29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 2. IS p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 16 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth: WHEREAS THE Government of the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada and many European countries have not recognised the unlawful annexation of the Baltic States- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by the Soviet Union, the Prime Minister of Australia has authorised the de jure recognition of this annexation.
According to the Charter of the United Nations, the Baltic States are entitled to independence and their people to selfdetermination.
We beg that such de jure recognition be disallowed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 287 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth: whereas the Government of the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada and many European countries have not recognised the unlawful annexation of the Baltic States- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by the Soviet Union, the Prime Minister of Australia has authorised the de jure recognition of this annexation.
According to the Charter of the United Nations, the Baltic States are entitled to independence and their people to selfdetermination.
We beg that such de jure recognition be disallowed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– As similar petitions have been presented I do not request that the petition be read.
– I present the following petition from 50 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth: whereas the Government of the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada and many European countries have not recognised the unlawful annexation of the Baltic
States- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by the Soviet Union, the Prime Minister of Australia has authorised the de jure recognition of this annexation.
According to the Charter of the United Nations, the Baltic States are entitled to independence and their people to selfdetermination.
We beg that such de jure recognition be disallowed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– Since similar petitions have been read I do not intend to move that this petition be read.
-I present the following petition from 48 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Whereas the Governments of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada and many European countries have not recognized the unlawful annexation of the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by the Soviet Union, it has been announced from Moscow that the Australian Government is now recognizing them as part of the Soviet Union. We wish to point out that according to United Nations chaner these States are entitled to independence and their people to self-determination and beg that such recognition be disallowed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 45 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth: whereas the Government of the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada and many European countries have not recognised the unlawful annexation of the Baltic States- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by the Soviet Union, the Prime Minister of Australia has authorised the de jure recognition of this annexation.
We beg that such de jure recognition be disallowed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– As a similar petition has already been read I do not propose to move that this petition be read.
– I present the following petition from 42 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth: whereas the Government of the United Kingdom, United
States of America, Canada and many European countries have not recognised the unlawful annexation of the Baltic States- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by the Soviet Union, the Prime Minister of Australia has authorised the de jure recognition of this annexation.
We beg that such de jure recognition be disallowed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– As petitions similarly worded have already been presented I do not propose to move that this petition be read.
– I present the following petition from 46 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
The need for Federal Government assistance to the Playgroup Association of Queensland as a part of their preschool education program. As recorded in the minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Association held on Wednesday, 28 August 1974, the assistance sought is:
that the Playgroup Association of Queensland be granted Sales Tax Exemption:
that Playgroup be recognised as a necessary part of pre-school education and as such all expenses incurred by the parents be an allowable tax deduction;
for financial support from your Government.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government and Senators in Parliament assembled will ensure that due account is taken of this petition and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 72 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Whereas the six million people of the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, occupied and unlawfully annexed by the Soviet Union, have been deprived of freedom, human rights and civil liberties and are therefore unable to express their will, we the undersigned Australian citizens of Baltic origin humbly petition the Senate to express its moral support to the rights of the Baltic States to freedom and self-determination.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– As petitions in similar terms have been read, I do not propose to move that this petition be read.
– I present the following petition from 1 5 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Federal National Parliament of Australia by Pensioners and the Public who do care to be presented to the House of Representatives (Lower House) and House of the Senate (Upper House), to the Honourable Speaker of each House, we ask as members of the Public that: a Nationalized Government and Private transport system be established. that Pensioners transport be made free within the Federation where the Government has constitutional powers. to make all Government and Private transport free within the Federation to Pensioners and all other underprivileged members of the community.
Although the pension has been increased by $1.50 the high cost of living has effectively made this increase worthless, consequently the above actions are considered to require urgent National Government Action.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 724 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth: whereas the Government of the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada and many European countries have not recognised the unlawful annexation of the Baltic States- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by the Soviet Union, the Prime Minister of Australia has authorised the de jure recognition of this annexation.
According to the Charter of the United Nations, the Baltic States are entitled to independence and their people to self-determination.
We beg that such de jure recognition be disallowed.
– I present the following petition from 25 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That the Australian Government’s diplomatic action to recognize officially the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union has been taken contrary to the Prime Minister’s assurances to Australian citizens of Baltic origin given as recently as the 1 7th May 1 974.
We, the undersigned, therefore humbly petition the Senate to ensure that the above action is rescinded.
- Mr President, as petitions similarly worded have been read in the Senate, I do not propose to move that these petitions be read.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Minister for Foreign Affairs is deserving of censure and ought to resign because:
in denial of human rights contrary to the rule of law and in order to appease the Government of the U.S.S.R. he organized 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.
in breach of a clear undertaking to the contrary given by the Prime Minister the Government shamefully and furtively extended recognition to the incorporation of the Baltic Slates in the U.S.S.R., the Minister withholding any announcement or explanation of the decision.
iii) the foreign policy alignments he is promoting will not serve Australia ‘s national interest.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That so much of Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Senate proceeding forthwith with the motion and that standing order 127 do not apply.
– 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 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.
– Order! I observe a stranger taking notes in the gallery. I ask him to desist forthwith.
-Mr Badger and Mr Johnson, the 2 friends to whom Mr Ermolenko had spoken on the Sunday, took him from the Department of Labor and Immigration to see Professor Kabalevsky. They believed that they would be able to remain with Professor Kabalevsky during the discussion which took place, but Professor Kabalevsky refused to allow them to accompany Mr Ermolenko into the discussion which they had. That was the last occasion when Mr Ermolenko was out of the custody or control of the Russians whilst he remained in Australia. Thereafter there occurred a series of events, the first occurring on the Monday afternoon when it was reported that Mr Ermolenko now wanted to go back to Russia.
Inconsistent views were expressed. In the course of the next few days there were reports of views expressed by Mr Ermolenko that he wanted to go back to Russia. Other views according to persons who saw him were that they doubted whether Mr Ermolenko was really speaking his mind on a further occasion when he stated that he did not want to go back to Russia. Those are the short salient facts leading up to the Thursday afternoon when a special Royal Australian Air Force aircraft was provided and Mr Ermolenko and the Russian party were taken out of Australia.
There has been a denial of human rights because one of the freedoms which we, in this country, accept and which we seek to extend to other persons in this country who want to exercise the rights of Australians is a freedom of movement and a freedom of choice to say whether one will stay or whether one will leave. In the case of a person who is a national of a foreign country we believe that he has the right to apply to the authorities in this country to remain in Australia. We believe that, whilst he is in this country, if he is being held in custody, if he is being held against his will or if he is being subjected to duress, he has the same right as any other Australian citizen to have the courts determine that question in the way in which the courts have always determined those questions in this country. We notice, of course, that this is a right which the Soviet Union denies to its citizens. The recent history of Alexander Solzhenitsyn demonstrates that. The present fate, if we know what it is, of Andre Sakharov indicates this. There are Valentyn Moroz and others who are imprisoned in the Soviet Union because they exercised the right of free speech and the ability to dissent which we regard in this country as the right of every citizen and which we have always upheld.
We do not accept that there was any recognition of the rights of Georgi Ermolenko in the way in which he was spirited out of this country before the question of whether he was being subjected to duress and made to do things against his will was tested in the manner in which we believe these issues ought to be tested in this country. There has been action by the Minister contrary to the rule of law. This issue was being tested by the courts. On the Friday a decision was to be made by Mr Justice Wickham in the Supreme Court of Western Australia on issues which had been delayed because of problems as to whether a particular person had been served with a summons. There was a summons requiring Ermolenko to appear before the courts. The Minister was aware of this. On the Wednesday the Minister had been asked by the judge of the court whether he would give an undertaking that Mr Ermolenko would not leave this country before he had had an opportunity of discussion with the persons to whom Ermolenko had originally communicated his desire to remain in this country to ascertain whether that was still his view. The Minister declined to give that undertaking to the courts.
The Minister may say it is well within his rights to decline to give that undertaking and of course it is. But I would have thought that if there were a spark of concern for human rights and liberty that undertaking would have been given. It would have involved allowing Mr Ermolenko to remain in this country for a further 24 hours to have the issue tested. If, in fact, at the end of that 24 hour period it was apparent that the young man had decided to go back to Russia- there may have been some who would have had their doubts- the processes which we accept would have been utilised in order to have that issue decided. There have, of course, been questions as to whether this man did in fact evince a desire to remain in Australia. Affidavits were filed in the court in support of the applications which were made by interested persons including, as I understand it, the President of the study body of the University of Western Australia who is not an adherent of the political cause to which I subscribe. I understand he subscribes to the political faith of the Government. This indicates the interest and the concern that that person had. That application was supported by affidavits- an affidavit by Mr Badger, who related what Ermolenko had told him; an affidavit by Mr Johnson, who related what Mr Ermolenko had told him; and an affidavit by a lady, Judith Berry Bateman. The affidavit by that lady was sworn on 14 August, the day before Ermolenko was taken out of Australia. She said that on Tuesday, 13 August, she was at the Parmelia Hotel. She saw Professor Kabalevsky, followed by Ermolenko and Alexandrov emerging from the hotel. She said:
All three got into a Commonwealth car. I asked Ermolenko ‘Do you want to go back?’ Ermolenko answered No’. I asked Professor Kabalevsky ‘Do you have any comments for the Press?’ Professor Kabalevsky answered ‘No comments ‘. I then asked Ermolenko ‘Are you under duress? ‘ He answered ‘No’. I once again asked ‘Do you want to go back?’ Ermolenko answered ‘No’. The car then drove off flanked by six other Commonwealth cars carrying Police, Foreign Affairs Staff and Russian officials.
All I say is that if anyone wanted to challenge the account in that affidavit it could have been tested. The lady could have been asked questions and the issue would have been decided by a judge. That lady was a reporter asking questions in the course of her journalistic duties.
Why was not the court allowed to decide this issue? Why did the Minister take it upon himself to decide the issue? We asked the Minister that question and he indicated that he himself had made up his mind as to what was the course which should be followed; it was his judgment. But is not the real role of the courts in this country, in determining issues of whether or not a person is being held against his or her will, to provide an independent means by which questions of this character can be assessed, free of the imputation or suggestion of political influence? It is part of our history that the courts will declare whether or not a person is being falsely imprisoned; whether or not a person is being made to do something against his will. It is not for a Minister, it is not for an individual, to usurp the role of the courts. Yet this is what the Minister did.
