In Depth

Why Chelsea Manning is banned from Australia

US whistle-blower still confident of obtaining visa for speaking tour as supporters lobby immigration minister

Former US soldier Chelsea Manning says she remains hopeful of being allowed to visit Australia despite her visa application being denied by the federal government this week. 

The US whistle-blower, who was jailed for sharing classified government documents, was due to arrive in Australia today before giving a speech at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday night. Similar talks are scheduled in Brisbane and Melbourne.

However, in a notice sent to Manning on Wednesday, Australia’s Department of Home Affairs said she had not passed the character test required for entry into the country, because of her “substantial criminal record”.  The former US army private spent seven years in a military prison after being convicted of leaking nearly 750,000 classified military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks.

She was released in May 2017,  after Barack Obama commuted her original 35-year sentence.

Think Inc, the Australian organiser of Manning’s speaking tour, has written to her supporters asking them to lobby Australia’s new immigration minister, David Coleman, says The Guardian.

“We have just received a notice of intention to consider refusal under s501 of the Migration Act from the Australian government in regards to Chelsea’s visa,” wrote the company’s director, Suzi Jamil.

“We are looking for support from relevant national bodies or individuals, especially politicians who can support Chelsea’s entry into Australia. We are seeking letters of support to send to the minister for immigration in order for him to reconsider his decision.”

Meanwhile, Manning told The Guardian’s Australian edition that “we’ll work it out”.

Politicians and human rights groups are lobbying the government of new Australian prime minister Scott Morrison to reverse its decision on Manning, arguing that  “free speech means opponents of government policy should not be barred from entry”, the newspaper reports.

Hugh de Kretser, executive director of Australia’s Human Rights Law Centre, told The Guardian: “As a democracy, we should be encouraging, not banning, public contributions from people like Chelsea Manning.

“She’s generating vital debate around issues like secret mass surveillance of citizens by governments. The visa should be granted.”

But not everyone agrees. In an article published on Australian news site ABC, Rodger Shanahan, from the Lowy Institute of International Policy, wrote: “Manning is not, and never has been, a whistle-blower. She is someone convicted of espionage who was given a long prison sentence.”

Therefore, Shanahan argues, the “Australian Government is well within its rights to question whether someone convicted of espionage, dishonourably discharged from the US military and whose reckless actions while deployed on operations were described by a judge as dangerous to others should enter the country, let alone be paid for her appearance”.

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