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Wednesday, 18 September 1974
Page: 1224

Senator PRIMMER (Victoria) -This debate probably has gone on for far too long. The motion is of no great moment to this country. However, as I indicated to my Whip earlier that I would speak I now desire to say a few words. Quite frankly, as I have said, this censure motion is of no great moment to the politics of this country. The motion will do nothing for the people of this country. One is hard put to understand the reasons why the Opposition should put forward such a puerile matter when there are so many other things with which we could far better fill in the day. The subject which the Opposition again brings out from under the bench is the battered old communist can- the same can as a previous Prime Minister utilised very effectively in the 1950s. I fear that that is where the minds of many of the Opposition senators still are.

If there is a matter that this chamber would be far better off discussing for the betterment of the people of this country, it surely is a matter which has been raised in the Press around the world because it concerns countries right around the world. It has been raised in the Press and by various political spokesmen in Australian in recent weeks. I refer to the formation of vigilante groups and the ultra right wing forces in Australia. The development of these forces will play a far bigger role in the politics and history of this nation, if they are allowed to continue than would the Ermolenko affair or the recognition of the Baltic states of Eastern Europe. People such as Mr Colin Hines, the New South Wales President of the Returned Services League, are talking about the formation of a private army of 100,000 men. We also know from an article by

Allan Farrelly in the Sydney 'Sun' of 19 August of the formation in Melbourne a year ago of an organisation known as the Friday The Thirteenth Committee which comprises top ranking intelligence and security officiers and is alleged to have links with the Citizen Military Forces and the Army. These are the sorts of organisations that this Parliament would be better off discussing, rather than the matter that is before the chamber today.

There has been mention throughout the day in speeches by Opposition senators- in fact this is included in the motion- of concern about the denial of human rights. It seems rather strange to me that Opposition senators raise this matter of human rights only when it concerns the liberty or impinges on the rights of a person from the socalled communist countries or countries of the Left. Since I became a member of this Senate I have yet to hear any member of the Opposition express any concern about the liberty of any person from anywhere other than a communist country. I have yet to hear mem bers of the Oppositionraise their voices for the Nelson Mandelas of South Africa or Rhodesia. I have yet to hear them raise their voices about the civil liberties of people in South Korea, South Vietnam, Spain, Portugal or Chile. One can go on virtually ad infinitum. In fact, at the time of the Ermolenko incident Opposition senators tried to create in Western Australia another Petrov affair, which was one of the most shameful ever perpetrated on the nation of Australia. However, thanks to the courage, integrity and honesty of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) and his officers they were forestalled from creating a second Petrov incident.

At this stage I think it is rather interesting to have a look at some of the personnel who were involved in this incident in Western Australia and at their political history and backgrounds. Two of the significant participants in the action taken in Perth to try to prevent Mr Ermolenko from leaving Australia were Mr Harding, the State organiser for the Federated Clerks Union in Western Australia and Mr P. O'Brien, a lecturer in politics at the University of Western Australia. Both these men have rather interesting political pasts. Both of them masqueraded as if they were acting in the interests of Mr Ermolenko. Both steadfastly held that Ermolenko did not wish to leave Australia, even after a large number of eminent and respectable people had, through personal discussions with him, testified to the contrary. The political allegiance of both these men is significant. They support extreme right wing political movements.

They have a history of irresponsible and hellbent opposition to the Australian Labor Party and to the Australian Government. In fact, both are dedicated to destroying the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Labor Government. Firstly, let us have a look at Mr O'Brien. I think that Victorian senators will recall him rather well. While he resided in Victoria he created no end of problems for the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party. I see my colleague Senator Brown nodding his head in assent. In the early 1960s Mr O'Brien, in concert with a group of right wing academics- a notable member was Mr Frank Knopfelmacher- took over the Melbourne University ALP Club and then proceeded to propagandise on behalf of extreme right wing political elements but under the dishonest title of the Australian Labor Party. Articles under the ALP Club letterhead were produced to damage the ALP. The same articles often appeared at Monash University under the banner of that University's Australian Democratic Labor Party Club. This shows the duplicity of Mr O'Brien. He is well-known for taking advantage of his position as lecturer in politics at the University of Western Australia to propagandise to students, under the guise of academic teachings, his views about the danger to the community of the policies of the Australian Labor Party. Mr O'Brien has always defended American involvement in Vietnam. He has been a firm advocate of conscription in Australia. He has firmly stuck to these positions despite the fact that public enlightenment has left him as one of the few advocates from the extreme right for this cause. He has consistently associated himself with fringe right wing groups such as the World Freedom League. Those who have known him describe him as a full-time fanatical anticommunist. During the time that Mr Ermolenko was in Perth, and after he had left Perth, Mr O'Brien played an active role in distorting in newspapers in Western Australia what had happened. Suddenly he became a noted correspondent for the Bulletin'. As well, he ensured that there were ample public demonstrations at the Perth airport. He became known as the leader of a group at the airport called the Baltic watchers. He is just one of the types of people with whom the Minister for Foreign Affairs, his officers and people of goodwill had to contend.

