Heavyweights divided over Open vax debate

The COVID-19 vaccination status of Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic remains unknown.
The COVID-19 vaccination status of Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic remains unknown.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews are at loggerheads as the Australian Open vaccination debate rages on.

Sparking a political brouhaha, the PM on Wednesday said unvaccinated tennis stars would be welcomed into Australia for the season-opening grand slam in January provided they completed two weeks in quarantine.

"We want major events in this country. A lot of jobs depends on it. We want Australia to show to the world that we are open," Morrison told the Nine Network.

"If there is a special exemption that is warranted for an economic reason ... that can happen but you have to follow the health rules in that state.

"Two weeks quarantine for unvaccinated people, that is sensible."

But hours later Andrews emphatically ruled out seeking any exemptions for unjabbed players.

"What I want to make very clear is that the state of Victoria will not be applying for any exemptions for unvaccinated players," Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.

"I am not going to require people sitting in the grandstand, people working at the event, to be vaccinated while players aren't.

"So we're not going to be applying for an exemption. Therefore the issue is basically resolved."

The premier said even if unvaccinated players were given an exemption to quarantine in another state, they would not be allowed to enter Melbourne Park.

The prime minister's assertion that unvaccinated players would be free to contest the Open comes after Immigration Minister Alex Hawke ruled out such a scenario last week.

"I was perfectly supportive of Minister Hawke's view, which I took to be the view of the federal government and it appears that is not the case," Andrews said.

"The federal government has done a complete 180."

The political stand-off has been triggered by world No.1 and nine-times Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic repeatedly refusing to reveal if he is vaccinated against COVID-19, having last week flagged he was unsure whether he would return to Melbourne in 2022.

Australia's grand slam vaccination debate has been swirling since the Victorian government introduced a mandate for professional athletes to get the jab.

But less than three months out from the scheduled January 17 start to the richest and biggest event on the annual Australian sporting calendar, it remains unclear how that rule will be applied to the Open and foreign travellers.

Hawke last week said "our health advice is that when we open the borders, everyone that comes to Australia will have to be double vaccinated... that's a universal application, not just to tennis players".

But with the prime minister weighing in, it now appears likely unvaccinated players will be free to contest the Open under quarantine requirements.

"Same rules have to apply to everyone. If I was not double vaccinated when I came home from Glasgow, I would be doing two weeks of quarantine," Morrison told the Seven Network.

Victoria's COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar also entered the saga with some stern words on Wednesday.

"The Australian Open will be for vaccinated spectators and for vaccinated participants," he said.

"We only want vaccinated people at these major sporting events.

"We've got phenomenal experience and tradition here of running amazing sporting events and running them safely.

"We're not going to change that now and the options are there for people to participate - get yourselves vaccinated and get it done."

Australian Associated Press