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Tuesday, 17 September 1974
Page: 1111

Senator GREENWOOD (VICTORIA) -My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the Minister's course of conduct culminating in the departure from Australia of the young Russian musician, Ermolenko, about 3 weeks ago. I ask: Was the Minister aware of what was said by this young man during his interview on the Monday of that week with the Department of Immigration? Is he aware of statements attributed to the head of the Department of Immigration in Perth that, at that interview, the young man made clear that he wanted to remain in Australia? Has the Minister seen a record of the interview? In any event, will he table in the Senate the record of the interview?

Senator WILLESEE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Foreign Affairs) -I have read quite a lot of reports on the Ermolenko case. I do not think that any of them alters what finally happened. During the course of that week a very deliberate attempt was made to get me to move away from the central issue. I have described the central issue several times, particularly in my Press statement. It was that we had to make up our minds what Ermolenko really wanted. I happened to be the person who had to make a decision. There were a lot of other people genuinely interested and a lot who were not genuinely interested. The central issue was that Ermolenko had made 2 decisions and we had to decide which one he really meant. That, of course, took a little time. That is why the matter could not be cleaned up as quickly as it might have been for the benefit of everyone concerned. I certainly could not have been clear in my mind until we found out what the situation was. When the situation was quite clear and, as I pointed out in my Press statement, he had not varied from his statement on the Monday morning, after originally saying on the Sunday night that he wanted to stay, and had repeated what he said on Monday to the people I named and finally on television- there was no alternative left but to see that he was taken out of Australia. The situation then was that we, or more correctly some people, were illegally trying to stop what is the normal arrangement for people travelling into and out of a country. The young man had come here on a cultural exchange, and he expressed his wish to go home and wanted to go home but people were stopping him. Under those circumstances there was only one thing for the Government to do and that was to govern and to get him out of the country and back to where on several occasions he had expressed a wish to go. That is what I did.

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