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Wednesday, 8 November 1967

Mr SNEDDEN (BRUCE, VICTORIA) (Minister for Immigration) - The Government decided that a visa should not be given to Dr Nikolaides for the purposes for which he intended to come to Australia. An application was made in New York for a visa on Tuesday, 31st October and the notification by cable came to us on 1st November. On 3rd November the office in New York was instructed that a visa was not to be granted. The Government came to this conclusion essentially for two reasons. Firstly, it believed that international practice and courtesy should not lead it to facilitate a visit by a person attending Australia for the proclaimed purposes for which his sponsors intended him to come here. Australia, in common with other countries, is in normal diplomatic relations with Greece. I will deal with this in a moment because I first want to mention the second reason. The Government is concerned that the great number of Greek settlers in Australia should become part of the Australian life. While not severing any fondness for and recollection of their home country nevertheless they should not become embroiled in the politics of their home country. The Government is anxious that this settler community should not be subjected to the stirring of dissensions by foreign influences. The Australian Committees for the Restoration of Democracy in Greece were to sponsor the visit. Mr Victor Nollis is the President of the Victorian Committee for the Restoration of Democracy in Greece. On 21st September 1967 he made a statement, in which it is reported that he said:

Exiled Greek political leaders will come to Australia next month for a conference to discuss the overthrow of the military regime now ruling Greece.

It has come to my attention, through medium of television, that Mr Nollis maintains that he did not make that statement. However on 29th September 1967 Mr Nollis wrote a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, a copy of which was forwarded to me. His letter says, amongst other things:

On behalf of my Committee I wish to enclose herewith, a copy of a Press Release giving particulars of the forthcoming visit in Australia of four Greek Political Leaders, now in exile in Europe after the Military Coup of 21st April 1967.

I would like to give you hereunder, personal details concerning each of the said Leaders, who have accepted the Invitation extended to them by all Australian Committees for the Restoration of Democracy in Greece.

I make the point that this morning my attention was directed to the fact that the Australian Labor Party in Melbourne had indicated that the Government's refusal to issue a visa to Dr Nikolaides was an affront to the Party. I am not aware that the Australian Labor Party was sponsoring this visit in any way and the decision was taken for reasons quite unrelated to any support which the Australian Labor Party may give to Mr Nollis for the purpose of the visit. The letter gives details of Mr Dragoumis, Dr Nikolaides. Mr Someritis and Mr S. Mercouris. The letter continues:

Let me assure you, Mr Holt, that our Committee is not a political Organisation, neither is it our wish to bring Greek Politics into Australia. As free Australian citizens, we are fighting against Dictatorships of any form imposed by the use of force in Greece, or in any country of the World.

Members of our Association are Australian and Greek citizens of all political shades, whether Liberal, Labor, Free Democrats, Centre Union, Right Wing and even with Left Wing inclinations.

What we aim for, is the overthrow of the Puppet Dictators of Greece, the restoration of the Democratic Rights of the Greek people, the holding of Free Elections in Greece and the release of all political prisoners.

It will be observed, from the letter, that the word 'overthrow' which he denies using in the public statement on 21st September is incorporated in the letter of 29th September. I shall now read certain parts of the circular or Press release which was attached to that letter. Clause 1 reads:

Mr Nollisstated that this will be the first official conference of all Greek Political Leaders now living in exile, after the Military Coup of April 1967, with the object of co-ordinating their efforts, and adopting uniform measures in their fight against the Military Junta.

The point made by Mr Nollis that these men have been to other countries has to be considered in the light of the fact that the officials themselves claim this to be the first official conference of all Greek political leaders now living in exile after the military coup of April 1967. In clause 3 of the Press release, under the heading 'Support by Australian political parties', Mr Nollis reaffirmed certain beliefs. He indicated his belief that Australia had a moral obligation to take active steps to:

Intervene at high diplomatic levels by making direct approaches to President Johnson and his advisers, to the effect that unless the military junta is overthrown immediately, Greece will turn into another battlefield, similar to that in Vietnam.

This statement appears as sub-paragraph (b) of clause 3 of his Press release. The Government was naturally enough concerned that it did not permit the stirring of dissension in the Greek settler community and that it did not in any way contravene international practice and courtesy.

I should add that Mr Nollis wrote a letter to me, which I received on Monday, inviting me to attend any of the meetings and to speak. I replied to his letter as a matter of courtesy saying that I would not be attending any of the meetings. Having so replied to him I felt I should tell him, as I did tell him, that the visa for Dr Nikolaides would be refused, and I gave him the reasons that I have outlined in this answer.

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