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Tuesday, 13 August 1974
Page: 778

Senator GREENWOOD -My question, which is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, follows on the question asked earlier by the Leader of the Opposition. Is the Minister aware that the students who have actively concerned themselves with the affairs of Mr Ermolenko regard him as being subject to pressure whilst he is in the company of the Russians? Does the Minister believe what the students have said? Is he aware that others believe that no questions answered by the student yesterday in the presence of the Russians were answered except by reference to the Russians? Will he give the undertaking for which the Leader of the Opposition asked, namely, that this man be free from the Russians to make his decision without improper pressures or influences being available to prevent him from giving a decision which is a decision of his choice?

Senator WILLESEE -I thought that I had made perfectly clear that that is exactly what we are trying to do. The Russians are entitled to consular access to this person. He will be brought before a group of people this afternoon at 1 o'clock or at whatever time is arranged in Perth. These people will be able to see perfectly well what he is going to do.

Senator Greenwood - The Russian will be present.

Senator WILLESEE -Yes, the Russian will be present.

Senator Greenwood - Is that fair?

Senator WILLESEE - It is very obvious that we are going to be at cross-purposes here. What this exercise is all about is to give the freedom of choice to a young man in a foreign country. It is not about grandstanding; it is not about trying to make political capital; and it is not about trying to exacerbate a situation between 2 countries which already have diplomatic relations. But it is obvious that some people will try to make it that way. What I have done in arranging this meeting this afternoon is as fair as I can possibly make it. There will be a cross-section of people at the meeting. The lawyers who want to be there are entitled to be present. Because one Russian wants to be there people are going to say that this is going to make the whole thing null and void. What would the honourable senator say if the same situation existed in Russia and one of our embassy staff was denied the right to be present? He would be the first on his feet accusing us of kowtowing to the Russians or something else.

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