A warning for activists
Bill Andersen is President of the National Distribution Union in Aotearoa (New Zealand) and has been travelling freely in and out of Australia for many years. He always filled in the Australian immigration authorities' card with a "yes" where it asked if there were any court convictions. They were mainly associated with picket line activities — that is, doing his job as a trade union official. On a visit earlier this year, he was told that in future he would need a visa prior to travelling — not normally a requirement for New Zealanders. So, more than a month before his next visit he started the necessary procedures. He was due to fly out on Monday November 24. On the Thursday before (with only two working days to go), the Australian consulate informed him that to get a visa takes two months! Mr Andersen contacted his local MP Phil Goff, who immediately wrote to the Australian High Commissioner in Wellington. "Mr Andersen is required to apply for a visa because over the years he has incurred a number of convictions arising predominantly from picket line incidents in his role as union organiser", wrote Mr Goff. "Mr Andersen, who is in his late 70s, is due to appear in the Auckland District Court on 10 December 2003 on an obstruction charge. "Mr Andersen's convictions have arisen in an industrial relations context and despite the length of the list, I am happy to write in support of his application for a short-term visa." Following that letter the Australian authorities managed to grant the visa in time for his trip. At Sydney airport the immigration authorities told him, "sit over there", where they left him for five minutes, without explanation, and then let him through. According to the Department of Immigration's website, there is no requirement for New Zealand citizens to apply for a visa before visiting Australia. Their passports are verified electronically as they enter Australia. And even for people who are required to obtain a visa, Mr Andersen should not have any difficulties — unless in the assessment of the Director-General of ASIO, his visit to Australia would "place the national security of Australia at risk". Is Bill Andersen such a security risk? His experience should serve as a warning to all trade unionists, communists, environmentalists, peace and other activists who dare to question or challenge the political direction of developments in Australia. It is these activists, the people who in some way or other challenge the system or status quo, who are the real target of the ASIO and the draconian laws introduced under cover of "anti-terrorist" measures.