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Wednesday, 18 September 1974
Page: 1216

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - I have listened to a lot of the discussion on this matter during the day. I thought that was much ado about nothing. I have been listening for some justification of the condemnation by the Opposition of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee). I am indebted to Senator Maunsell because I think he has shown with more clarity than other honourable senators that we should consider the matter. I take it that because there is a fuel crisis in Australia, because Queensland grows 95 per cent of the sugar of Australia and because one Mundey is the President of the Communist Party this is sufficient and convincing grounds to show that our Minister for Foreign Affairs should not hold his portfolio. Therefore, I shall suggest that we should alter the position to destroy the sugar production of Queensland. Perhaps we could get some more fuel in Australia but I do not know what we could do about Mundey as President of the Communist Party. Apparently the Minister should not hope to hold his position while this situation exists. This is the whole subject of the debate. This debate has been entered into without any grievance at all. The motion has been moved for political propaganda because it is the one day in the week when the proceedings of the Senate are broadcast. This morning when the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) moved that the matter be dealt with forthwith, I supported him because I think if anyone has a motion of censure -

Senator Withers - You called 'no'.

Senator CAVANAGH -Just a moment. I admit that but I will attempt to explain what I mean. I agree that if a censure motion is moved against a Minister or a government it should not be held over somebody's head but should be dealt with forthwith. However, we also had a motion before the Senate that we should suspend Standing Order 127.

Senator Withers - You did not ask for the Standing Order to be suspended.

Senator CAVANAGH - The motion I asked to vote on was that the matter be dealt with forthwith and that we suspend Standing Order 127.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - What is wrong with that?

Senator CAVANAGH -Standing order 127 restricts the debate on a notice of motion to 2 hours after the meeting of the Senate. Had we let Senator Greenwood babble on in the way that he did- no one could understand him- and had we permitted the Minister effectively to reply, as he did, everyone would have been completely satisfied. The debate would have been concluded by now. The fact that we are on the air will mean that we will continue debating this matter until 1 1 o'clock. I was in the minority in my vote. We have suspended standing order 127 and the Opposition is determined to keep on discussing this matter because the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast. The Opposition has raised this Communist bogy which it has found to be fruitful in the past. Some Opposition senators, such as Senator Greenwood, have done themselves an injury by making accusations. It was said that every time Senator Greenwood had spoken on this matter his credibility diminished and Senator Greenwood then claimed that he had been misrepresented. He said he had spoken on this subject only once. But the honourable senator who criticised him showed that Senator Greenwood had done considerable damage to his own reputation on that occasion. He destroyed himself completely. His self-destroying speech plus the defence of the Minister would have been sufficient for this particular debate.

Mr Ermolenkoat one time expressed the wish to stay in Australia. Senator James McClelland developed the argument that Mr Ermolenko may have wanted to stay in Australia because he liked the State of Western Australia. It is quite an attractive State and it may be that he felt some pleasure in being in the State from which Senator Wheeldon and Mr Bob Hawke originated.

Senator Withers - And Mr Snedden.

Senator CAVANAGH -And Senator Withersmay have been another reason that Ermolenko liked the State of Western Australia. Mr Ermolenko came to Australia to attend a musicians conference. While he was here he expressed the wish that he would like to stay. My wife is 150 miles from home tonight with her relatives having a good rest after an illness. When I rang her this evening she said that she did not want to come home. I do not know whether that is an indication that she gets bashed every time she comes home and that we have some Siberian gaol to put her in. She wishes to stay because she is in good company with good friends. No one has examined the question of why Mr Ermolenko did not want to go home. It has never been a question of politics. It was not indicated that he opposed the regime in Russia or that he wanted political asylum in Australia. The only information given by Senator Greenwood in relation to the history of the Ermolenko case was that one reporter, through a car door, heard Ermolenko say that he wanted to stay in Australia. When she said to him: 'Do you want to go home?' he said: 'No.' Mr Ermolenko is an 18 year old lad. The question of politics did not arise in this matter. On that particular occasion he wanted to stay in Australia. I think that when I was 18 years old there may have been many occasions when I would have rather stayed where I was than go home.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - You might have got into trouble.

