Gordon Campbell on the continuing saga of the Chelsea Manning visit, and BTS


The National Party has played fast and loose with the facts during its campaign to deny an entry visa to the American LGBTQ activist Chelsea Manning. First, National’s immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse claimed “other countries” had refused Manning entry, because of her previous felony conviction for leaking classified documents.

In fact, those “other countries” consisted only of Canada, which did refuse Manning entry back in September 2017… but (crucially) Woodhouse neglected to mention that Canada had then reversed its position in May 2018, and issued Manning with a visa that enabled her to speak at the 7th annual C2 business conference in Montreal later that month. So… rather than being an example of why Manning should be denied entry, Canada is actually an example of why she should be issued a visa to speak here. Well done, Woodhouse!

Secondly – and as others have pointed out – New Zealand has previously issued visas to convicted felons. The notable examples include Nelson Mandela in 1995, and the convicted “Wolf of Wall Street,” Jordan Belfort, who was granted a visa during the term of the National government in 2014 so that he could deliver a motivation talk here – and thereby “make money from his crimes” to use Woodhouse’s charming turn of phrase. The reason for the Belfort entry lies in the fine print of the immigration rules:

[An Immigration NZ] spokesman said Mr Belfort was yet to apply for a visa, but he was eligible because his sentence was less than five years and the conviction was more than 10 years ago. Only those sentenced to more than five years are ineligible for a visa for life.

So the morality at work here is arbitrary. The leniency commonly shown to white collar criminals helped enable a fraudster like Belfort to gain automatic entry, while the duration of the sentence handed down to Manning (widely seen as excessive at the time) throws him back onto the discretions available to Immigration NZ, and to the Minister of Immigration.

In passing though, should we really be surprised that National seemed quite OK with a former predatory stockbroker being able to deliver an inspirational talk here, but wants to refuse similar access to Manning – who wants to talk about prison reform, and to share her knowledge of the discriminations faced by a transgender community that features disproportionately within our youth suicide statistics? Put it this way: whose visit – Belfort or Manning – stands to be of most benefit to New Zealand? Keep this in mind:

Mr Belfort was charged in 1998 with securities fraud and money laundering and served 22 months in prison after investors lost about $200 million. Investors are still chasing the full $110 million he was ordered to pay in restitution.

Reportedly, Belfort’s visit here later inspired at least one young New Zealander to try and emulate him.

Australia, Canada, our own call…

Sure, Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton seems about to deny Manning entry to that country. But why should we line up alongside a knuckle-dragging bigot like Dutton? Canada offers a better example. Or better yet, shouldn’t we just stand up for our own values of peace-making and tolerance and let her in?

Werewolf for more

Comments are closed.