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Thursday, 15 August 1974
Page: 967

Senator CHANEY (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I preface my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs by informing him that shortly before the Senate met this morning I spoke to the Reverend Johnson who told me that he is one person who still has considerable concern about whether this young Russian has had a chance to make a free decision. Is the Minister aware that counsel appearing for the Commonwealth in the proceedings against Mr Alexandrov of the Russian Embassy in the West Australian Supreme Court yesterday was asked whether he could give an undertaking that the Government would not facilitate Mr Ermolenko 's departure from Australia until the hearing of the proceeding was resumed? Is the Minister aware that after a adjournment counsel for the Commonwealth told the court that he was unable to give that undertaking? Will the Minister give the undertaking to the Senate that the Government will make every effort to ensure that Mr Ermolenko does not leave Australia until he has had an opportunity to confer with those people to whom he originally confided his desire to remain in Australia, namely Mr Badger and Mr Johnson?

Senator WILLESEE - In the court yesterday the judge said that it was probably not a proper question to ask, but he did ask whether counsel appearing for the Commonwealth would give a guarantee that Mr Ermolenko would not be taken away before the case resumed today. Senator Chaney, who is a lawyer and whose firm is represented in this case- he has a special interest in it- would well know that the instruction that counsel appearing for the Commonwealth had was to present a certificate signed by me stating that Mr Alexandrov had diplomatic status in the pursuit of his duties in Perm. As I say, as a lawyer, Senator Chaney would understand that that was the only instruction that the counsel had, and he informed the court that that was the situation. I am interested to hear that Senator Chaney has spoken to the Reverend Johnson who says that he still has doubts about the matter. I have done my best to get Mr Ermolenko to speak to Mr Johnson, but he refuses to do it; he says that he does not want to see Mr Johnson and that he does not want to talk to him. Mr Tonkin did the same thing; he asked Mr Ermolenko whether he would see Mr Johnson and whether he would go and stay with Mr Johnson. On both occasions the answer was no. He does not want anything to do with Mr Johnson.

We are talking a lot about civil liberties. What about some civil liberties for this young man? What about getting a little bit of pressure off him? Let us start to recognise what he wants. I do not doubt for one moment that Mr Johnson wants to see Mr Ermolenko; I accept completely Senator Chaney 's word on that. I think that Mr Johnson has a genuine interest in this matter. But the fact is the young man is not going to see Mr Johnson; he has refused several times to do so. I do not know how many more people want to see Mr Ermolenko. We have had retinues of people to see him. He appears on television, he gets about a 25 minute cross-examination on television. He keeps saying the one thing: That he wants to go home. He keeps saying that he made a mistake in the first place, he regrets it, and he wants to go home. How much longer is this farce and this three ring circus to continue?

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