Scott Morrison has declared "rules are rules", as tennis world No. 1 Novak Djokovic faces deportation.
The Serbian tennis star is stranded in hotel quarantine in Melbourne, after having his entry visa and COVID-19 vaccine exemption revoked.
Djokovic landed late on Wednesday evening, 10 days before the Australian Open is set to begin, but was informed he will be deported after failing to provide "appropriate evidence" of the exemption.
The world No. 1 sparked outrage in Australia on Wednesday after revealing he had been granted an exemption to travel to Melbourne, which has endured multiple gruelling lockdowns, despite his history of anti-vaccine comments.
The Prime Minister on Thursday declared nobody is above Australia's border rules, which he said had proven vital in the country's low death toll throughout the pandemic.
Mr Morrison said he had been advised Mr Djokovic was unable to provide acceptable explanation for why he is not fully vaccinated.
"Rules are rules ... Entry with a visa requires double vaccination, or a medical exemption. I am advised that such an exemption was not in place, and as a result he is subject to the same rule as anyone else," he said.
Mr Morrison denied it was a problem with Australia's visa system, saying Djokovic had provided inconsistent details to the airline and Australian officials.
"It is on them to have the proof to show why they wouldn't have to be vaccinated. He was unable to furnish that proof to the Border Force officers at the airport last night," he said.
"He provided information to the airline to allow his entry onto the plane. But people getting on that plane is not an assurance that they'll be able to come through Australia's border at the other side."
Mr Morrison rejected suggestions Mr Djokovic was targeted to quell public outrage, but accepted the tennis star's outspoken opposition to vaccines made him an obvious person to check on arrival.
"The ABF act on intelligence to direct their attention to potential arrivals," he said.
"When you get people making public statements ... about what they are going to do ... they draw significant attention to themselves."
The nine-time Australian Open champion has been moved to hotel quarantine after being holed up at the airport for several hours. His father claimed he was not allowed access to his phone.
But the Australian Border Force, which rarely comments on individual cases, moved to quash that claim on Thursday morning. The ABF said it will continue to ensure international arrivals complied with Australia's entry requirements.
"The ABF can confirm that Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled," it said in a statement.
"Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia.
"The ABF can confirm Mr Djokovic had access to his phone."
Mr Djokovic reportedly received an exemption because he had contracted COVID-19 within the past six months, and the Prime Minister did not reveal the number of exemptions which have been granted on that basis.
Mr Djokovic's lawyers are mulling an appeal, which Mr Morrison said is "a matter for him".
"But the government's actions are very clear, and that is for him to return to a country where he is able to return to," Mr Morrison said.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he had been in contact with Mr Djokovic, accusing Australian authorities of "harassment".
"The whole of Serbia is with him and that our bodies are doing everything to see that the harassment of the world's best tennis player is brought to an end immediately," he said in a statement.
"In line with all norms of international law, Serbia will fight for Novak, truth, and justice."
Mr Morrison confirmed the federal government had received representations from the Serbian embassy, stressing Belgrade has been a "good friend" of Australia.
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He denied the saga will damage Australia's international reputation.
"I understand [them], but my simple point is that all countries have their border rules and these rules are not imposed against any one country or any one individual," he said.
"They are rules that apply to all those who enter, and other countries have those same rules.
"There is no suggestion of any particular position in relation to Serbia."
Mr Morrison on Tuesday had claimed the exemption was a matter for the Victoria government, just hours before Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews confirmed the federal government could veto Mr Djokovic's entry.
The Victorian government said it was a matter for federal authorities.
"We've always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the federal government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors," Victoria's acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford said.
- with AAP
More to come.
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