care to ensure you can demonstrate reasonable management is always taken in a reasonable way.

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