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Thursday, 15 August 1974
Page: 968

Senator GREENWOOD (VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask: Is it correct that a Mrs Alexandra Skodeleff, an English-Russian interpreter, was present to interpret at one of the conferences held yesterday at which Mr Ermolenko said that he wanted to go home? Is it a fact that Mr Ermolenko expressed himself in the Russian language? Is it also a fact that the interpreter, Mrs Skodeleff, said that she did not think that his request to go home was genuine? Is the Minister able to confirm or deny the report that the interpreter said that she did not believe Mr Ermolenko was saying what he really felt and that she believed that he was frightened of another Russian who was in the room? Are the reports to that effect correct or incorrect? If they are incorrect, can he explain how they got into the Press?

Government supporters- Oh!

Senator GREENWOOD - There may be some explanation. They are matters of concern. If they are correct, do they not raise in the Minister's mind a genuine doubt as to what Mr Ermolenko has reportedly said to other people?

Senator WILLESEE -No, I would never under any circumstances try to explain how something gets into the Press. I just do not know. I have been a member of this chamber for a long time but I have not been able to work that out. I am afraid I cannot help Senator Greenwood on that aspect.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - You have 5 children who are journalists.

Senator WILLESEE -Senator Douglas McClelland has reminded me of what the members of my family do for a living. I do not know the name of the woman who was the interpreter, but I saw her being interviewed on television. It has been reported to me that she said that she was not satisfied that he was saying the things that were in his mind. I understand that that report is true. I have not checked it. As she was present in a technical capacity to do a technical job, I do not think that she should have bought in on one side or the other. She was there as an interpreter. She was entitled to say what she said, but I do not think that someone who is employed as a technician ought to come in on one side or the other.

What is incorrect about her statement- I understand that some other people have made the same error- is the comment that there was another Russian in the room during the course of the interview. I rang Perth early in the morning when I knew the interview was on and did all I possibly could- I was about to say that I insisted but I could not insist as I could not put a headlock on any fellow from 2,500 miles away to keep him out- to make sure that there was no Russian in the room. I was informed by officers of my Department-I checked on this matter this morning- that it was not so that such a fellow was in the room. There may have been a misunderstanding. I think I should say that the Russians have been pretty fair in allowing their man to go out of the room while this interview was going on. But would one of us really be intimidated if a Liberal Party or Labor Party man were sitting opposite? Can a person's thoughts be controlled by some magic in the air? Irrespective of that, in all of these things a Russian has not been -

Senator Mulvihill - Just imagine if Senator Wright were glaring at you.

Senator WILLESEE -He has been doing that for 25 years. But irrespective of what has been said, no Russian was in the room- and I do not know what difference it would have made if one had been.

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