Senator CAVANAGH - I have not that option, now. I am dragged home. One must examine why an 18 year old lad would want to leave his country. Our whole migration system in Australia revolves around people coming to the country who do not want to go home. Successful migrants stay in Australia.

It was disclosed in an evening newspaper that among the associates of Mr Ermolenko in Western Australia there may have been a female companion. The Press indicated that Mr Ermolenko may have wanted female companionship. I do not say that anything improper was implied. But at 18 years of age the opposite sex has a great attraction. No matter what country Mr Ermolenko may have been in, female companionship there may have been better than playing the violin in Moscow.

Senator Greenwood - There has been no suggestion of that hitherto. Is there any basis in that? Is this something that has been withheld from us?

Senator CAVANAGH - I do not make statements which have no foundation. Senator Greenwood based all his arguments on Press reports.

Senator Davidson - Why did not the Minister tell us?

Senator CAVANAGH - I will justify that in a moment. An article was published in the late edition of the 'Adelaide News'. A copy of it has not yet reached me. The 'Australian' on 15 August 1974 stated:

Amanda, the mystery girl in the Ermolenko affair, has been round . . . She is a 17-year-old schoolgirl from Adelaide and her full name is Amanda Fairs. Mr Ermolenko had mentioned her christian name shortly after announcing plans to stay in Australia following the International School of Music Education Conference in Perth . . .

She explained yesterday how she struck up a friendship with the five Russians when she went to congratulate them after their concert.

Over the following five days I became friendly with all the Russians,' said Amanda. 'But as for any romance between myself and Georgi, that's not true' . . .

Why would Mr Ermolenko mention her name shortly after announcing his 'defection'? Amanda said it was probably because he just wanted to talk with someone his own age.

Many things other than politics could be involved in an 18-year-old wanting to stay in Western Australia. The Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers, knows the beauty and attraction of that State. What attracted him to stay there when he was 18 years of age? Perhaps if he had had the same opportunity as Ermolenko he would not have wanted to go home. Never was a question of politics involved in this matter. This man wanted to stay for some reason but we do not know the reason. It may or may not have been that he had a girl friend. However, at one period he wanted to stay and because he was a Russian people on all sides lined up- the Democratic Labor Party, Country Party members and politicians and the Liberal Party. They said that he should be kept here whether or not that was against his will.

This Government and its Minister for Foreign Affairs decided to investigate the question. As honourable senators were told, the Minister held a conference to see whether there was justification for attempting to get him home. I want to refer honourable senators to what appeared in the Western Australian Press, the 'West Australian', published in Perth on 15 August. I do not think Senator Withers would suggest that the West Australian' falsely reports statements. I refer to a report of a Press conference which Ermolenko held and which was called by Mr Edgley. It was held at the request of Ermolenko in order to explain his position. That report states:

The Russian violinist Georgi Ermolenko (18) yesterday told a Press conference that he wanted to go home.

At yesterday's Press conference Mr Ermolenko said his request to stay in Australia was a mistake. He now wanted to go back to a normal cultural life in Russia.

The report stated later:

Mr Ermolenkohimself asked for the Press conference at the Parmelia.

At that conference he was asked:

Why do you want to go back to Russia?

His answer was:

Russia is my homeland and without my homeland I cannot live.

He was also asked:

Why don 't you want to see the men?

His reply was:

I want to go back to my homeland.

He was then asked:

Was anything said about your parents at the Monday meeting you had with Russian officials?

His reply was:

Discussion? What discussion? No.

He was asked:

Before you came to Australia did you tell your parents of your plan to stay in Australia?

He replied:

I was about to make the mistake of staying in Australia and regret that I nearly made the mistake. Now I want to go back to my homeland and my work at the conservatorium.

He was then asked:

On Sunday did you want to stay in Australia and why?

This report states that he replied by saying:

I was about to make that mistake.

The next question was:

Are you afraid of what will happen to you when you return?

He replied:

I am not afraid. When I return to Russia it will be a normal life, a cultural life.

This man had one desire and that was to go back to his homeland, and the Opposition is seeking to justify preventing him from being given the opportunity to go back. This newspaper report states that Ermolenko was asked:

Have you been held against your will by any person?

His reply was:

No. My only wish is to go back to Russia.

The next question was:

Did you say on Monday that you did not want to see Professor Dimitri Kabalevsky (the Russian President of the International Society for Music Education )?

His reply was:

No. I said I wanted to see Professor Kabalevsky in my own room.

He was then asked:

Did you want Mr V. G. Alexandrov (the Soviet cultural attache) to be present?

He replied: l wanted to see Mr Alexandrov alone.

That was a plea by an individual who wanted to go back to his homeland. He admitted that at one time he did say that he would like to stay in Australia, but then he said that he wanted to go back to his homeland. The Opposition is condemning the Minister for Foreign Affairs because he made facilities available to meet the human rights of this individual to travel freely where he wanted to go. The position is that this 18-year-old youth came here on a professional engagement with a troupe. He was accompanied by a manager who had to look after him. Because of some attraction in Western Australia he wanted to stay here. However, were not those with the responsibility of looking after his welfare obliged to consider his people 's comfort and to persuade him to go home and see his people? Was that not the sole responsibility in this case? The professor who was there had the responsibility of persuading him to go back to his people. This youth had left home and come to a strange country where he met strange friends, some of whom he apparently liked. Was not the Australian Government responsible for seeing that no harm came to this juvenile while he was in our country? This was the greatest thing that was done.

However, because this youth was a Russian, people lined up on one side to condemn the Government because they could see in this case some support for a policy which was foreign to Australia. We on this side of the chamber have lined up in defence of the Government, not on the question of politics but on the question of human rights. There is an insulting suggestion on the part of those who moved this motion of condemnation for an alleged breach of human rights. As I said before, we have had to put up with talking about this matter for the whole day. This debate has dragged on and will last until 1 1 o'clock tonight because someone wanted to make political propaganda and to stop us from getting on with the affairs of the nation. The mover of this motion no sooner opened his mouth than the visitor gallery emptied and members of the Press fell asleep, and for the rest of the day we have had a vacant chamber. We prepared speakers to come in here in order to keep this debate going although there is no interest in it and no logic in it, and everyone knows that there is no truth in what has been propounded. This is the farcical political situation that we have at present.

Also included in this motion is the question of the Baltic states. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs told the Senate, we have to accept the facts. Also, as I think the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) told the Senate, although we do not agree with the method of annexation of the Baltic states it is a fact. If honourable senators opposite condemn the taking of these smaller Baltic countries by force they should realise that it is not much different from the European occupation of Australia. Honourable senators opposite recognise that Australia is a country populated by Europeans. That is factual. It has happened. They cannot condemn what has happened in the case of the Baltic states if they justify their own position. They have to recognise facts. I do not know whether Opposition senators accept the justification for our occupancy of this country, but we are here and we are going to stay. Russia has the Baltic states and is going to keep them.

A woman came to me the other day for some assistance because she is having difficulty in getting an Australian passport to return home to one of these countries. There is some doubt about her place of birth and the time of her birth. She said that the documentation was destroyed in the war years. The only way we can assist her is by making representations through the Russian authorities in Australia. This Government is unable to assist the thousands in Australia for whom honourable senators opposite are crying crocodile tears today, unless they recognise that the authorities controlling the areas concerned today are the authorities of the Soviet Union. Honourable senators opposite must face the facts. Let us hope that there are not too many more occasions when the Opposition seeks to make political capital solely because it hopes that the public is listening. I do not think the Government will be impressed by what has transpired today.

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