The person in question ('KV') was not going to Australia to speak at a conference, but deliver a public training course. To do this, you do need a business visa. Heck, you need a visa if you want to teach in the USA - so those speculators calling Australia some draconian system that doesn't understand Open Source is just wrong. Some departments know it very well. A lot more than my adopted home of Quebec ;)
The only advantage the USA has over Australia, is that speaking at conferences can be done with the VISA waiver system. But then again, in Australia's defense the visas are acquired online, and much easier to acquire than my USA one was ;)
Why was local_mysql_activist upset?
local_mysql_activist runs a business in Australia training on Open Source technologies. On the same trip KV was due to teach in Sydney - KV was supposed to teach in Canberra. And it was during that week in Canberra, local_mysql_activist had *already scheduled a class* that would no doubt compete for potential customers.
But competition is good, no? Well, yes. But Sun can survive a lot longer on classes that only half fill than local_mysql_activist can. In the spirit of healthy competition, they could have picked the week before/after - but that's their choice. There are also other cities in Australia that come to mind before Canberra, which would have filled up.
The real problem with the Sun/MySQL course is that it never actually ran. It was canceled at the last minute due to low numbers, and customers were offered credits/refunds. They probably didn't have enough time to book in to local_mysql_activist's class - so in the end he was the real loser.
The show did go on!
At the time I was also in the same training group at MySQL/Sun - and I happen to hold an Australian passport. When KV was put-off by local_mysql_activist - the show still went on. People in Australia still got their MySQL DBA course. I think someone somewhere should acknowledge this bit in their stories.
I don't support the way local_mysql_activist went about things. Involving a government is just a messy, messy, disaster. But I can fully understand his frustrations. What I would have done is capitalized on what MySQL's can't do - offer a completely reputable, third party criticism on which features work and which ones don't; i.e.
Students used to ask me questions about what guides we had on migrating from Oracle to MySQL. I used to tell them there was no really definitive guide, but if there was - don't you think we have a conflict of interest in producing it!?
Visa issues suck
Visa issues suck. I completely agree with Kaj on this one, having gone through both a Canadian and a USA visa myself. Governments in general just don't know how to deal with the fact that you can be employed in a different country to where you work.
Initially I was told by an immigration official that I wouldn't require a Canadian visa since my travel loosely met the definitions of a 'business traveler' here on business from Australia, as long as I never received employment in Canada.
That was until I came back in the country one day, and they detained me in immigration for a few hours, while they questioned me about my work - and eventually decided they were going to let me in, but I had 50 days to get a proper visa or get out. I only just made it ;)
[Disclaimer - I no longer work for Sun Microsystems. If I wasn't so busy at my new job, I would have checked my RSS reader and replied earlier!]