Usually it’s speakers at political conferences who have this problem, but now a planned star attraction at a music video award night — American rap artist Snoop Dogg — has been refused a visa to enter Australia.

Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said that since Dogg — whose real name, we learn, is Cordozar Calvin Broadus jr — has been convicted on drug and firearms charges since his last visit, “we have taken the view on character grounds that he’s not to enter Australia”.

Dogg’s lawyer commented this morning that “It’s really too bad,” and said he would have posed no criminal risk in Australia. “Snoop loves Australia and Australia loves Snoop.”

It’s an odd contrast with the previous dispute about banned visitors, when two speakers at an Islamic conference three weeks ago attracted controversy. Sheikh Bilal Philips, who was to be the keynote speaker, was refused entry on security grounds, including suspected links to the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.

We don’t know if the allegations against Philips are true, but if there was a reasonable suspicion then that would seem good grounds for keeping him out of the country. But another speaker, Yvonne Ridley, was allowed in despite protests over her alleged support for terrorism. Defending that decision, Andrews said: “There is a vast distinction between allowing somebody into Australia whose views you may not like, and somebody who is a threat to national security.”

Quite right. But is it really plausible to call Snoop Dogg a threat to national security?

“Character” might be a valid consideration if we’re considering potential immigrants. Surely for visitors, though, the presumption should be heavily in favour of admitting everyone unless they pose some identifiable threat to public safety.

I confess that I know almost nothing about Snoop Dogg’s music, but I can’t escape the thought that it’s his opinions and his behaviour, not his criminal record, that the Government really feels threatened by — just as when Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams was kept out in the 1990s. It was not for any real expectation that he might commit terrorist acts, but because the Government preferred that Australians not hear his message.

However Andrews chooses to describe it, the law in reality gives him almost unlimited discretion to keep out particular people. But his practice, like that of his predecessors, has been more arbitrary than it need be.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey