Chelsea Manning: Australia Is Abusing Its Power

The whistleblower has been effectively barred from Australia, according to her team.

A decision to potentially bar Chelsea Manning from Australia is a deeply political decision and an abuse of power, according to the activist herself.

Speaking to ten daily via telephone from New Zealand -- where she had been allowed to travel -- Manning said there was "an obvious political element" to the delay from the Home Affairs office in issuing her with a visa.

"It's a further indication of the fact that ... if you give too much power to an executive branch of government -- or any branch -- then eventually, inevitably, it will be abused," she said.

When asked that was happening in her visa situation, she replied: "Certainly."

"What concerns me more is how it's abused across the board in Australia," she continued.

"I was vaguely aware of the ongoing issues regarding immigration -- and especially custody of people who are attempting to enter the country [who are now] in concentration camps -- but I've learnt a lot in the last few days."

READ MORE: This Is What Refugees On Manus And Nauru Want Australians To Know

Earlier, her team had released a statement accusing the Australian government of being politically motivated in its response, and of not being faithful to its own laws.

"It speaks volumes that the Australian government has prevented Chelsea from delivering her message in person, while at the same time opening its doors to the white nationalist extremists Lauren Southern and Milo Yiannopoulos, who use their platforms to promote racial hatred, transphobia, and intolerance," the statement read.

Self-described provocateur Lauren Southern traveled to Australia earlier this year for a series of talks, after a last minute visa snafu. Photo: AAP.

Technically speaking, Manning has not been denied a visa.

She was issued with a notice of intention to deny due her seven year prison sentence. Her team responded by reapplying with the necessary information -- including more than 10 letters of support -- yet said they did not hear back in time, meaning that Manning has been "effectively barred".

She appeared at her first talk, in Sydney, via videolink, and is set to do the same in Melbourne and Brisbane.

Conversely, the New Zealand government granted Manning a special direction to apply for a work visa.

Her team believes the Australian government dragged out the process in order to drain their legal funds.

In response, a Home Affairs spokesperson told ten daily that they don't comment on individual cases.

But although she is unable to travel to Australia, the activist and whistleblower still had plenty to say on how governments and the media decide who is and isn't given a platform.

Particularly, she slammed the availability of platforms to alt-right extremists like Steve Bannon, who she says twist the arguments of free speech to be allowed to dog whistle hate speech.

READ MORE: The Government Can't Pick And Choose When Free Speech Suits Them

"The use of this term has been twisted a lot," she said.

"It's been used to defend right wing extremism while simultaneously being used to target and attack those who don't think there is a debate when one side is calling for ethnic cleansing, genocide, thinking that trans people have mental disorders and all the rest of it.

"It's really about what's allowed into the sphere of legitimate debate. Free speech in the United States has been heavily skewed in the direction of Milo Yiannopoulos or Steve Bannon."

Just this week, Bannon was interviewed by Four Corner's journalist Sarah Ferguson, a decision that's prompted debate around whether it's even possible to hold people like Bannon to account.

Sarah Ferguson and Steve Bannon posed for a photo after their interview. Ferguson posted the photo to Twitter with the caption: "What's wrong with this photo? NOTHING." Source: Twitter.

Manning thinks absolutely not, and that even the best, most probing interviews are doing nothing more than legitimising fringe and dangerous views.

READ MORE: New Yorker Festival Revolt After Steve Bannon Announced As Headliner

"Don't give them a platform," she said.

"This is extremely important. You can't interview a far-right extremist on what they believe, because they don't have an actual ideology.

"What they say are propaganda statements. They say crazy things and y'all reporters like to report on the crazy things that they say, but they're really dog whistles to people who might secretly be having similar opinions.

Alt-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos was invited to Parliament House late last year by Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm. Photo: AAP.

She compared it to an alt-right spokesperson calling the sky green.

"It generates something that appears on the surface to be newsworthy. Oh, the sky is green! Something that objectively a journalist should be able to say, oh, that is clearly not the case here, the sky is not green. But whenever they're saying these things, a certain segment of the population goes, oh, I know what you mean -- the sky is green."

Chelsea Manning will appear at the following Australian dates via video link. Tickets available via thinkinc.org.au.

Friday 7 September | MCEC, MelbourneTuesday 11 September | The Tivoli, Brisbane

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

Photo: Getty