I believe that the worst feature of a shameful week was the fact that within 24 hours of the court being asked to decide the fundamental question of whether or not there was a prima facie case that this man was being held against his will- there were indications both ways- the Minister so organised Ermolenko ‘s departure that the court was not able to decide that fundamental issue. Why did the Minister take that course? Why did he decide that his judgment that this man was not being held against his will should prevail over the competing views of other individuals? More specifically, why did the Minister rely upon persons of his own political persuasion, persons upon whom he believed he could rely, to make certain assessments and then accept their assessments and ignore all else.
He ignored the view of the interpreter who interpreted for Mr Ermolenko when he was on a television program. That interpreter expressed the view that he was not speaking his mind because he was under the influence of the Russian who was in the room; that Ermolenko appeared to be deferring to that man. The Minister denied, on the account which had been given to him, that any Russian was in the room. But there are competing and conflicting accounts as to whether the Russian was in the room. The point was that the lady who spoke Ermolenko ‘s language and who was there as the interpreter had doubts as to whether he was speaking genuinely. When one takes into account even the doubts expressed by Mr Tonkin as to why this person had apparently changed his mind, to me it is inconceivable that if the Minister was acting objectively in the interests of the nation and of this individual he should have allowed him to be taken out of the country in the way in which he was.
We believe the reason was that the Government of Russia had indicated that this course was to be followed. According to the information which I have, the Russian Embassy indicated to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that unless Mr Ermolenko was out of this country, there was no need for Mr Whitlam to visit Russia at the end of this year. I understand that at an early stage Mr Whitlam had indicated that a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft had to be available to take Ermolenko out, and it was only when Senator Willesee indicated that he was prepared to support the Prime Minister’s view that Mr Barnard relented from his previous attitude and made an aircraft available. It is so obvious. What was done was done to appease the Russians, and no other account is reasonably open. It is a shameful state of affairs, particularly when linked with the recognition of the Baltic states, that we should mould our foreign policy, decide issues of human rights and override the role of the courts in this country simply to curry favour with the Government of the Soviet Union.
The second issue relates to the recognition of the Baltic states. The Opposition’s motion reads:
That the Minister for Foreign Affairs is deserving of censure and ought to resign because:
in breach of a clear undertaking to the contrary given by the Prime Minister the Government shamefully and furtively extended recognition to the incorporation of the Baltic States in the U.S.S.R., the Minister withholding any announcement or explanation of the decision.
It is quite clear that the 3 countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, are under Soviet domination. They were militarily occupied, first, in 1940 and then, after the Germans were driven out, in 1945 by the Russian Army. The de facto situation has long existed, and that that situation is likely to continue cannot be disputed. But what has now happened is that a de jure recognition has been given to a de facto situation. The circumstances in which this decision had been made have caused concern. Those circumstances are clouded by deception, stealth and, one can only suppose, an apparent sense of guilt and shame by a government which has no justification for its actions except that it gratuitously desires to curry favour with the Soviet Union.
In the first place, there was no need for this recognition. For 30 years this de facto situation has existed without any de jure acknowledgment of the rights of the Soviet Union in relation to these states. No other Western country, apart from Finland and Switzerland, has recognised the situation. Why has Australia departed from the course of action which France, Britain, Canada and the United States have followed? It may be that the Baltic states will have to await a cataclysm before they can once again secure their freedom. But the Western world has refused to give its diplomatic approval to what was a forcible occupation- a disgraceful product of a disgraceful agreement between Ribbentrop and Stalin in 1939- and has withheld its recognition of the forcible overthrow of these 3 free countries. But Australia, on its own initiative, without any explanation, has decided that it will recognise the incorporation of these 3 countries. Furthermore, the recognition was done, Mr President, in breach of a clear undertaking contained in a letter written before the last election by the Prime Minister to the President of the Council of the Lithuanian Community in Australia. The Prime Minister wrote:
The policy of the present Australian Government is that while not formally recognising the incorporation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia into the Soviet Union, it must be cognisant of the de facto situation and deal with the government which has effective control of the territory in question. This was also the attitude taken by all of our predecessors on that matter.
He then stressed how consistent that attitude was with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At a Press conference Mr Whitlam was asked the following question by the editor of the Latvian News’ in Melbourne:
What is the policy of the present Australian Government in respect to the Baltic States?
Mr Whitlam answered:
The policy of the Australian Government in regard to the Baltic States is the same as that of our predecessors. We recognise the existence de jure of the States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. . . .
He indicated that he did not have any intention of changing that position and that he would maintain the position of the previous Government. That position has been changed, and we have been given no explanation as to why it was changed. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) tried hard to get information from the Prime Minister and from the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Twice he had to make a request for the information to be given to him. Amongst the questions that he asked was this question:
Why was this decision considered necessary at the present time?
What was the answer that he was given? It was:
There was no special significance in the timing of the decision.
Why was the decision made? To this day, notwithstanding the efforts that we have made to get from the Minister for Foreign Affairs in this place some explanation as to why recognition of these
States be was decided upon, we have been denied any such explanation. Is it because this Government desires to maintain with the Soviet Union a relationship which it believes will be improved by the servile act of doing something which even the Soviet Union these days has not got on its shopping list of demands for other countries? We believe that what this Government has done has been done in order to facilitate a reception by the Prime Minister in the Soviet Union when he visits that country this year. We believe that that type of approach is a disgrace to this nation.
If that is not the explanation, then can we have from this Government the reason why these States have been recognised? The recognition was not announced until Press inquiries forced an otherwise silent Government to allow not the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Prime Minister, but a spokesman from the Department of Foreign Affairs to say that certain events had taken place. No explanation has been given and there has been no attempt at justification of the decision. It is a particularly favourable view of Soviet colonialism, totally inconsistent with the denunciations of other forms of colonialism to which this Government has subscribed in the United Nations. Why is Soviet imperialism entitled to subjugate other nations and to do so with the approval of this Government when attempts at colonialism by other countries are forthrightly condemned? Is not the only consistent view of the Government’s decision to recognise the incorporation of these States the view that it accords entirely with the public attitudes of the Soviet Union? It was shameful, it was furtive, and the indignation which it has raised throughout Australia is evidenced by the many petitions which constantly come into the Senate.
The people of these 3 States came to Australia initially under arrangements made by the late Arthur Calwell. He persisted throughout the time that he was alive in assuring these people that Australia would never recognise the legal incorporation of these States into the Soviet Union. He was dead barely 12 months when the Government which he helped to put into power did what he said it would never do. It may be an illusion to seek to maintain the ideal of freedom with regard to these countries because the de facto situation is certainly one in which the Soviet Union has an all powerful control. But it is to the credit of the Western world and of those countries which are prepared to maintain that ideal that they have refused to recognise the callous overthrow of free governments by the Soviet
Union in 1945. The recognition of the incorporation is a disgraceful event.
I do not elaborate on the third point in my motion because subsequent Opposition speakers also will refer to the motion. But we have seen in the period in which the Labor Party has been in power a new subservience, and it is a subservience to the Soviet Union, to Communist China and to the nations of the Third World. At the same time we have seen a dismantling of our alliances. We have seen the destruction of ANZUK. We have seen the weakening of the Five Power Arrangements. We have seen the watering down of SEATO. We also see a desire to weaken the military aspects of ANZUS. We see a Government which wants to enter the Council of the Non-Aligned Nations. We see a Government which is promoting new alignments and departing from the traditional associations which we believe are still the associations which the people of Australia want. In their place we are seeing, not a new independence, not a new activity, but a subservience and a defencelessness for which the Minister, as the Minister in charge of Australia’s foreign affairs, must carry the responsibility. The events which we have set out in our motion ought to be highlighted throughout this country. The Minister is deserving of censure and he would serve Australia’s interests if he resigned.
– Before I deal with the substance of the motion I will try to deal with some of the untruths that Senator Greenwood has used. I certainly cannot go through all of them because if I tried to do that the whole case would be all over the place. The last one was the allegation that we were seeking to join the Council of the Non-Aligned Nations. What I have said is that we should have observers at meetings of the non-aligned nations, as we have at meetings of the Andean Pact countries, the Organisation of African Unity, the Organisation of American States and so on. As a matter of fact, Australia has been an observer at meetings of non-aligned countries only once, and that was under a Liberal government. At the original meeting held at Bandung that great humanitarian party sent Mr Shann, who is at present our ambassador in Peking and who at that time was in Djakarta, to the meeting. The only Australian Government that has ever been represented at such a meeting was a Liberal government. I seek to do the same thing; that is all I seek to do.
– Is not Mr Shann in Tokyo?
- Mr Shann is in Tokyo, not Peking. I thank the honourable senator for the correction. Senator Greenwood said some amazing things about the part played by Mr Whitlam and Mr Barnard in the Ermolenko affair. Mr Barnard did not even know that the plane had gone. I never discussed it with him, because he was not in Canberra. The honourable senator says that Mr Barnard was holding out all the time and that suddenly, at the last moment, Mr Barnard caved in and gave way to our wishes. He said that Mr Whitlam had ordered that the plane should be standing by. What a lot of rot. There is not one ounce of truth in this. The honourable senator said that pressure was put on Mr Whitlam because of his planned trip to Moscow. Goodness me!
– Who gave you the authority?
-I told the Senate before that Mr Whitlam gave me the authority, which is his right. Mr Whitlam did not have anything else to do with this. I discussed it with him when I rang up and said: ‘Can I have a plane? I want to position it in Perth and maybe it will have to go overseas tomorrow’. That is the only conversation I had with Mr Whitlam about it. Why go on with all these sorts of things? These are just complete untruths. There is just nothing in them.
– Your argument does not sound too good.
-That may be, but at least I will stick to the truth- something which so far has not been done.
– Are you suggesting that others do not stick to the truth?