Let us have a look at one of the other gentlemen, Mr Harding. Mr Harding has had a history as a spokesman for the Democratic Labor Party on the Trades and Labor Council in Perth. He is a regular proposer of motions to the Council which are designed not to further union interests but to emphasise problems and to bring down the Australian Labor Government. I understand that last night at a union meeting Mr Harding sought to do against the secretary- I think it is Mr Coleman- of the Trades and Labor Council in Perth exactly what the Opposition is trying to do to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. When the matter was put to the meeting Mr Harding lost the motion 64 votes to 1. That is what members of the Trades and Labor Council think of Mr Harding in relation to the activities which he carried out during the rather dramatic week at the Perth airport. Mr Harding alone of those who personally interviewed Mr Ermolenko continued to claim that Mr Ermolenko was not speaking the truth. This fellow Mr Harding is something of a psychic. He told union members that he read an appeal for help in Mr Ermolenko 's eyes. On the instructions of Mr Harding and other State Federated Clerks Union officials the Federated Clerks Union members at Perth airport continued to black ban all flights on which Mr Ermolenko could have left Perth. Mr Harding was instrumental in preventing the secretary of the Western Australia Trades and Labor Council from addressing Federated Clerks Union employees at the airport. When those employees finally arranged for the secretary of the Trades and Labor Council to address them- in spite of Mr Harding's effortsthey had the full facts presented to them for the first time. They agreed to reverse the instructions from the Federated Clerks Union officials that the black ban be maintained.

Both the Federated Clerks Union State executive and the Federal executive were in continuous consultation with Mr Harding in order to prevent Mr Ermolenko 's departure. They denied their union members the opportunity to learn the facts. The dedication with which Mr Harding and Mr O'Brien continued efforts to confuse the situation in Perth and to prevent Mr Ermolenko 's departure after all others concerned had been satisfied that it was his wish to leave can be explained only by the personal bipartisan commitments of both men to damage the interests of the Australian Government. Their interest in Mr Ermolenko 's welfare was a dishonest cover for their real motives. I think that is sufficient information for those of us who have knocked around the political movement for a number of years to get a fair idea of the motives of some people who claim that Mr Ermolenko wanted to stay in this country.

I shall close with a rather short discourse about the recognition of the Baltic states and what was said here today by- if I remember correctlySenator Greenwood and Senator Carrick. If it was not said by both it was said by one of them. Suggestions were made that Australia would get votes from the Soviet Union, other countries of the Soviet bloc or the developing countries in support of Senator Willesee 's candidature for President of the United Nations General Assembly in 1975 as a quid pro quo for the Australian Government's de jure recognition of the incorporation of the Baltic republics into the Soviet Union. Those suggestions are baseless.

I wish to explain the situation that occurs in relation to these elections. The election of the President of the General Assembly is dictated by the convention that each year the major geographical groupings of the United Nations members take turns in choosing from amongst themselves an agreed candidate for the presidency. For example, in 1974 it is agreed that the developing countries group in the United Nations will provide the president of the General Assembly. It is expected that Algeria will provide the President as agreed by that group. The group's nomination will be accepted by all other members of the General Assembly without a vote. In 1975- this is the year in which it has been suggested that Senator Willesee will throw his hat into the ring- it is agreed that the Western Europe and Other Countries group, of which Australia is a member, will provide the candidate. The campaign for the candidacy of Senator Willesee, therefore, is confined to seeking the agreement of members of that group to his candidacy. The members of that group are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. It is clear then that there is no point in trying through any action whatsoever to obtain the support of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or of any other country outside the Western Europe and Other Countries group for Australia's candidacy.

In closing, I wish to state that I support, as do all honourable senators on this side of the Senate, the down to earth, forthright decision that the Minister for Foreign Affairs made in Perth some 2 weeks ago. I believe, and I am quite sure that the bulk of the Australian people believe, that the action he took was to the best advantage of the young Russian who was the victim of political stunters in Perth who are opposed to the Australian Labor Party.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- I call Senator Greenwood who will be closing the debate.

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