03 October 2012

Divisive Dutch politician postpones trip despite Australia visa grant

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Controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders has decided to postpone his scheduled trip to Australia this month after a protracted wait for an Australia visa, despite the visa having now been granted.

Australia visa

Mr Wilders was granted an Australian visa only after he postponed his trip.

Mr Wilders and his entourage submitted Australia visa applications in August; the member of the Dutch parliament's staff were cleared for entry almost immediately yet Mr Wilders received no response.

Geert Wilders is the head of the Netherlands' right wing Party for Freedom and is known the world over for his controversial views on Islam and what he calls the ‘Islamification’ of Europe.

Mr Wilders was invited to speak in Australia by the Q Society, a small anti-Islam Australian organisation this month. The politician's invitation, which came at a particularly tense time following police clashes in Sydney with Muslims angered by the American-made film Innocence of Muslims, sparked a heated debate over the issue.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen looked set to simply ignore the issue until the politician's intended speaking date had passed, and therefore avoiding having to make a potentially debatable decision.

However, Mr Wilders has since decided to postpone his trip in the wake of the visa row, planning on instead speaking in Sydney, Melbourne and perhaps Perth in the new year.

A spokesperson for the Q Society said the debacle is 'embarrassing':

"Frankly, it was embarrassing and awkward that this man has had his visa held up for so long, given he is a politician in The Netherlands."

"We're really hoping the Prime Minister will invite him to speak at parliament when he arrives."

A spokesperson for the prime minister said no such invite would be extended.

Now that Mr Wilders' visit has been cancelled, his visa application has been granted and Mr Bowen has spoken of his dedication to freedom of speech and multiculturalism in Australia.

"I have decided not to intervene to deny him a visa because I believe that our democracy is strong enough, our multiculturalism robust enough and our commitment to freedom of speech entrenched enough that our society can withstand the visit of a fringe commentator from the other side of the world," said the minister.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.

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