– Yes, I am suggeting that. I am telling the Senate exactly where Senator Greenwood did not stick to the truth. There is just nothing at all in some of his statements. He talks about the courts deciding the wishes of Mr Ermolenko. On the Thursday Mr Ermolenko was subpoenaed to appear before the Supreme Court in relation to proceedings then before that Court. The subpoena was never served on Mr Ermolenko. All legal proceedings relating to the case were dismissed by the Supreme Court. If the honourable senator thinks that I was in some way defying the Court- this is the thing that he says is so important- why has the Court not dealt with me? The honourable senator is slinging off at me about the way he says I treated the Court, but is he not degrading the West Australian Court by saying these things? If the Court thought that I had been in contempt of it in any way it would have hauled me before it. But, of course, it has not done so. There has not been one word about it. Some of the actions that were before the Court were withdrawn and some were thrown out by the Court. Because I have watched the pattern all through I know very well that honourable senators opposite do not want me to deal with the substance of the matter. They want to get me off on to all the side tracks in the world. I watched that pattern during the week we were debating this matter.
Mr President, I have been berated by Senator Greenwood for refusing to table officers’ reports. In all calmness I ask you to consider a situation where an opposition, a government or anybody could say: ‘Look, we want that officers’ report to this Minister to be tabled’. We would have a completely impossible situation. This would inhibit officers. When they report to a Minister they know that that report is confidential and that it will not see the light of day in the Press. If we get to a situation where, every time an officer has to write a report he has it in the back of his mind that that report may finish up in the Press, we will destroy the objectivity of that officer.
– That is what Nixon said about the tapes.
– Honourable senators opposite are the great Nixon people. We were never defending him. They were always putting on an act about him. I do not think they should mention tapes around here because it might not help their side.
– It might not help the Minister’s side.
– Yes, it will. I have never used a tape in my life and I never will.
– Well, produce the transcript.
-The transcript of what?
– Of the conversation with your officer.
– I have just explained to the honourable senator that no Minister could do that. Ministers of the present opposition parties when they were in government would never do that. It will destroy the whole situation if we say to officers: ‘Give me a report on this, but it might finish up in the Press ‘. What sort of a situation is that? If honourable senators do not mind I will go back to the point of the whole matter. Regarding the conversation with Mr Ermolenko at the Immigration Office- I do not remember being specifically asked about this- I now say, because it is no secret, that at that point Ermolenko said that he wanted to return home.
It was later on that he said that he did not. The other completely incorrect statement which Senator Greenwood made was that from the time that Mr Ermolenko went into the hotel he was not out of the presence of Russians. That is not true. We talked to the Russians and put it to them that it was to their own benefit and to the benefit of all of us that they withdraw their officers while talks took place with various people. From then on a Russian was never present. Then Senator Greenwood went on to make an amazing sort of analogy. He said that in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics people are held prisoner. He thinks that that is wrong and I agree that it is wrong. One of the most distressing things we have today is political prisoners in these countries. This matter is raised from time to time. It is a most distressing thing. It is wrong and it would be equally wrong if we were to imprison Ermolenko in this country and prevent him from leaving.
Let us have a look at the motion before us. Dealing with the Ermolenko case it talks about the denial of human rights. I draw everybody’s attention to the fact that at no stage have any of the critics in this matter examined what the alternatives would be if an Australian in Russia or in any other country were subjected to what Ermolenko was subjected to in this country. Nobody has adverted to that because the moment he does the whole of the criticism is destroyed. What is the alternative? The proposition which was being put and which I tried to bring about was to get Mr Ermolenko to leave with the Reverend Johnson for 24 hours. I think that was legitimate. It was assumed that Mr Johnson had been a friend. He had stayed there that night. I think he had accompanied Ermolenko to the aircraft on the first night, although I am not sure. The point is that Ermolenko refused to do this. Everybody kept saying to Ermolenko: ‘What do you want to do?’ He said: ‘I want to go home. I do not want to go and stay with the Reverend Johnson.’ What a ludicrous situation we would have been in if we had said to the police force: Go in and get him. Use force and drag him out. Ermolenko, never mind what you think. We can read your mind better than you can. You are not going to leave this country.’ Alternatively we could have said: ‘We are taking you away.’ That would be an assault on a person. That would be imprisoning a person. What a ludicrous sort of situation that would be. Do we say to this person: Do you want to do something?’ He says: ‘No’. We say: ‘Oh, yes you are; we know better than you do. We will put the police on to you’. At all stages I refused to authorise the use of force. I wish that I had been assured that Mr Garland and those people who were putting on such a shindig out at the airport each night were not going to use force, otherwise the decision might have been different.
The Reverend Johnson’s name has been mentioned many times in relation to this matter. I notice that when Mr Garland gave notice of a motion in the other place on 23 August 1974 he mentioned his name on at least 2 occasions. In giving notice of that motion he mentioned the Reverend Johnson, Reverend Borthwick and Mr Badger, and in brackets he put: ‘who were and are objective and truthful persons’. I do not know why he put that. Nobody has ever challenged it. I certainly have not. As I have said many times, I certainly believe that these 3 gentlemen, as well as many other gentlemen, some of them sitting opposite me here today, were genuinely worried about this situation. They agonised with me to see that Australia did the right thing in relation to this matter. I appreciated that. But as I said in the first debate on this matter, I have profound contempt for those other people who jumped on the bandwagon, tried to get the limelight and gave no consideration at all to the human rights of the 1 8-year-old Georgi Ermolenko. I have read out the way that Mr Garland describes the Reverend Johnson and I agree with him.
It may be interesting if I quote to you, Mr President, what the Reverend Johnson said a couple of nights ago when appearing on a television interview in Perth:
The more I think about it, the less I’m inclined to see any arch-villains in the piece. I think that we are all the victims of circumstances to a large extent and I have no complaints now with the way the Government eventually handled it.
I think it would be just as wrong for us to have kept him here against his expressed will, as it would have been for the Russians to have escorted him out of the country before he had an opportunity at least of speaking with his friends again, but as it turned out, I think that his expressed wishes at that time had to be expressed and it would have been quite wrong for us to have continued to try to keep him here.
I trust that Mr Garland still thinks that he is a truthful and honest man. I have never doubted this even at times when it seemed that he was certainly not agreeing with the actions that I was taking.
The next point is that this rather extravagantly worded motion moved by the Opposition in the Senate asks: ‘Is there a doubt that exists?’ That was the whole crux of the matter. Firstly, this young man twice said that he wanted to stay in Australia. He said this once at the airport and once to the immigration officer next day. Let me quote to honourable senators, just to remind them, what I said in a statement at the time. In a Press interview and in a statement which was distributed as widely as possible I believe that I gave quite openly and frankly the reasons why I came to the conclusions which I reached. I will quote this paragraph:
At this stage my concern, as that of many other Australians, became one of ascertaining that this change of mind was genuine and was not made under duress. Accordingly, with the co-operation of the Soviet Embassy, Georgi was interviewed a number of times and on successive days without any other Russian present- first, by the representative of the Foreign Affairs Department and the Chief Immigration Officer in Perth, then by Mr Gilchrist, the Head of the Legal Division of my Department whom I sent from Canberra expressly for the purpose, then by Mr Cowles, the representative of the Transport Workers Union, Mr Bluck of the Musicians Union and Mr Michael Edgley, the well-known West Australian businessman, who speaks Russian well, then by Mr Tonkin, the former Labor Premier of Western Australia, whom I had asked to intervene, and Mr Harding of the Federated Clerks Union and finally at length by a number of journalists on television yesterday evening.
I actually left out 2 names, those of Mr Grant of the Air Transport Officers Federation and Mr Jim Coleman, the Secretary of the Trades and Labor Council in Perth. I did not make arrangements for those people to see Mr Ermolenko. The only people for whom I made arrangements to speak to Ermolenko were Mr Tonkin and officers of my own Department. Of course, I knew the Secretary of the Federated Clerks Union to be completely hostile. I believe that he was completely unreasonable in the attitudes that he was taking. Nevertheless I asked him to. go along with Mr Tonkin. There is no evidence to the contrary on that aspect.
Honourable senators might recall that in the opening debate here I said that it would not matter whether Georgi Ermolenko swore on a stack of bibles that he wanted to leave this country because there were certain people who had their minds made up and who were not going to be confused with the facts. They would not have changed their minds no matter what he did, and I knew that from the start. What I could have done was to send him out of the country early. I believed that I had to be certain of the position for a start in order to do the job that happened to fall into my lap. I had to be absolutely clear in my mind about what was going on and I wanted to convince as many genuine people in Australia as possible of what Ermolenko wanted to do.
It is next said that we wanted ‘to appease the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Let me tell the Senate that there is not one atom of truth in that. As a matter of practice I do not repeat, and obviously one cannot go around repeating, conversations which I have, often many in a week- some of them quite easy conversations and some not so easy- with representatives of other countries. We would lose our reputation completely if those representatives could not talk to their counterpart, the Foreign Minister, in a confidential way and say things to him which are not going to be bruited throughout the community. So I do not repeat such conversations. But I refused to panic as a lot of people from the other side were doing. I was not going to be panicked at the end of the week into keeping Ermolenko in Australia when I was certain he should go.
I was not going to be panicked earlier in the week when he said that he wanted to be returned to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which, of course, is what the Russian Embassy asked me to do. There was nothing wrong with that request. I would make the same request if an Australian in some other part of the world said that he wanted to go home and I found that a lot of people with no legal rights at all were holding him up. But I took no notice of that request. All I will say is that if my interviews with the Charged ‘Affaires, Mr Victor Smirnoff, amounted to appeasement I hope I never get into a confrontation with him.
We talk about the rule of law. People on this side of the chamber will remember very well that, particularly when Senator Greenwood was in the Government, we used to get a lecture nightly about the rule of law and order, about how people were leading demonstrations and were sitting down in the streets of Melbourne. This was a shocking thing, it was said, and was taking the business out of the hands of Government. What happened on this occasion? We had a former Minister of the Crown in Mr Garland deliberately whipping up what were most ugly scenes at the Perth airport. On the afternoon I flew Ermolenko out we had a telephone call from the man second in charge of the the airport in Perth asking us what the situation was because he was frankly worried about the ugliness of the crowd there. Do not take my word or the word of the people advising me. That was the attitude of a man skilled in the art of airport handling.
– When they are with you they are good and when they are against you they are bad.
-The honourable senator should apply that to himself. He thinks that this one was good because the mob of louts was led by one of his side.
– Did you say they are louts?
-I say that a lot of them were a mob of louts.
– I hope the people of Western Australia are listening to what you are saying.
-I hope they are too, and I hope Mr Garland is.
