Divisive right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos will now visit Australia after all, with Immigration Minister David Coleman preparing to override Department of Home Affairs advice that the controversial speaker should be banned.
Reports this week claimed the government would follow that advice and bar Mr Yiannopoulos from entering Australia.
The speaking tour now looks set to go ahead despite Mr Yiannopoulos owing Victoria Police $50,000 to cover policing at a Melbourne event in December, 2017, during which up to 500 left-wing protesters clashed with about 50 right-wing activists.
His promoters swear the police had no right to charge for the protection and insist they have never been sent a bill.
The change of heart by the government follows pressure on Mr Coleman by conservative MPs, including One Nation leader Pauline Hanson and former human rights commissioner Tim Wilson, arguing that banning the alt-right speaker would be a blow to freedom of speech.
“Milo is a boring, unimaginative, self-absorbed attention-seeker of questionable character,” Mr Wilson told The Australian.
But free speech is for everyone, hence I was surprised by the news and have raised it with the minister.”
Spineless Morrison Government made a big mistake banning Milo Yiannopoulos. They just validated the left's violent tactics & acted like an arm of Antifa! This will lead to more violence! Next time a left wing thug punches a conservative at a free speech rally thank Morrison! -PH
— Pauline Hanson 🇦🇺 (@PaulineHansonOz) March 6, 2019
Mr Yiannopoulos plans to tour Australia before the May federal election.
The Department of Home Affairs had drawn up a list of reasons to deny Mr Yiannopoulos a visa, including the riots sparked by his 2017 tour, and the disputed $50,000 bill. Several police officers were injured in the Melbourne clash.
The Migration Act allows the government to refuse a visa if it believes a person would “incite discord in the Australian community or in a segment of that community”.
The department listed ‘”controversial statements” by Mr Yiannopoulos about Muslims, indigenous Australians, African Americans and the LGBTIQ community. He has also been accused of anti-Semitism in the past.
Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said on Saturday that the government had changed its mind on Mr Yiannopoulos after being pressured by right-wing commentators.
“I think we can decide who we want to come to Australia,” she said.
“This is the bloke who has condoned relationships between younger boys and older men. He’s a bloke who has described feminism as a cancer and Islam as AIDS. Do we really want these ideas given this sort of coverage in Australia?”
Senator Wong said allowing Mr Yiannopoulos in was not good for national cohesion.
“Let’s be clear about what has happened. Some right wing commentators have got angry about it so the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party decided to change their mind.”
Australian Conservatives senator Cory Bernardi said while Mr Yiannopoulos was not his “cup of tea”, he should still be allowed the freedom to speak in Australia. Senator Bernardi said it was ridiculous that fundamentalist Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir was granted entry to Australia while the conservative firebrand was not.
“People are always going to held to account for what they say,” Senator Bernardi told Sky News earlier in the week. “It doesn’t mean we should ban someone simply because a group of people object.”
.@corybernardi on Milo Yiannopoulos being 'banned from visiting Australia'.
'People are always going to held top account for what they say, it doesn't mean we should ban someone simply because a group of people object.'
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) March 6, 2019