'It's disgraceful': Govt Urged To Grant Chelsea Manning A Visa
"This has nothing to do with Chelsea Manning being a threat," said Richard Di Natale.
Chelsea Manning faces the very real possibility that she will be unable to travel to Australia to speak at the Think Inc conferences this weekend.
The whistleblower and activist was delivered a Notice of Intention to Consider Refusal under s501 of the Migration Act from the Department of Home Affairs.
"It is a character test," immigration lawyer Petra Playfair told ten daily. "It defines certain criteria where you do not pass the character test. One reason for not passing the character test is for being sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months or more."
Manning served seven years of a 35-year sentence for violations of the Espionage Act, before her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama
As her sentence was commuted, rather than pardoned, it still stands.
"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," a Home Affairs spokesperson told ten daily.
The department "does not comment" on individual cases, but Think Ink director Suzi Jamil told the ABC that there is a real risk Manning's visa may be cancelled.
"After a little bit of research and speaking to our legal counsel, we understand that [there] is potentially an imminent refusal of her visa," she said.
Think Ink has submitted an application to the Minister to regulate consideration to refuse Manning's visa, with more than ten letters of support.
It also confirmed to ten daily that it's urging both Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Immigration Minister David Coleman to apply ministerial discretion.
"We intend to pursue all legal avenues and hope they will allow the Australian public to hear about the vital issues around data privacy, artificial intelligence and transgender rights," said Jamil.
"I hope this can be resolved in a positive manner with no further unnecessary complications."
"This has nothing to do with Chelsea Manning being a threat"
As Playfair explained to ten daily, the Home Affairs department sending a Notice of Intention to Consider Refusal is pretty standard -- although Dutton as minister does have the right not to send it.
"The government is saying that the onus is on you as an applicant to give us information," she said.
"When the intention went out, it's saying: we've only got basic information before us, and it would trigger this issue and we would move to cancel unless we receive from you some more information."
But Greens leader Richard Di Natale savaged the department's decision to send it in the first place, saying that it was part of a "broader pattern of behaviour" from a government "that has clamped down on democracy".
"This has nothing to do with Chelsea Manning being a threat, and everything to do with a government that wants to shut down political debate in Australia," he told ten daily.
He has written to the Home Affairs office urging for Manning to be granted a visa.
The department is already in the spotlight over reports that Dutton interfered in the visa situations of three au pairs, the most recent of which worked for a distant family member of a big Liberal party donor.
"It's hypocrisy," continued Di Natale. "What message this sends to the community is this: if you're a donor to the Liberal party, you can get special favours when it comes to visas, but if you're somebody who has a different view to the Liberal party, you won't be allowed into the country."
Amnesty International has also written to the department, with National Director Claire Mallinson telling ten daily that it is "critically important" Manning be granted a visa.
"This is a very important story that needs telling. It's critical that the governments are transparent and accountable, and by potentially denying Chelsea that visa, it is really sending out a negative, very chilling message that Australia is not supporting freedom of expression."
Recently, alt-right provocateurs Lauren Southern and Milo Yiannoupolous have been granted visas to Australia despite histories that include disparaging the Muslim community (Southern) or supporting pedophilia (Yiannoupolous).
"Chelsea Manning is no threat to Australia," said Di Natale.
"She won't incite violence or hatred in a way that other people who have been allowed into this country have done in the past."
Already there are multiple petitions calling for Manning's visa to be granted; Amnesty's petition blasted off with about 1,300 signatures in 20 minutes, while Change.org's received a comfortable 1000 signatures in a few short hours.
Playfair told ten daily that Manning's visa situation was a race against the clock; she is due to speak in Sydney this Sunday.
"It's not something that she can avoid, she has to go through this process," continued Playfair.
"The issue she's facing is time."