– Because they are very decent people who were at the airport.
– Some were decent, some were not. Mr Garland is the man who has been very proud of the part he played in it. While talking about veracity and misleading the Parliament, let me quote from- not comment on- Mr Garland ‘s own words in a personal explanation on the other place. He said:
The Minister elsewhere in the debate misrepresented me by saying that I got on the bandwagon. I make it clear that I heard about this matter at 1 p.m. on Sunday, 1 1 August, and took no public action whatever until 6 o’clock on the afternoon of Tuesday, 1 3 August, after I had been unable to get any assurance from members of the Minister’s Department that they were satisfied that Ermolenko was speaking his mind freely.
Mr Garland’s idea of what constitutes public action is indeed a quaint one. During an interview about the Ermolenko case which appeared in the Western Australian student newspaper Pelican’ he described his following public actions during that time. Remember that he said that he took no action until 6 o ‘clock on Tuesday, 13 August. But in the interview he says this: At 3.30 p.m. on Sunday he was talking to the police and customs officers. On Monday morning he rang Mr Goodwin, the chief immigration officer in Western Australia. On Monday afternoon he rang the police and rang the Perth Foreign Affairs office. At about 5.30 p.m. on Monday he went to the airport and ‘tried to see everyone’. These apparently included the Secretary of the Clerks Union, about whom he said: ‘who asked me if I was there on that business. When I said I was he said: “We are going to see what we can do to stop the plane.” ‘ He saw the Qantas airport manager, continually demanded to see the chief Foreign Affairs officer in Perth and actually saw him several times. He intruded into the VIP room. He said: ‘Anyway I went into the room with the purpose of being very difficult and I immediately started a row with Alexandrov Kabalevsky and another fellow who was in charge of the quintet. ‘
In a rare flash of honesty Mr Garland admitted that during this episode none of the ordinary courtesies were observed. He met Mr Rob Cowles of the Transport Workers’ Union. At that stage Mr Garland was still at the airport and the time had advanced to about 8.15 p.m. He intruded into the VIP lounge again, in the company of Messrs Johnston, Badger and Grayden, some other Country Party members and the process servers to try to serve a writ on Mr Alexandrov
– Did you say that it was a rare flash of honesty for Mr Garland?
-This is the man who said that he had not taken any action on Sunday and Monday.
– He said ‘public action’.
-Do you not call that public action? Incidentally, I know that swearing on a stack of bibles will not get anywhere, but I noticed that when Mr Ermolenko was going back all sorts of forecasts were made about what would happen to him. I think that they ranged from the salt mines to not being allowed to play again, and that they would take his violin from him. As a matter of fact, he is playing tonight with his orchestra in West Berlin.
– With KGB accompaniment?
- Senator Sim, who has kept his head in this matter, unfortunately makes statements such as ‘with KGB accompaniment’. Does he know that? Does he know these sorts of things? Let me repeat the situation at which we had to arrive. Here was a young man who had come here not as a KGB agent and not as a spy. He came here as part of a cultural happening at the university in Perth. After the events that we know so well he clearly indicated that he wished to return to his own country. He was being illegally detained- not by the Government, not by the police, but by a group of quite unauthorised people. However well meaning some of them might have been, they were nevertheless unauthorised and had no right to be interfering with the free coming and going of a person in and out of this country.
The Government had to make a decision. As I said at the time, the Government was going to govern. It was not going to turn its back on this matter. What were the alternatives? The alternatives were to sit back and say: ‘All right, we will let the mob take over. We will let them finally make up their minds when they are going to let this person go out of the country’. We could have acceded to what they wanted us to do, which was evidently to arrest Ermolenko and take him to a safe place of detention against the man’s wishes. I do not know where that would be but I suppose that somebody would have had a bright idea about that. As I said earlier the situation would have been quite ludicrous. I repeat that it is all very well for Opposition senators to criticise me. In a very hectic week it is very easy to nitpick. I ask honourable senators opposite to sit back and ask: What was the alternative? I think any fairminded person- I concede again that there are some fairminded persons who have been involved in this matter- will come to the conclusion to which the Reverend Johnston came. He was certainly partisan in the early stages. When he analysed the situation he came back to the position that if a person wishes to leave this country, having come here as a guest to attend this cultural happening in Perth, we cannot stand by and let unauthorised persons say that that guest cannot leave this country.
– What about Mr Tonkin’s hesitations?
-Mr Tonkin was not hesitant. I answered that question yesterday. Mr Tonkin was quite unequivocal when he talked to me and when he talked to Mr Gilchrist. Later on in an interview with the ‘Pelican’ this question was put to him: ‘How can you be sure?’ He answered: ‘Of course, you cannot be sure’. Of course, one cannot be sure when one is talking to anybody. Mr Tonkin was distressed by some of the reports in the ‘Bulletin’.
Another question asked of me was why I used a Royal Australian Air Force aeroplane. I will deal with that matter now. I am sure everybody would have liked the normal means of transport to be used. I certainly would have. In the early stages I never contemplated sending the Russian party on a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft because I thought that sanity would prevail. I thought that the Federated Clerks Union members would finally lift their ban but they did not until they were forced into having a rank and file meeting. The situation, as I said yesterday, was that by the Thursday morning, when I checked I believed there was no chance of Mr Ermolenko changing his mind yet again. I already had the evidence before me and I was quite clear in my own mind that Mr Ermolenko wanted to return to Russia. I then had to examine the question of how he was to return. I was told by the best industrial advice that I could get in Western Australia- it was the best anybody could get- that there appeared no chance whatever of the Clerks Union lifting its ban. On top of that, people were going to the airport and creating disturbances each night. When the rank and file meeting was finally held the decision to lift the ban was made by 20 votes to 8 votes.
Mr Ermolenko was already at the Pearce Airport which is about 35 or 40 miles out of Perth.
He had gone on his own, with no other Russians, in a car with 2 Commonwealth policemen and Mr Henne who was the younger of the 2 officers of my Department who were in Perth. It would have been a golden opportunity for Mr Ermolenko if he had wanted to change his mind again to say so. They travelled through something of a country area. He did not state that he had changed his mind. The point is that at that stage I knew that Mr Ermolenko already was at the airport and the others in the Russian party were preparing to leave the Parmelia Hotel. I am not saying that his return was not possible at that time. I could, of course, have cancelled the plan. I could have brought Mr Ermolenko back. But quite frankly, I was getting a little tired of some of the 3-ringed circus performances that were going on. Secondly the airlines were getting worried. One did not have to be a great brain to work out that somebody was likely to throw a bomb scare and that the plane would be forced back to the airport for a search and all the other sorts of action would be necessary which have to be taken when irresponsible people give these warnings.
That was the situation. In addition, only a few Commonwealth policemen were present. The reports I was receiving indicated that the scene was very ugly and I was not certain that violence would not erupt in a crowd like that. In all those circumstances I proceeded with the decision that I had made 2 hours before, which was to send Mr Ermolenko and the Russian party by RAAF aeroplane. I have no regrets about doing it. In the same circumstances, given the same facts that were before me, I would do exactly the same thing.
I tura now to 2 points to which my critics will never advert. One is, what was the alternative? How were we to get Ermolenko alone, which would have been a very desirable thing? If we could have got him away for 1, 2 or 3 days, it would have been wonderful. But how were we to achieve this if he had stated it was not in accordance with his wishes? It could only have been done by the use of force. I was not prepared to use force. I was not going to risk violence and an assault on Mr Ermolenko by taking him away. Mr President, I would like an extension of time to complete my remarks.
Motion (by Senator Devitt) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Foreign Affairs completing his remarks.
-I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) and the Senate. I heard Senator Carrick interject and say that he wants to hear about Ermolenko. I put Senator Carrick in the category of those who would not believe what was sworn on a stack of bibles. There are none so blind as those who will not see. 1 want to come back to the question of the alternatives. Let members of the Opposition tell me what they would have done.
– Leave it to the court.
-Leave it to the court! The court was never involved in the situation. Senator Greenwood told so many untruths in his speech that I completely disregard his evidence. What one would have had to do in the face of everything was to arrest Ermolenko, assault him and take him out. If there was a second alternative I would like to know about it.
The other point I want to put to you, Mr President, and to the Senate is: What would happen in a reverse situation? What happens if an Australian violinist, athlete or somebody else is in another country? If it were Russia we would have Senator Greenwood jumping up and down. He has not had a good kick at the old com. tin for a long time and this has been his chance. What would happen in the case of an Australian in the United States of America, Great Britain, Canada or New Zealand- in any of those countries- who kept repeating, even telling the whole world on television, that he wanted to go back to Australia? Should I say: ‘That is all right. Let the mob take him over. I do not think the New Zealanders are worried about it, but there is a crowd of people who do not want him to come back’? What would Senator Greenwood have said then? Could you imagine what Senator Greenwood would say, particularly if such a person were in Moscow, if I said that he should be left there and that it would be all right?
I want to finish my remarks on the Ermolenko case by saying one thing: The decisions one makes in foreign affairs are very seldom clear cut because in this field one is dealing with other countries where there are different styles of approach, different attitudes and different types of government. It is very difficult to make clear cut decisions. I only wish that in the case of every decision I made I was as certain in my mind and as clear in my conscience as I am about the decisions I made in regard to Georgi Ermolenko.
The question of the Balkans has been raised.
– The Baltics.
-I thank the honourable senator for the correction. I must be getting a little tired. I have heard what is said about the situation of the Baltic states. The attack is levelled because this Government accorded de jure recognition to the incorporation of the 3 Baltic Republics into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I find none of the arguments convincing because they are all reminiscent of the cold war era. This is the thing from which members of the Opposition cannot escape. If there is a basic difference between the Opposition and the Labor Government on this issue it is the fact that we recognise the realities of change. We no longer have a cold war as we knew it over a long period of time. Members of the Opposition still want to live in that era. It was a simple way to live because one could be on either one side or the other. Somebody says that I cannot argue that members of the Opposition are living in a cold war. I think this point is so patent that there is no need to argue it.
– Why did you change your policy? Did the cold war finish in May?
