18 September 2012

Minister criticised over controversial Australia visa decision

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Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has been criticised for allowing a controversial preacher an Australia visa, just days before riots erupted over a YouTube video which caused the death of a US Ambassador last week.

Australia visa

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has been criticised for allowing a controversial preacher into Australia.

Taji Mustafa, a British passport holder, has been labelled a 'hate preacher' in the past and was due to speak to the Australian arm of the Islamic organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir. Mr Mustafa was granted an Australia visa and proceeded to address the organisation last week.

However, amid escalating tensions around the world due to a YouTube video known as the 'Innocence of Muslims', riots broke out in Australian cities over the weekend, leading the federal opposition to accuse Mr Bowen of failing to prevent Mr Mustafa from entering the country, despite there being no evidence suggesting the two are related.

"Will the minister explain why the government allows preachers of hate into our country," Deputy Opposition Leader Julia Bishop asked Mr Bowen in parliament.

Mr Bowen defended the decision, claiming Mr Mustafa had not broken any laws before entering and Hizb ut-Tahrir is not proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Australia.

"This entry permit was issued in accordance with the normal procedures for British nationals," said Mr Bowen. "This individual was not on the movement alert list because he is not speaking at an organisation that is proscribed in Australia."

Opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison however accused Mr Bowen of hiding behind procedure instead of exercising any ministerial discretion.

"Putting his hand in the same old book of excuses, pulling out the one he always pulls out and says 'oh look my hands are tied. I can't do anything. There's no conviction.'," said Mr Morrison.

"The truth is this minister is a soft touch on the character test and everybody knows it."

Mr Morrison said tougher action should have been taken.

"The key issue here has nothing to do with proscribed organisations, this all has to do with Mr Mustafa's entry into Australia and the visa given to him by this government and subsequently a failure . . . to even consider withdrawing his visa."

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

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