30 Aug 2018

Australia preparing to ban US whistleblower Chelsea Manning

5:54 am on 30 August 2018

The Australian government is preparing to ban US whistleblower Chelsea Manning from entering the country for a speaking tour.

Chelsea Manning at the Out100 Event in New York, 2017.

Chelsea Manning is also due to speak in New Zealand on 8 and 9 September. Photo: AFP

The former soldier spent seven years behind bars, including 11 months in solitary confinement, for sending nearly 750,000 classified military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks.

Ms Manning had been working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

She is planning to give a speech at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday night before similar talks in Brisbane and Melbourne.

Ms Manning, is also planning to speak in New Zealand, where the National Party is lobbying for her visa to be cancelled.

The Australian organiser of her speaking tour, Think Inc, has written to supporters asking them to lobby the newly installed Immigration Minister, David Coleman.

"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," the company's director Suzi Jamil wrote to supporters.

"We are looking for support from relevant national bodies or individuals, especially politicians who can support Chelsea's entry into Australia.

Section 501 of the Migration Act allows the Minister to deny anyone a visa if they do not pass "the character test".

Character requirements

The Home Affairs Department would not comment on Ms Manning's case.

A spokesman said all non-citizens need to meet certain character requirements before being granted entry to Australia.

"A person can fail the character test for a number of reasons, including but not limited to where a non-citizen has a substantial criminal record or where their conduct represents a risk to the Australian community," the spokesman said.

Ms Manning was banned entry to Canada in 2017, although she was permitted to speak at an event earlier this year.

Greg Barns, a lawyer for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, said refusing her entry was extraordinary given her sentence had been commuted.

"There have been in the past many people who've come to Australia with criminal records … and she should be no exception," Mr Barns said.

"I don't think anyone would seriously suggest Chelsea Manning while in Australia would be rummaging through the files of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or Defence or the US Embassy.

"Those provisions are really designed to be utilised in cases where there is a risk that a person may commit offences, is a risk to the Australian community, no one would seriously suggest that's the case here."

Ms Jamil said Ms Manning was "so far from a risk to the Australian public".

"In January 2017, the incumbent President Obama commuted Chelsea's sentence. That should be a consideration in this instance," Ms Jamil said.

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