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Wednesday, 18 September 1974
Page: 1167

Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) - I move the motion of which I have given notice. Two recent events have highlighted the deception and the double standards of this Government. For those events the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) carries a personal and a political responsibility. The character of those events and the circumstances in which they took place are such that the Opposition believes he is deserving of censure and ought to resign. The Minister has withheld from the Parliament information on decisions of vital significance to this country, that is, why the Government recognised some 30 years after the event the forceful incorporation into the Soviet Union of the states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. He withheld information as to why he decided that a young man who had expressed a desire to remain in Australia should be taken out of Australia before the courts had an opportunity to consider whether he did in fact want to remain in this country.

The Minister has shown that this Government's concern for the cause of freedom is subordinate to the maintenance of good relations with the Soviet Union. He has revealed the hollowness of this Government's proclaimed belief in human rights by taking calculated action which prevented the courts of this country from passing a judgment on whether a person was being held under duress. The Minister has challenged the role of the courts. He has challenged the due process of law and he has challenged the efficacy of the time-honoured remedy of habeas corpus. He has been asked constantly in this Parliament for information. He has declined to provide the information and he has succumbed to that which his own Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), before he was elected to the Prime Ministership, declared to be the demeaning idea that government knows best and that only government knows best.

We have seen within the last 24 hours the Minister in this chamber refuse to table a document which would either verify the account which he has been giving to this Parliament or disclose that account to be without foundation. He was asked yesterday whether he would table in this Parliament a record of an interview which Mr Ermolenko had with Department of Labor and Immigration officials in Perth some 4 days prior to his departure from Australia. Statements have been attributed to the head of the Department of Labor and Immigration in Perth that at that particular interview Mr Ermolenko indicated a desire to remain in this country. The Minister was asked whether he was aware of that interview. The record shows that he did not answer the question. He was asked whether he would table the interview and he said quite bluntly and forthrightly that he would not. Yet in the week in which these events were unfolded the Minister had said 'the overwhelming evidence points to the fact that this young man wants to go back to Russia'. He said in this chamber that on the incontrovertible facts before him there was one conclusion, and one supposes the only conclusion, which he could draw.

If at that conference with the Department of Labor and Immigration this young man said that he wanted to remain in this country and he indicated that he was prepared to take the steps to apply for permission to remain in this country, why did the Minister not inform the Parliament of that fact during the week we were asking him questions? If he was aware of that fact why did he not take it into account along with the other indications which he was regarding as valid and to which he ought to give consideration? If the account indicates that the young man did not wish to remain in Australia of course it verifies entirely what the Minister has said, and 1 suppose it helps the young man's own case with his own governmental authorities. But if on the other hand he did indicate that he wanted to remain in this country, there was a bounden duty on the Minister to give it weight along with the other considerations. To withhold that information from the Senate is a denial of the promise of open government if not a challenge to due process and the rights of the individual.

The motion which is moved has 3 parts to it in explanation of and justification for the Opposition's taking this course of action. We say that the Minister is deserving of censure and ought to resign because:

(i)   in denial of human rights and contrary to the rule of law and in order to appease the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics he organised the surreptitious departure of Georgi Ermolenko from Australia when doubt existed as to whether he was departing under duress and when that issue was being considered by the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

I will relate very briefly the salient facts relating to Mr Ermolenko. He was in Australia attending a music conference. On the Sunday of the relevant week he indicated voluntarily to 2 persons with whom he was associating that he desired to remain in Australia. Those persons have put the account of that conversation on affidavit, and those affidavits were filed in the Supreme Court. The account as related by them indicates that they endeavoured to test the young man's view as to whether or not he genuinely wanted to remain.

On the Sunday at the airport he declined to leave with his fellow Russians on the aircraft on which they were booked to leave and he told persons at the airport that he wanted to remain in Australia. None of the party left on that night. On the Monday morning he went to the Department of Labor and Immigration and he there had a conference which, on Press reports, lasted about an hour. He was then taken by the 2 friends to whom he had spoken on the Sunday to see a Professor Kabalevsky. They believed when they took him to see Professor Kabalevsky that they would remain with him during the conference.

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