The Australian Government has effectively blocked Chelsea Manning from giving planned public speeches in three cities by refusing to issue her with a visa in a timely fashion to visit the country. It advised her prior to her flight from California to Sydney that a visa issued for her speaking tour was ‘under review’.
Without a visa, Manning had to appear at her first event from Los Angeles via a large screen at the Sydney Opera House. She received a standing ovation in the 2000-seat auditorium.
The New Zealand Government has granted Manning permission to apply for a visa to visit its shores for events in Auckland and Wellington. This means she is highly likely to be able to travel to New Zealand.
The notice of intention to consider refusal of the visa application is made under s501(1) of the Migration Act, which gives the Australian Immigration Minister discretionary powers to refuse any person entry to the country on character grounds.
The notice of review has drawn criticism from Australian and International civil society groups who are speaking out in support of her right to visit Australia and speak. Blueprint for Free Speech, Amnesty International, Electronic Frontiers Australia, Digital Rights Watch, The Australian Privacy Foundation, The National Justice Project and the Human Rights Law Centre are among those calling for Chelsea Manning to be allowed to enter the country to participate in public speaking events.
The organiser of Manning’s speaking tour told the Sydney Morning Herald “We are of the view that she poses no threat to members of the Australian community. Think Inc. believes Ms Manning is entitled to freedom of expression and political opinion which are foundations of a free and democratic society and fundamental human rights.”
Blueprint for Free Speech awarded Chelsea Manning the Blueprint Enduring Impact Whistleblowing Prize in 2016 for the disclosures she made in the public interest. This Reuters article illustrates the human side of what she disclosed.