Section 501 of the Migration Act has had a bit of a workout in recent days. First, American singer Chris Brown had his visa cancelled. Back in 2009 he was convicted of assaulting and threatening to kill his girlfriend, the mononymous singer Rihanna. In this instance the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton cancelled the visa for reasons of ‘bad character’, after lobbying from the Minister for Women Michaelia Cash and a 15,000 signature petition courtesy of our friends at Get Up! (As an aside, Speccie readers will be relieved to hear that Get Up! has submitted to the hierarchy of victimhood and apologized ‘unreservedly for the way in which this campaign played into a harmful, racist narrative.’ It ‘now understands the campaign supported a racist narrative that sees men of colour unfairly targeted, and stereotyped as more violent than their white counterparts.’)
Then came the deportation of Troy Newman, an anti-abortion campaigner due to speak at the annual conference of Right to Life Australia. His visa was cancelled after Labor MP Terri Butler intervened and publicized Newman’s 2000 book Their Blood Cries Out which, among other things, calls for abortionists to be judicially executed. This case is a bit more interesting because despite knowing his visa status, and that he would be denied entry into Australia, Newman flew here to take his chances. He appealed his deportation in an emergency hearing before the High Court where Justice Nettle ruled that he may have had a case to challenge the visa refusal, but that he should never have boarded a plane to Australia knowing his visa had been cancelled. In doing so the judge said, he treated Australian law as ‘naught.’
As you might imagine, social media is abuzz with well-considered, highly analytical, expert commentary on both of these matters, with many pro-lifers praising the government’s handling of domestic violence perpetrator Brown, and denouncing the government’s handling of the politically incorrect Newman. Ultimately, all this pro-lifer is hoping for is that these two well-publicized visa refusals aren’t a harbinger of a new government’s dictatorial immigration policy!
Not that it is a consistently applied policy. I wonder what kind of background checks will be applied, and domestic violence standards upheld, to the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees we are, rightly, to receive. Realistically, there will be all kinds of people – including perpetrators of all kinds of violence – arriving in that cohort, and there is nothing the government can do about it. The suggestion that, as they start a new life here in Australia, they will give up such tendencies is preposterous and offensive given the nature of the shooting outside the NSW Police HQ last week.
Chris Brown, on the other hand, is essentially now an anti-domestic violence campaigner, despite the I BEAT WOMEN stickers that were plastered all over the posters promoting his (now cancelled) concert tour. The chance of him committing any criminal offence is slim, and the chance of him committing an act of domestic violence, zero. That he would speak out about this terrible crime seems almost certain. But the same people who vandalised his posters are also the outraged shriekers who forced Ministers Cash and Dutton into action. Despite serving his sentence, reforming his ways, and recognising the power of his musical pulpit (‘My life mistakes should be a wake up call for everyone. Showing the world that mistakes don’t define you. Trying to prevent spousal abuse…The youth don’t listen to parents nor do they listen to PSA’s. The power that we have as Entertainers can change lives,’ he tweeted last month) Brown has remained a subject of powerful hatred.
But what to do about Newman? He does call for the killing of abortionists, but not for their murder. This may be a fine line, but surely there is a difference between arguing that abortion is murder and should be a capital crime (bearing in mind that around 45 per cent of Americans ‘identify as pro-life’ and around 60 per cent are in favour of the death penalty in at least some circumstances), and calling for abortionists to be murdered on the steps of their church or in a clinic explosion. Neither are satisfactory positions but Newman only ever did the former.
Then there’s the Operation Rescue connection, which is infinitely more troubling. The anti-abortion group Newman heads has not only attracted some violent followers, but it also put them on the payroll. To be fair, there is absolutely no evidence of him inciting, supporting or otherwise being involved in, anti-abortion violence. He did, however, co-author Their Blood Cries Out with a convicted arsonist, Cheryl Sullenger who pleaded guilty and was imprisoned for an attempted firebombing of a San Diego abortion clinic in 1988. She also lied about her relationship – and that of Operation Rescue – with the man who murdered Kansas abortionist George Tiller. Sullenger remains the group’s senior policy adviser. Again, Newman has been implicated in none of this, but his connections are troubling. In fact, as a supporter of Right to Life’s lobbying efforts, I can’t imagine why they thought him a good fit or a worthwhile adornment to our fledgling pro-life movement.
But maybe he would have been. If I had to choose – based on the tender minds of the perpetually outraged – I would probably let in Chris Brown over Troy Newman. But perhaps he has dropped the execution rhetoric and would have been an articulate, respectful, and persuasive orator at the upcoming pro-life events. Maybe he would have been able to cut through the noise and speak clearly and powerfully into the abortion debate, in much the same way that Brown at least wants to be involved in combatting domestic violence. But Australians won’t get the chance to hear from either of these men on either of these important topics because MPs – one from government, one in opposition – lobbied on behalf of their pet causes, and the new minister, anxious no doubt to get some good publicity in a nightmare portfolio chose populism and ‘sending a signal’ over freedom of speech.
There should be checks done with standards high, and upheld, before people visit here. Perhaps there is good reason for the extensive list that would see a person fail section 501’s soviet-ish ‘character test.’ But the minister must be careful on historical offences, even more careful about free speech implications, and more careful still about the political motivations of MPs and their interventions.
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