Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin - Australian Speaking Tour

Australian Speaking Tour

During July 1997 Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin was invited to tour Australia by local anarchist organization Angry People. The far-right organization Australians Against Further Immigration, raised the issue with Acting Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone. Then anti-immigration politician Pauline Hanson accused him of being "a known terrorist and gun-runner".

Prime Minister John Howard was reported as horrified to learn that Mr Lorenzo Kom'Boa Ervin had been granted a visa and was visiting Australia, and Immigration officials started an urgent investigation, detaining Ervin in Brisbane and canceling his visa. The visa was canceled on the grounds that he was not of good character, which Ervin disputed.

Ervin had visited 20 countries on lecture tours since his release from prison in 1983. Ervin's Australian visa had been granted through an electronic lodgment system in Los Angeles. The imprisonment of Ervin was taken to the High Court of Australia, where Chief Justice, Sir Gerard Brennan, restored Ervin's visa and ordered his release from prison saying that Ervin did not appear to have been accorded natural justice, as well as chiding the Government's lawyers for suggesting he had no power to hear the case.

Legal costs were awarded against the Federal Government. Ervin stated that Mr Howard should apologize.

The detainment of Ervin stimulated international protests that included pickets of Australian embassies and consulates in South Africa, Greece, Italy, Sweden, UK, Ireland, New Zealand and the US.

Immediately after his release from 4 days in prison, Ervin attended NAIDOC celebrations in Musgrave Park, West End, as a guest of the Murri people (Indigenous Australians from Queensland), and gave a brief speech. Ervin continued his speaking tour, while Immigration officials prepared further questions for him to answer. While traveling on his speaking tour Ervin attempted to visit Australian Black Panther movement activist, Denis Walker in Cessnock Jail, but was denied access by police and warders.

The actions of the government were generally said to have generated attention and publicity for Ervin, and to have resulted in many more people attending his speaking tour than would have otherwise.

The affair resulted in Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock cutting short an overseas trip to oversee further Immigration handling of the issue. Ervin left Australia on July 24, 1997 claiming that Immigration officials had threatened to deport him if he stayed any longer. Soon after Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock announced an upgrade of Australia's migrant alert systems and toughened its visa screening procedures, with more stringent checking of "high-risk" applicants.

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