Documents on the Australian Ban

John Bennett,

President of the Australian Civil Liberties Union, writes to the Australian Minister of Immigration protesting at the entry ban on David Irving
March 13, 1998

David Irving after challenging prime minister John Howard in London on October 23, 1997.

To: The Hon. Phillip Ruddock MP Australian Minister of Immigration &c &c, Parliament House, A.C.T. 2600 Australia


[For an Index to this Dispute, and Further Correspondence with Phillip Ruddock, click the Flag]

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President: J Bennett
Vice Presidents: C. Steele. J. Graham.
Secretary R. Aschenbrenner.

Box 1137

Carlton 3053
(03) 9 347 8671

Secretary S. Johnson
Treasurer. I. Kimmel.
Research Secretary. K. Bethage.


Minister for Immigration


Dear Sir,

Re: Farrakhan and Irving

The decision by the government to allow Louis Farrakhan to enter Australia (The Australian, 13/2) for a six day period, subject to him agreeing not to vilify any sections of the community, should open the way for limited visas for the revisionist historian David Irving and the Irish nationalist Gerry Adams.

Irving has never said anything remotely approaching some of the offensive statements made by Farrakhan in the past, and the reason given for excluding him, that he is not of "good character" because of a criminal conviction in Germany, lacks merit.

He was convicted in Germany for the offence of "defaming the dead" when he claimed that certain buildings on view for tourists at Auschwitz were built after the war, a claim now conceded to be correct.

Irving is an established historian whose books have been favourably reviewed by heavyweight historians such as Hugh Trevor-Roper and A.J.P. Taylor. His recent book on Goebbels was highly praised by Jewish historians such as Professor Norman Stone and Gitta Sereny.[1]

Australia is a robust democracy with a long tradition of freedom of speech, including speech which causes offence, and does not have a law against defaming the dead. People with views similar to Irving are not prosecuted in Australia and there is no prospect of Irving being convicted for expressing his known, and by comparison with Farrakhan, quite moderate views.

The banning of Irving from Australia, like most acts of censorship, has been counter-productive and has given greater prominence and credence to his views.

Yours faithfully

John Bennett
President, Australian Civil Liberties Union
122 Canning Street
Carlton 3053
(Phone 93478671)


1: Neither Stone nor Gitta Sereny is Jewish; journalist Sereny is married to Donald Honeyman. Sereny's praise for David Irving's biography, Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich was limited to describing it as as the work of one master of propaganda writing about the other. Others were less equivocal in their praise.


The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP

Minister for Immigration

Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

Telephone: (02) 6277 7860

and Multicultural Affairs

Facsimile: (02) 6273 4144


Mr John Bennett
Australian Civil Liberties Union
122 Canning St


Dear Mr Bennett

Thank you for your letter of 26 February 1998 concerning my recent decision to grant Mr Louis Farrakhan a visa and my earlier decisions to refuse the visa applications of Mr David Irving and Mr Gerry Adams. Your letter of 13 March 1998 to the Prime Minister, the Hon John Howard MP, concerning the same issues, has been passed to me for reply.

As you would be aware from reporting in the media, Mr Farrakhan and his party have completed what was a brief but highly publicised visit. The decision to grant a visa was made after careful consideration. All applications for visas, both temporary and permanent, are considered against the legal requirements of the Migration Act 1958 (the Act) and the Migration Regulations. All non-citizens entering Australia are required to be of good character and not be assessed as a threat to the national security nor be a person who would vilify a segment of the Australian community, nor whose presence would incite discord in the Australian community or a segment of that community.

The present construction of the Act requires that an assessment be made of what an applicant would do if allowed to enter or remain in Australia. Consequently consideration is given to an applicant's past actions and statements. Mr Farrakhan has no known criminal convictions and is not associated with a criminal or terrorist organisation. In recent years Mr Farrakhan has also moderated his actions and statements. Therefore, I could not be satisfied that he would vilify or incite the Australian community. However, in the light of Mr Farrakhan's controversial views, the visa was granted subject to his agreeing to be counselled on the laws, values and nature of Australia's tolerant and diverse multicultural society and giving an undertaking for himself and his party that they would respect and abide by these conditions. Mr Farrakhan gave a written undertaking and provided the required assurances. Events have shown that the measures were appropriate in the circumstances.

Mr Irving's application was refused by me on 21 November 1997 on the grounds that he fails to meet the good character requirement of the Act. Mr Irving has criminal convictions[2] dating back to 1992 and has been deported from Canada and expelled from Germany. Taken together, these occurrences reveal a pattern of behaviour that led me to conclude that Mr Irving is not a person of good character. My decision to reject Mr Irving's application had nothing to do with the issue of free speech. The Australian Government is committed to the principle of free speech. Mr Irving's views and writings are readily available in Australia and Australians are free to come to their own conclusions about Mr Irving's views.

I also refused Mr Adams' visa solely on matters relating to his character. I was satisfied that Mr Adams failed to meet the good character requirement under the Act because he is associated with an organisation which has been or is involved in criminal conduct. At the time of his application, Mr Adams continued to be associated with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), which is an organisation that conducted criminal acts of terrorism and bombings.

Mr Irving and Mr Adams are entitled to make further visa applications if they wish and any future applications will be considered on their merits and against all the relevant legal requirements.

Thank you for bringing your views on these matters to my attention.


Yours sincerely

Philip Ruddock

Notes (continued):

2. As Mr Ruddock is aware, there has never been any claim that Mr Irving has more than one "criminal conviction", namely the spurious one imposed by the Munich (Germany) courts as set out in the first letter above, for an offence which
  • has no parallel in any other country than Germany, whose record in Human Rights during the 20th Century has not been good; and
  • was imposed on Mr Irving for making a statement which the Polish Government has now admitted to be true (namely that the gas-chambers shown to the tourists at Auschwitz were constructed in 1948, i.e., "after the war" as Mr Irving has always maintained.)

The German Government's own criminal records do not list Mr Irving as having any convictions.

© Focal Point 1999 David Irving