Sunrise's Nat Barr grills Barnaby Joyce over Djokovic saga: 'You knew'

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Sunrise host Nat Barr has put Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce on the spot with a single question in the wake of the Novak Djokovic visa saga.

Nat was joined by Mr. Joyce and Labor MP, Joel Fitzgibbon on Monday morning to discuss the world No. 1 tennis player's fate, just hours after he was deported from the country.

Sunrise host Nat Barr speaks with Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce via video link. Photo: Channel 7.
Sunrise host Nat Barr spoke with Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce after Novak Djokovic's deportation. Photo: Channel 7.

Nat to Joyce: 'You knew'

After hearing from Mr. Fitzgibbon, who argued that the headline-making incident was "all about politics," Nat asked Mr. Joyce point-blank about why known anti-vaxxer Djokovic was permitted to enter Australia in the first instance.

Djokovic, 34, said he was "personally opposed to vaccination" during a livestream in 2020 and claimed a vaccine exemption on his visa because he had contracted Covid in December last year.

"Barnaby, you guys knew [Djokovic] was anti-vax, you knew he wanted to come so why didn't the government put something in place? You either allowed him in or you didn't, wasn't that obvious?" she asked.

Mr. Joyce responded by saying that Mr. Fitzgibbon's suggestion that the Australian Government 'wanted Djokovic in and then didn't want him in' was incorrect.

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Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic leaves the Park hotel on January 16, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic leaves the Park hotel on January 16, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Getty Images.

He said that the decision for Djokovic to fly down under to participate in the Australian Open instead lay with the Serbian player, Tennis Australia and the Victorian Government.

Mr. Joyce said that Djokovic's vaccination status was a 'counterintuitive message' at a time when all Aussies, particularly essential workers are required to be double-vaxxed to continue working.

"That's why it's so important to us to make sure the message is clear," he said.

Nat pulled no punches with her reply, arguing that over the past two weeks it became 'pretty obvious' that it wasn't a clear message at all.

She cited Croatian tennis coach Filip Serdarusic, who was allowed to enter Australia on a Covid-19 vaccine exemption after claiming he had the virus in October last year.

"Croatian coach Filip Serdarusic was allowed in the week before, he said he had COVID and they let him through and he was only kicked out when the Djokovic thing blew up. Obviously, there's something going wrong here," Nat said.

"But he's kicked out now, he's gone," Mr. Joyce said while shaking his head.

At this point, Mr. Fitzgibbon jumped in to argue that the government chose to 'turn on' Djokovic and deport him based on public sentiment.

"[The government] decided it was more popular to kick him out of the country than to allow him to stay here and play tennis in Australia."

Djokovic deported

Novak Djokovic made a speedy exit from Australia at 10.51pm on Sunday following an extraordinary 11-day saga that concluded when a three-judge panel of the Federal Court ruled unanimously against his appeal.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said that the tennis player's deportation was "in the interest of public health and good order".

Stephen Lloyd, a lawyer for the Australian Government, said that Djokovic's presence would "present strongly his anti-vaccination views".

Mr. Lloyd also noted the applicant's "history of ignoring Covid-19 safety measures".

Djokovic's lawyer, Nicholas Wood criticised the ruling, saying that his visa cancellation was likely to cause more disruptions than if he was permitted to stay and play.

The 20-time grand slam champion released a statement before his Emirates flight to Dubai.

"I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling," he said.

"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."

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