Australia

Chelsea Manning thanks Aussie supporters as visa ban upheld

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Chelsea Manning was due to speak in Sydney on Sunday but has been banned by Australian immigration.

US whistle-blower Chelsea Manning has thanked her supporters in Australia after she was denied a visa by the Australian government.  

Ms Manning was scheduled to speak at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday, but event organizer Think Inc has confirmed she will now be delivering her address via video feed from Los Angeles.

The Australian government refused to grant Ms Manning a visa based on a “character test” in the Migration Act, which stipulates that a person can be barred entry to the country if they have been sentenced to a prison term of one year or more.

Chelsea Manning speaks with the media.
Chelsea Manning speaks with the media.
Twitter

The notice of intention from the government on Ms Manning’s visa assessment cited her “substantial criminal record” as critical in determining her failure of the character test as set out in s501(1) of the Migration Act.

The former US Army intelligence analyst was convicted over leaking classified military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks. She received a 35-year prison term over six breaches of the Espionage Act.

But the sentence was commuted seven years into the sentence period in 2017 by then-President Barack Obama. She still however has a criminal record.

Ms Manning came out as transgender after being sentenced in 2013, receiving hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery while still in prison. 

Sydney show to go ahead

Think Inc said efforts to secure Ms Manning a visa at the last minute have failed, but that the event will go ahead via video link.

“The Sydney Opera House has been notified that the Department of Home Affairs will not make a final decision on Chelsea Manning’s visa application in time for her to travel to Sydney ahead of her scheduled appearance at Antidote on Sunday 2 September,” organisers said.

An online petition has gathered more than 17,500 signatures in a bid to get Immigration Minister David Coleman to overturn the visa decision.

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs.
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs.
SBS

Creator of the petition, activist and  executive director of Change.org. Sally Rugg, said in one day alone 10,000 people provided their signatures “so [Ms Manning] can speak about government transparency and holding power to account”.

Manning expresses gratitude for Australian supporters

Chelsea Manning responded to Ms Rugg’s message on Twitter, thanking supporters.

Think Inc said they are working on ensuring Ms Manning is allowed entry into the country for her scheduled talks in Melbourne on September 7 and in Brisbane on September 11.

Executive director of Change.org Australia. Sally Rugg.
Executive director of Change.org Australia. Sally Rugg.
Twitter

Greens leader Richard Di Natale on Friday joined the Australian Lawyers Alliance and Amnesty International in lobbying for new immigration minister David Coleman to use his ministerial discretion to allow Ms Manning to enter the country.

Ms Manning has been granted a visa to speak in New Zealand on September 8 and 9, but the centre-right National Party is lobbying to have the visa cancelled.

Canada banned her entry in 2016, although she was allowed to speak at an event in Montreal in May.

Chelsea Manning said she understands why people are branding her a criminal, but said she sees things differently.

“Rosa Parkes was criminal,” she told the ABC’s Matter of Fact program.

“Many people who were involved in any movement in the last two centuries at least have been labelled a criminal for their activism, for their political agency, for doing things that might be outside the law, that often are for good reasons.

Chelsea Manning will have to address her Aussie audience via video link.
Chelsea Manning will have to address her Aussie audience via video link.
AAP

“So there is this notion of morality and this notion of legality, and they do not align all the time, they are often in conflict, I have found.

“So criminal is a very loaded word that gets to be used by a certain class of people, and it tends to be used by a more nationalist, and the sort of ‘tough on crime’ approach that often a lot of American politicians have used in the last 30 years.”

WikiLeaks said the decision to reject Ms Manning’s visa is not justified.

“Is the Australian government a mosh-pit of sucks, forever leaping over themselves to display fealty?,” the organisation posted on Twitter. 

"Not the US, not Canada, not NZ, not Germany not even Sweden banned Manning from speaking. Note that the heads of 5EYES met in Australia this week.”

The Department of Home Affairs told SBS News it did not comment on individual cases, but said legal requirements provide that all non-citizens entering Australia must meet the character requirements set out in the Migration Act.

The Australian government has refused visas to others based on their criminal convictions, including holocaust denier David Irving, American singers Snoop Dog and Chris Brown.

Controversial speakers who were deemed to have passed the character test include anti-immigration activist Lauren Southern, so-called pick up artist Julien Blanc, Dutch politician Geert Wilders and British ‘free-speech celebrity’ Milo Yiannopoulos.

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