-We were so busy catching up with the awful name the Opposition parties had left in world affairs that we had not got round to this. At long last a Minister for Foreign Affairs can go overseas and hold up his head. Members of this Government do not go around crawling to the big powers. We do not go round drawing lines and putting the goodies on one side and the baddies on the other. If there is something of which Opposition senators should not be proud it is their foreign policy over the years. They dragged Australia down and made it the laughing stock of the world. It has taken us nearly 2 years to drag Australia out of that situation.
– Most of the people in the Baltic communities have been here for years. They are not communists.
-I know that we have no right to have anything to do with communists or with coloured people! We will be a little different. The whole of the Opposition’s arguments come from that cold war era. All the Opposition’s arguments lack reality. Honourable senators opposite do not realise that times have changed. The policies of the former government were geared to a colonial era in which Australia dared take no action unless either Britain or the United States moved first. Inevitably Australia brought up the rear in any international developments. The policy of the present Government, however, is to throw off this colonial mentality.
– Like the recognition of Communist China and the abandonment of Taiwan.
-My friend jibes at me about the recognition of China, but Mr Peacock says that he would not alter the situation and agrees with what this Government has done. I wish members of the Opposition would make up their minds about these things. The policy of the present Government is to throw off this colonial mentality. We wish to be more self-reliant. We are determined to throw off the shibboleths of the cold war era and to follow policies consistent with the demands of the present age and international realities.
I wish to make it plain that the Australian Government is well aware of the cultural enrichment which members of the Baltic community have contributed to their country of adoption. The Government attaches importance to the cultural contribution of all our migrant communities. At the same time I must ask whether the Australian Government can allow a particular national group in the community to dictate the terms of Australian foreign policy, for that is the position which we seem to have reached. The Baltic communities are highly organised at the international level. They are obviously well organised in Australia. While in no sense denying them the right to express their views, I question whether they should be permitted to push the Government into adopting a policy which can be described only as ignoring the realities.
What are these territories about which the Opposition is arguing so vociferously? What is their historical past? What is their present status? If we look into the past we find that, apart from the brief period between the wars, they have never had freedom as we know it. They were under Russian administration from 1745 until approximately between the First and Second World Wars. The U.S.S.R. has never considered that it was acquiring new territory. The Russian Government said that because it took over from the Csars in 1917 it was taking over territory which it already administered. That is the Russian argument, with which one may agree or disagree. What needs to be said is that the Soviet Union, because of the historical past, regards the 3 Baltic territories as just as much a part of its territory as Britain regards Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
– Genocide is not practised in Northern Ireland.
– Let me repeat what I said. Stop running away with yourself. I said that the Soviet Union regards it in that way. Do not panic about it, for goodness sake.
– Does that make it respectable?
– I am not staying that that has made it respectable. I am quoting the facts, and this is what you will not face up to. You live in the dreamland of the old cold war era.
– What about Rhodesia?
– If you do not wish me to state the facts, perhaps I had better sit down and you can get up, as Senator Greenwood has done, and go into all the imaginings of the world. The Baltic states have the same status as other Soviet republics such as Georgia and Moldavia which have at different times in the past also enjoyed full independence. We are talking of 3 republics which, apart from a brief period from 1920 to 1940, have in the case of Latvia and Estonia, never had independence, or in the case of Lithuania has been independent only for a brief period and then shared with another power. We are talking of 3 republics which still have their own name and a semi- autonomous status even if under a political system which is alien to ours. I stress again that it is the policy of this Government to recognise realities. If the Opposition is not prepared to accord de jure recognition, what status does it propose for the 3 republics? Does it seriously consider that their fully independent status is likely to be restored in the near future? People in Australia who hold that out are practising a cruel deception on people who have come from those countries. How long does the Opposition believe that we should go on refusing to acknowledge that the territories are a part of the U.S.S.R.? Surely it is time to face the facts. Honourable senators opposite talk about stealth and they say that we took the decision regarding the incorporation of these States in some sort of an underhanded way. But of course what we did was exactly what they did. We followed the precedent they established in regard to Goa.
– Oh, no.
– Honourable senators opposite did exactly the same thing. This is the fact.
– Are you justifying yourself by doing what a discredited Liberal-Country Party government did?
– I am telling honourable senators opposite from where we got the precedent. Some say no, what honourable senators opposite are alleged to have done did not happen, and others say that it was a disgraceful episode. Maybe it was. The f<”~ ‘< that this is what was done. Honourable senators opposite did not wait for a substantial period of time to elapse; they did it after Vh years. Strange to say, it was the same Ambassador, Sir James Plimsoll, who went and called formally on the Chief Minister and the Speaker of the Goa Legislative Assembly. The Indian Government was informed in advance that this visit would constitute de jure recognition of Indian sovereignty, even though no public announcement was made at the time. So it is completely wrong when we do it, but it is completely right when honourable senators opposite do it. What the Australian Government, in effect, has done is to recognise that the existing situation in regard to the 3 Baltic states is unlikely to change. De jure recognition does not mean, as many critics of the Government’s decision seem to think, rightful incorporation. All along this Government has stressed that it does not approve of the way in which the incorporation took place, but the U.S.S.R. has effective control and is likely to remain in control. By the same token, if at some future time the Baltic states should again become independent, they could be recognised at that time. But in the present circumstances, 34 years after incorporation, the difference between de facto and de jure recognition is minimal. Australia has accorded de facto recognition for 20 years or so. Officials of the Australian Embassy in Moscow and some Australian parliamentarians visited the Baltic states when the previous Government was in office. To me this was a sneaky and dishonest sort of a way in which to handle the situation. The previous Government said that its Ambassador could not go into those areas in a top level way. But it sent somebody further down the line, not to call on any officials but to go in, look around and come out again. It was letting the Russians know that it accepted this sort of thing but that it was not going to say so. To me it was an underhand, sneaky sort of a way in which to handle the situation and it should not have been allowed to continue. That is one of the reasons why the decision was altered.
It would be fair to say that the Baltic communities around the world know well that whenever they have had consular business affecting their interests in the 3 republics inquiries have invariably had to be taken up with the Soviet authorities if something was to be done. For example, in preparing legal documents Soviet description of the states as constituted republics has been used. The change in status will bring certain advantages. It will enable us to communicate direct with the 3 governments in the Baltic states on consular matters. It will be easier to offer any consular assistance to members of the
Baltic communities in Australia if they experience difficulties when they return to their homelands. These are not insignificant advantages. The point has been made that de jure recognition will affect the status of the members of the Baltic community in Australia. I do not see how this is so. Almost all of them are Australian citizens. They travel to the U.S.S.R. as Australian citizens. A number of them have visited the U.S.S.R. in past years and their visits will in no way be affected by the change in recognition. Equally important is the fact that the Australian Ambassador in Moscow will now be able to visit the Baltic states and report on developments there.
Much has been said by honourable senators opposite about the Soviet treatment of these states. Is it not essential that the Australian Ambassador should be able to visit the states and report to this Government on what he observes? I have been asked why the decision should have been taken now. I ask: Why should it not have been taken? As I said before, the Government intends to avoid situations where it follows other countries. It was under no pressure to take this decision. It seemed to me consistent with our policy of recognising realities, and I had my Department look into the question. Its recommendation was first seen early last month by the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. He accepted the recommendation but asked that no action be taken until I also had a chance to see it. What followed- I concurred fully- was that Sir James Plimsoll should visit the Baltic states and that the Latvian Consul’s name should be withdrawn from the Australian Consular list. Both proposals were implemented. Sir James visited Estonia from 28 to 30 July.
I have stressed that this was a matter on which the Australian Government made up its own mind without pressure from any quarter and taking into account the evident realities of the situation within the 3 republics. As is well known, not all Western governments are likely to follow the Australian action. We do not expect them to. Their interests do not necessarily coincide with our own. We do not seek to influence them in any way. Honourable senators opposite are saying that this action was taken because Mr Whitlam was going to visit Russia. I pointed out that New Zealand has done the same thing, although the late Mr Kirk did not have his mind made up to go there.
Mr President, why has this matter caused such a furore? Where were these great civil libertarians when Goa- a matter which they do not like to be mentioned- suffered exactly the same fate? I will tell you, Mr President, where they were and why they were not so vocal. The reason was that there were not in Australia any Goanese highly organised to put on pressure and to pump the lever of the machine which puts out the type of roneod letter that is coming to every member day after day. The Goanese never had that organisation. But, of course, to the great civil libertarians sitting opposite there was a difference because the Baltic people are white. The Goanese are black and therefore they would not mean nearly as much.
– That is a disgusting statement.
– It is not a disgusting thing. You attacked me over it. You attacked me when I went to black Africa. You criticised because of that. Why try to hide it? There is a third matter. You have been very generous, Mr President, in respect of the time for which you have allowed me to speak. I want briefly to advert to this matter. I will not read or speak from the notes that I have prepared because I think we have put enough time into this subject. But I just want to quote something I said recently in a speech that I made.
The third aspect of the censure motion accuses me of promoting foreign policy alignments which will not serve Australia’s national interests. I can think of no government which so traduced Australia’s national interests as did the late and unlamented coalition government in which Senator Greenwood served. I believe, by contrast, that the Australian people wholeheartedly support the new independence which this Government has shown, and has pursued with success and with distinction. It must be only the dinosaurs opposite who continue to close their eyes to the fact that the cold war has ended. In so doing they seem to fly in the face of their own Party’s policy as enunciated by Mr Peacock, their spokesman on foreign affairs, and which every responsible commentator seems to regard as an echo of the policies which the Labor Government has promoted and pioneered.
The context in which Australia’s foreign relations are conducted has, therefore, become much more complex and demanding. Merely in order to see the implications of this, I point out that the first duty of government is to recognise and comprehend the world as it actually is, not as we might conceive or wish it to be. That is a cardinal principle of the way this Government has approached foreign policy. Australia- if it is to serve the national interest in an effective manner -can no longer afford to impose on international events interpretations that are at variance with the facts. Until that basic principle, which I quoted in my speech in Adelaide in June, is accepted by the Opposition there will be that gulf between us. I repeat that, of all the portfolios that one can administer, Foreign Affairs is the one in which one must face up to realities. As I said, there is rarely a decision made in which one can be wholeheartedly behind it, because of the different temperaments that exist and the different approaches that are taken. Obviously, if a middle power is finally to make a contribution towards peace and the progress of people throughout the world, it faces up to the realities; it does not live in the cold war era as the Opposition is doing.
