Minister for Immigration
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.
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.
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.
Mr John Bennett
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 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.
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