-All I say about the Ermolenko affair is that the socalled explanation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willessee) has left as many questions unanswered as answered. I think it is very unfortunate that the Minister referred to the people at the Perth airport as a mob of louts because among that ‘mob of louts’ were many unionists- members of the Transport Workers Union- many university students whose allegiance, I understand, in some cases is to the Australian Labor Party, and many other people of goodwill. If they were upset then they had every reason to be upset at the events of that night and of subsequent nights and days. I make the comment that this whole matter was a shambles. It was a shambles from the very moment that this young man asked to remain in Australia and was allowed to be placed in the hands of the Russians. From that moment when the Russians sent across a sinister character, Alexandrov, whom one suspects is a KGB man, we could never learn the truth. We can never be sure that from that time this man was not under continuous duress. There is a lesson to be learnt from this as we can learn lessons from other countries. As people seek to remain in Australia they should be immediately isolated and given time to make up their minds. We should work out some rules for the future. The lesson might be well learnt.
The week in which Ermolenko was spirited out of Australia and the week in which there was de jure recognition by Australia of the incorporation of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union was indeed a shameful week. The Minister said that our attitude was reminiscent of the cold war era. I must say that I see no relevance between the Baltic states and the cold war era. Indeed, if our attitude is reminiscent of the cold war era the attitude of his Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) just a few months ago, as I shall indicate in a few moments, was also reminiscent of the cold war era.
A few years ago the attitude of his former leader, Mr Calwell, was reminiscent of the cold war era. The attitude of Dr Klugman, a respected member of the Australian Labor Party, who sent a telegram of protest and who gave it to the Press is also reminiscent of the cold war era. This extraordinary decision was made by the Prime Minister in the absence of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Prime Minister seems to have a habit of making decisions in the absence of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I instance the case of former Senator Gair. But in this case- not in the case of Senator Gair- the Minister has supported the decision of the Prime Minister. We might also ask why the announcement was made in Moscow and not in Australia. Immediately the decision was made why did not the Government make the announcement? I think we are also entitled to ask: If the announcement had not been made in Moscow would it have been made in Australia? Would the Australian Parliament and the Australian people have known of this decision?
The Minister continually likes to equate the situation in the Baltic states with that of Goa. That is just nonsense. Goa was a small Portuguese enclave in India. Admittedly it was taken by force by India but the people of Goa are ethnically largely of Indian origin. In fact, they are Indian. The people of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia are not Russian. There is no proper comparison whatever between them. This is an excuse which the Minister likes to bring out every now and again. It is a pretty weak excuse. The Minister accused Senator Greenwood of untruths. I do not wish to accuse the Minister of untruths but at one stage he did say that in the past Australia took no action unless the United States of America or the United Kingdom moved first. This is just not true. The instance which immediately cames to mind is Bangladesh. Australia, long before the United States and the United Kingdom, was one of the first countries to recognise the independence of Bangladesh. To try to convince the Parliament that until this Government was involved in these events Australian foreign policy was discredited throughout the world and that Australians could not hold their heads high is just sheer rhetoric and nothing more. The Minister knows that that is not true. If he wants to tell the truth let him tell us among what nations we could not hold our heads high.
The Minister has been excusing the Government’s decision in the name of reality because Russia has effective control of the Baltic states. Unquestionably that is true. But I come to the matter of Taiwan which this Government recognises as a province of China. What government has effective control of the island of Taiwan? It is not Mao’s Government. It is the Government of Taiwan. That is the reality of the matter. So if we recognise realities let us be consistent and recognise the reality of Taiwan. Let us come to the decision made by the Prime Minister which I have before me and which the Minister defends as facing up to reality. Some little while ago a very respected leader of the Australian Labor Party, the Honourable Arthur Calwell, on 2 May 1 960 wrote to a Mr Delins and in part he stated:
The Australian Labor Party has not recognised and does not intend to recognise the incorporation of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union. The peoples of these lands have as much right to determine their own destiny as any other people living anywhere else in the world. The Labor Party has always believed in the principle of self determination and the next Labor Government will be as true to that principle as all Labor governments in the past have been.
I am afraid that if Mr Calwell were alive today he would be hanging his head in shame. He would see a principle which he said the Labor Party always stood for no longer having any relevance. The Minister likes to use the word relevance’. Let us come to a later period. I come to a letter written by the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, on 18 March 1968 to the Chairman of the Council of Estonian Societies in Australia. He stated:
Nearly all members of the Estonian community came to Australia during the period of the Chifley Labor Government or in the following year under arrangements made by it. That Government never recognised the incorporation of Estonia into the U.S.S.R. My Party still maintains the same attitude. So too do the fraternal parties which are in government such as the British Labour Party -
It still upholds the principle Mr Calwell spoke about- the German Social Democrats -
They uphold the same principles- the United Socialist Party of Italy–
It upholds the same principles.
Those parties, like the Australian Labor Party, are fellow members of the socialist internationale with the Estonian Social Democratic Party in exile.
Those are the words of the present Prime Minister. I come to a letter dated 17 May 1974 to the President of the Council of the Latvian Community. The letter was signed by Mr Kep Enderby on behalf of E. G. Whitlam. It states:
The policy of the present Australian Government is that, while not formally recognising the incorporation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia into the Soviet Union, it must be cognisant of the de facto situation and deal with the Government which has effective control of the territory in question. This was also the attitude taken by all our predecessors on this matter. On a number of occasions -
I ask honourable senators to note this - the Government has made its views known on the question of civil liberties -
I emphasise the words ‘civil liberties - and on fundamental human rights -
He is referring to the Baltic countries- its own adherence to them and its wish that those rights embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be extended everywhere.
They are the words of your Prime Minister just a few short months ago, on 17 May 1974. Are we now to accept the truth that Government members no longer believe in the question of civil liberties and of fundamental human rights? Mr Whitlam stated, inter alia, in an address to the United Nations Association on the occasion of Australia’s celebration of the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
The Declaration has come to be recognised as one of the enlightened events in modern history and it is a fundamental objective of the Labor Party to ensure that Australia’s policies are soundly based on respect for and on the protection and enhancement of civil liberties and on basic human rights.
Do Government members no longer believe in that? The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) told us today that you do not. He told us that you believe in realities; never mind about civil liberties and human rights. Mr Whitlam went on to say:
The Soviet Government is aware of the Australian Government’s position in this matter and we will continue to seek opportunities in the United Nations to promote respect for and observance of basic human rights by all members.
It will be interesting to see when the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister go to the meeting of the United Nations whether they will seek to protect the human rights and civil liberties of the peoples of the Baltic states. We have heard the Minister for Foreign Affairs state that our attitude is reminiscent of that adopted in the cold war era. But it is only a few short months ago that the Prime Minister, the man who made this shameful decision, was speaking in these high moral tones. Why did he change his mind? We have not been told, except for what has been said by the Minister today. This is the first time that we have heard any sort of explanation. We have been told that this has been done to recognise the realities of the situation. That is the only reason that we have been given for it.
– The Prime Minister wants a good response when he visits Russia.
– I think that we must have rather nasty suspicions in the light of our inability to get any logical explanation. This decision of the Government has been universally condemned by pretty well every section of the Press in Australia. It is opposed, as the Prime Minister himself has admitted, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which gives no support to the brutal annexation of the Baltic countries by the military forces of the Soviet Union. The Government has always claimed that it supports decolonialisation. This decision represents a policy of re-colonialisation. Apparently, again, the Government has changed its policies. The decision becomes more extraordinary when we are told and led to believe that there was no pressure from the Soviet Union. In fact, the Soviet Union was just as surprised as we were. It remains, despite what the Minister has said and despite the fact that we are one of the few governments in the world, to use the Minister’s terms, ‘to face up to realities’- highsounding stuff this- a decision which is contrary to the policies of most other countries. From time to time, the Australian Government has professed great admiration for the policy of Canada. But the Canadian Government has refused to recognise the incorporation of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union. The United Kingdom, the United States of America and all European countries with the exception of Sweden, Finland and Switzerland have also refused to recognise the incorporation.
– Not even Switzerland.
– Yes, I think that Switzerland has but no major European power has. The European powers make it clear that they have no intention of doing this. There has been no acceptable explanation from the Minister in the past and there was none today. If the Prime Minister hopes that this move is likely to win Russian respect, I inform him that people with a knowledge of Russia tell me that it is not likely to win Russian respect. Probably, the Russians privately will have a good deal of contempt for the Australian decision. We have a nasty thought in our minds that the Government and the Prime Minister made this whole decision to pave the way for an easy visit by the Prime Minister to Russia and to show how sympathetic we are to the Russians. If we are correct in that thought, then I am afraid that he might find another reaction. In the absence of any other explanation, we are left with this nasty thought in our minds.
The story of the Baltic states is a horrible one. It is one of Russian persecution, repression and of a policy of genocide and mass deportations carried out by the Russian secret police. We are witnessing the destruction of the traditions, culture and the language of an ancient people. The Government itself, by its shameful act of recognising the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union, puts its seal of approval, whether it likes it or not, in the eyes of the world, on this shameful, brutal Russian policy. It also exposes once again the double standards of Government policy. We had some furtive report that the Government- I think that the Minister had to acknowledge this- is providing aid to the liberation movements in Africa to overthrow their colonial yoke and injustices. Apart from anything else, this action represents a blatant interference in the affairs of other countries. But if this Government were consistent, if it believed in the right of self-determination, if it really believed in the role of self-determination, then it would be giving aid to the liberation movements in the Baltic States so that they could overthrow the savage yoke of the Soviet Union. Apparently, the Government has one standard for the countries that have liberation movements that have Communist Chinese support and another standard for those countries that wish to overthrow the brutal yoke of the Communist countries.
All this leads us to ask the question: ‘Where is the Government ‘s foreign policy going? ‘ Despite the sort of explanations we have had from the Minister today, if there are doubts in the community as to where the Government is leading us, then it is the responsibility of the Government to answer those doubts. The Government has never attempted to explain in clear terms where its foreign policy is leading us. Certainly, there is a doubt in the Parliament. There are doubts outside the Parliament and doubts are expressed in the Press. There are doubts amongst many of the keenest observers and doubts are being expressed overseas. In particular, doubts are being expressed in the Australian Labor Party. We have Dr Cairns who has a different policy altogether from the so-called official policy of the Australian Labor Party. Doubts are being expressed by some of our former friends as to whether Australia is any longer a reliable partner.
The Government claims that the justification for its policy is that we are now following an independent line. Quite apart from the fact that no country can follow a purely independent foreign policy, the Government must take account of the feelings and reactions of other countries. There is no virtue in an independent foreign policy for independence sake. It must serve the national interest of the country. There is strong evidence that the policy of Australia, despite what the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said, is moving towards non-alignment. Certainly, that is the policy of Dr Cairns. He has made that pretty clear. If it is not the policy of the Government, then it should clearly state that it is not the policy of the Government. There can be no doubt that the Australian policy is becoming more and more orientated towards gaining access, whether in observer status or in some other status, to the Third World. It is worth noting in this respect that the latest reports from the People’s Republic of China indicate that that country’s foreign policy is again being dictated by its desire to lead the Third World. We are witnessing a procession of Third World leaders going to Peking to pay obeisance at the feet of Chairman Mao. It is also worth noting, and the Government cannot ignore it, that the Chinese Press has headlines these days such as: ‘The world in chaos’, ‘The situation has never been better’. So when we move towards this Third World we want to be very careful as to where we are going.
It has been cynically suggested that the recent actions of the Australian Government, which raised doubts in our minds as to where the Government is going, could mean that we are required by countries of the Third World who probably have some suspicions in view of our past to serve an apprenticship before we will be accepted on an observer status or on some other status. This may well explain many of the recent rather odd policy decisions of the Government, such as the recognition of the incorporation of the Baltic states, the recognition of North Vietnam and the assumption of diplomatic relations with that country as well as with Algeria which is the headquarters of the Third World, the attacks on the United States in relation to Diego Garcia which were made with complete disregard of the fact that the actions of the United States are in response to increased Russian naval presence.
I refer also to the Prime Minister’s speech earlier when he made representations to both the Soviet Union and the United States and said that the situation is hopeful. We would like to know a bit more about how hopeful it is. No doubt we won applause from countries of the Third World, some of whom are providing bases and other facilities for the Russian naval vessels in the Indian Ocean. But we must nevertheless question these policies and the motives behind them. I am not questioning for one moment the desirability of Australia establishing good relations with countries of the Third World or with countries in any other part of the world, but we have to ask the $64 question: Are Australian interests and security being safeguarded by these policies? This is the question that the Government must answer because there is not one Third World country which has the power or the will to be interested in the future security of this country.
Finally, the Government seems to have accepted the dangerous assumption that detente is a permanent feature of the world scene. I have said before that this is indeed a dangerous assumption because the chances of permanent detente are no greater than the chances of instability. It is also accepted that South East Asia is becoming more stable. That too is a dangerous assumption and is not supported by at least the Foreign Minister of Singapore nor, I believe from my own knowledge, by the countries in South East Asia. Indeed many of them see the danger of increasing instability in the region. The thinking which is illustrated by the Government’s policies, that is, that we suffer no danger of a threat for the next 10 or 15 years, is dangerously naive. I noticed the other day that the Minister for Defence, who has been promoting this thinking, claimed at a meeting at Duntroon that the official view now did not preclude the development of threats to Australia within a 10 to 15 year period. This is the man who a short while ago rejected the possibility of a threat to Australia within 10 to 15 years. Perhaps Mr Barnard is becoming aware of the realities of the situation and will do something about our defence forces. There is formidable evidence today that detente is crumbling. When we look at the world we find Europe in disarray, China in internal disarray, instability -
– How about Tricky Dicky?
– And your friend Tricky Mao. There is instability in other countries, including the United States of America. Many observers believe that we are facing a situation similar to that the 1930s and that there is a dangerous world situation developing.
– This is a lot of nonsense.
– Are you saying that it is nonsense? You might think it is nonsense but you live in a world of your own. This is a situation which is possible and many observers with a greater knowledge -
– You have been saying this for 15 years and it has not happened yet.
– But people were saying in the 1930s that it would not happen. They were still saying in in 1939. If the honourable senator wants to go into history, it was Pitt who said that
England faced 15 years of peace. Instead it had 15 years of war. Now the Government’s policy, I think it is fair to say, is a more independent policy but it is also a more defenceless one. We are looking to new friends to replace old friends and these new friends have neither the interests, the will nor the power to assist us and protect our interests. At the same time, whether willingly or unwillingly, the Government is undermining our relations with the major powers and above all their confidence in us. Our foreign policy is becoming more and more one of doubtful quality. If we do not understand what the Government is trying to achieve, that is the fault of the Government which makes no attempt to explain in clear terms to this Parliament or the people what its objective are. One cannot escape the feeling that the policies are based more on ideological grounds than on the real interests of Australia. Because of this the Minister and the Government deserve the censure of this House.
– This motion should never have been moved. The best that can happen is that it be rejected by the Senate. The worst that can hapen is that it be passed by the Senate. The Senate has no power over a Minister. It would be bad enough if there were a strong enough case against a Minister for such a motion calling for resignation to be passed because it is beyond the Senate’s power to deal with a Minister. It is the House of Representatives which determines whether a person should be a Minister of the Crown. It is the House of Representatives which determines who shall be the Government and who shall be the Ministers of the Government. A decision would in any event be ineffective and would merely illustrate the Senate’s ineffectiveness to deal, as it is purporting to deal, with the rights of a Minister, his entitlements or the propriety of his remaining a Minister. But this is not a case where one could even justify the Senate endeavouring, however impotently, to purport to deal with such a question.
This must be one of the weakest cases ever been put forward in any Parliament against a Minister. The motion starts off by referring to something purporting to be a personal charge against the Minister in relation to his actions in the Ermolenko affair, but it was realised by those who moved it that that charge could not stand up on its own. We were here and heard what the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) said. We witnessed at close hand what his actions were and it was apparent that this charge just could not stand up. So what did they do? They dragged in something about the Baltic states, which is a matter that affects the Government as a whole. It is suggested that in some way the Minister for Foreign Affairs should be blamed personally for the decision. Whatever the rights or wrongs of it may be, it is not proper or decent to select the Minister for Foreign Affairs in regard to such a matter for which the whole of the Government is responsible. The third part of the censure motion says:
The foreign policy alignments he is promoting will not serve Australia ‘s national interest.
Again, whatever the rights or wrongs of the matter may be, it is most improper and it is not decent to suggest that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is deserving of censure because of that or that he ought to resign. If the Opposition wants to complain about the Government’s foreign policy it should understand that it is a collective decision. There is a collective responsibility. The Opposition ought at least to have had the decency to direct its motion in regard to these matters against the whole Government. What more responsibility has the Minister for Foreign Affairs in regard to these matters than I have or any other Minister has? Why select him personally for censure and ask that he resign when, whether the decisions were right or wrong, he was implementing the policy of the Government for which all the Ministers are responsible? I say that it is not fair and decent. The Opposition ought not to have done that in regard to those other matters.
Whatever justification the Opposition may have for saying that some personal element was involved in the first part of the motion- it is debatable whether even there it is decent or fair to select the Minister- certainly in regard to the second and third parts the Opposition has shown no sense of propriety at all in launching this personal censure against the Minister. It would be a very sorry day for the Senate and for responsible government in this community if the Senate were to pass such a motion couched in that way. Whatever the rights or wrongs may be, even if the Opposition were completely justified, there is no justification whatever in respect of the second or third matters- or the first matter.
In regard to the Ermolenko affair there is no basis whatever for criticism of the Minister. He acted properly throughout. We saw here that he acted honestly. He did what he thought was proper. He was conscious of the very difficult situation that the young man was in. He told the Senate honestly what had happened, that the young man had expressed some desire to remain in this country and then he had changed his mind in his expressions. The Minister said that he wanted to satisfy himself as to what the young man’s intentions were, and he indicated very clearly that he was prepared to abide by them. The Minister was acting in the highest traditions of civil liberties and the highest traditions of what we would expect of a Minister. Perhaps he could have made some easy and quick decision, but he did not. It must have been a very agonising time for him to try to determine what was in the mind of a young man of 18 years who had expressed himself one way on one occasion and the other way consistently on other occasions.
The attack upon the Minister as put by Senator Greenwood is most extraordinary. It is said that he should have produced some transcript of a confidential conversation which the young man had. What right has the Minister to break the confidence of the young man and to produce to the Senate or publicly what was said in confidence by the young man, whether to an official of the Australian Government or to anyone else? He has no right to break the privacy of the young man. It would be wrong of him to bring that matter into the Senate. He made his decision firmly in the first place that he would not do it and he was right instinctively and right in the parliamentary and governmental sense.
The next thing that was said, in a very colourful way, was that the Minister has prevented the courts of this country from determinng the issue of whether the young man wanted to go back to the Soviet Union. It is said that the Minister challenged the courts, challenged the due process of law and usurped the role of the courts. It is said that the matter requires explanation and some justification. What nonsense! The courts were never asked to determine the issue of whether this young man wanted to go back to the Soviet Union. The Supreme Court of Western Australia was asked, in a very curious proceeding, to determine the question of whether the young man was being detained by a Mr Alexadrov and by an officer of the Commonwealth Police. That was a proceeding in habeas corpus, not a proceeding to determine what was in the mind of the young man as to where he wanted to go. The proceeding was one of habeas corpus- to have the young man released from the custody in which it was alleged he was being detained. If anything was apparent throughout this whole affair, that was the most nonsensical proceeding which was ever conducted.
In relation to the proceeding in which it was alleged that the Commonwealth Police had detained the young man in custody, the Supreme
Court found no difficulty in dismissing the proceeding with costs. Yet it was alleged here that Mr Alexandrov and the Commonwealth Police had detained this young man in custody. Somehow this seems to have disappeared from the consideration of the Opposition. Obviously Mr Alexandrov did not have the young man in custody. In fact during some part of the week it is apparent that Mr Alexandrov was out of the State of Western Australia where the young man was and was over here in Canberra. Leaving aside the clear question of diplomatic immunity, it was nonsense to think that the proceeding could succeed. By the end of the week when the Minister is supposed to have been destroying and challenging the courts and usurping their role the Commonwealth Police had been dismissed from the proceeding and Mr Alexandrov was over here in Canberra. It is suggested that in some way Senator Willesee was defying and preventing the court from determining the issue of whether the young man was being detained in custody by Mr Alexandrov and the Commonwealth Police officer who had already been dismissed from the case, with costs.
It is alleged that the Minister was usurping the role of the courts and defying the courts. What did the judge say at the conclusion of the proceedings? The applicant had agreed that his proceedings be discharged. He withdrew an absurd motion for commital for contempt against Mr Alexandrov and also moved that, in the circumstances that had arisen, the writ be quashed. This was done by the applicant himself.
– What date was that?
-That was the end of these proceedings.
– What date was that? That was after he had left. Now be honest. That was after he had left.
– Of course it was after he had left. Listen to the Leader of the Opposition. Is he going to suggest that in some way Senator Willesee was usurping the role of the courts in respect of a proceeding relating to the detention of the young man? The Commonwealth Police are alleged to have detained a young man. The Police and Mr Alexandrov were dismissed from the proceedings and an order for costs was made against the applicant. Mr Alexandrov was not even in the State of Western Australia at the time Senator Willesee took the action about which the Opposition is complaining. Nothing else could happen to this absurd proceeding than what did happen to it, and the Leader of the Opposition asks what time it was.
What did the judge who was in charge of the proceeding say? Did he say that Senator Willesee or the Australian Government had been guilty of some contempt of the court in Western Australia? Did he make some adverse comment on the conduct of the Australian Government or, in particular, on Senator Willesee? Did he do that? Has Senator Greenwood informed the Senate of the attitude of the judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia at the end of the proceedings? Mr Justice Wickham made no adverse comment on the Australian Government or on Ministers of the Australian Government. Counsel for the Australian Government and counsel for the Government of Western Australia were present. The learned judge thanked the counsel for the Australian Government as well as the counsel for the Western Australian Government for the assistance they had given by attending the hearing at his invitation. A representative of the Australian Government attended that hearing and represented Senator Willesee by proxy. Not one word of criticism was levelled at Senator Willesee.
The Opposition comes into this chamber and talks nonsense about Senator Willesee usurping the role of the courts, preventing the courts of this country from determining the issue and challenging the courts. If there had been any challenge to the courts, any usurping of the authority of the court of this land, or any endeavour to take over the role of the courts by Senator Willesee to prevent the courts from acting, the Supreme Court of Western Australia would have taken proceedings for contempt against the Minister. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and all honourable senators are aware of that. These people who rush into the courts, as they did, with a baseless case in an attempt to make political capital, would not hesitate for 10 seconds before they would be racing into the court again if there were the slightest basis upon which Senator Willesee could be criticised for challenging the courts, usurping the role of the courts or in any way preventing the courts from determining any issue. It is absolute nonsense to suggest anything to the contrary. How can the Opposition say that in any way there is a case of contempt of court against Senator Willesee when no attempt to usurp the authority of the court has been made by Senator Willesee.
In Western Australia there is a conservative government- a government of the calibre of the Opposition. Why does not that government take proceedings in the Western Australian courts against Senator Willesee if there is any basis to the suggestions that he had challenged the courts and usurped their role? Honourable senators opposite are aware that that is nonsense. The Opposition could not get any counsel in Western Australia to go to court and say that there is any foundation for these suggestions. This matter has not been raised in the proper forum which is the court. Instead, simply because the Opposition has the numbers and it believes it can make political capital out of this matter it comes into the Senate and tries to ruin the reputation of the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
I turn now to the matter of the Baltic states. Complaints have been made- on political grounds- about what the Government has done. It is true that the Government has recognised the realities of life. It is suggested that in some way the Government has acted shamefully and furtively in extending recognition to the incorporation of the Baltic states. What was the reaction of the previous Government in regard to the Baltic states? It is very interesting to examine action taken by the Opposition when it was in government. The Opposition has spoken of furtiveness, but what did it do when it was in government? Extradition treaties with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were entered into in the 1920s by the United Kingdom. They would have applied also in Australia. In 1966 Mr Hasluck, as he then was, answered a question asked by Mr Whitlam about the countries with which Australia had extradition treaties. Mr Hasluck ‘s answer indicated that the 3 Baltic states were included in the list of countries with which Australia had extradition treaties. The answers to Mr Whitlam ‘s question is contained in Hansard of 25 August 1966.
On 15 September 1970 Attorney-General Hughes answered a similar question by Mr Whitlam. The 3 Baltic states were not included in the reply. What does this mean? It means that the Baltic states, with which Australia had extradition treaties, were no longer countries in the eyes of the then government. The Opposition has spoken about the furtiveness of this Government. The action taken by the previous Government in 1970 was a nice way to get the message across nicely and quietly. What happened to those extradition treaties if the Government of this country in 1970 took the view that the Baltic states were no longer countries? They were no longer viable and no longer existed as a matter of law. Yet the Opposition dares to complain about the performance of this Government in acting realistically in accordance with the concepts of reality in this world.
As to the third matter raised in Senator Withers’ motion, there is an attack on the foreign policies of the Government. The Opposition has attacked the policies in a general way without giving proper particulars of the complaints. An endeavour has been made to suggest that Senator Willesee ought to resign because of the initiatives and the alignments which have been taken by the Government. The motion suggests that the foreign policy alignment promoted by Senator Willesee will not serve Australia’s national interest. If there is anything that has happened in Australian since the change of Government it has been the improvement of our foreign relations with other countries. It has been remarked upon that Australia has come into its own and has started to arrive at an independent, adult, mature and respected foreign policy. This has been commented upon in the newspapers in the United States, the United Kingdom and all over the world. Australia can now speak with a voice which is respected in the world. Senator Willesee has been material in presenting the views of Australia and enabling Australia’s voice to be heard as an independent country. He is to be congratulated on the way in which he has handled our foreign affairs.
This is not my field of expertise but I am aware that even Pope Paul, who is not noted for his radical views, expressed some praise of Australia’s initiative in the direction of world peace. Others across the whole broad band of politics have been stating that the change in Australia is welcome. We were ashamed- I think most Australians were- by the stance taken by the previous Government of Australia in world affairs and the conduct of previous Ministers. The new foreign policies have been a very welcome change. I would have thought that the Senate- if it were to give credence to this motion- would be only expressing a desire on the part of the Opposition to return to the bad old days when Australia was not respected in foreign affairs. Australia’s voice was not respected in the world as it is today.
The matter really comes back to the point that Australia has some very serious problems such as the problem of inflataion, which we share with the rest of the world, and the problem of adjusting our country to social reforms and economic reforms. We have an enormous legislative progrram. Yet the attitude of the Opposition is to decline to face up to those problems, to decline to co-operate with the Government in solving those problems and to decline to help to make a new Australia. Instead, the Opposition wastes the valuable time of this country- we are the representatives of this country- in endeavouring to enter into what seems to be a rather vindictive attack aimed at the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
It is a personal attack on the Minister. The Opposition has asked for his resignation when everyone in Australia would accept that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has done his job to the best of his ability.
In relation to the matter of Mr Ermolenko, I think everyone was impressed with the Minister’s sincerity and his endeavour to deal properly with the problems of that young man. It must have been a great shock to honourable senators opposite when he read out the words of the reverend gentleman who had been closely associated with the young man in Western Australia and who expressed the view that he had no criticism of the way in which the Government had dealt with the affair. Which honourable senator opposite would have been able to deal with this affair in a better way than Senator Willesee? Honourable senators opposite speak of human rights, but one of the worst things moved in this Parliament was the proposition put forward by the Opposition during the course of the affair. It was shameful. I remind honourable senators of the proposition that was put forward:
The Senate demands that the Government ensure that Georgi Ermolenko be able to consider free from duress and improper pressures whether he wishes to remain in Australia and specifically
that he be not permitted to leave Australia until such time as he has had the opportunity ( for 24 hours at least) . . .
The motion went on to require that he speak to certain people. The motion was to the effect that a person who expressed the wish to leave Australia be not permitted to leave Australia. That is a clear denial of the rights which are common to all mankind as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Mr Deputy President, the motion we are discussing now ought never to have been moved. Whatever criticisms the Opposition may have of the Government it ought to have put them in a straightforward manner. I think that on reconsideration those honourable senators opposite who are responsible for this motion will feel some sense of shame about it being directed at Senator Willesee. If they wanted to complain about the Government and its foreign policies they should have done that, and done it in a substantial motion and not in this shameful attempt to attack a Minister who has earned the respect of the whole nation.
– I suppose one should feel somewhat sorry for the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Murphy, this week. This has been a bad second day. Yesterday was a bad day because he, who had been promoting himself for so long as the founder of the Senate committee system, set out to emasculate and destroy it. Today the same honourable senator, who for years has been running around this country as the great propounder of the Declaration of Human Rights, as well as talking as such in this Parliament, has been very embarrassed by what his Government has done about the Georgi Ermolenko affair. So what did the Leader of the Government in the Senate do in this Parliament? He came in and used his usual tactic. He bluffed, blustered and shouted and attempted to talk his way out of it. Really he should be very ashamed of the case he was putting forward if he believes in the Declaration of Human Rights.
One of the criticisms put forward by the Leader of the Government was that we should not be debating this motion at a time when the country is faced with inflation and a lot of problems; the country has inflation, it has this and that, yet here today in the Senate we are discussing this matter when we should be considering this great national problem of inflation which his Government has caused. The Leader of the Government knows, as every other honourable senator knows, that by tradition the Senate will not return to the Budget Papers until 8 p.m. on Wednesday of next week. What were the great and important issues that the Government had listed on the notice paper for today? Senator Murphy wished to introduce a Bill relating to members of the Public Service becoming candidates for election to Parliament. He wished to get leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Service and Execution of Process Act. No doubt, in his mind those things would cure inflation. I do not think they would.
The other thing which was so important so far as fixing up inflation was concerned was the appointment of some senators to the Constitutional Convention. I understand that the convention is not to meet until October or some such date. That was a terribly important matter to which the Senate ought to have been devoting itself this day! Of course, the most important Bill, the second on the notice paper, is the Superior Court of Australia Bill. For the life of me I cannot see how that Bill, if it is passed, is going to cure the great national problem of inflation. Then there is the Family Law Bill. I suppose that that has some inflation in it somewhere, but I do not think it is monetary inflation. I do not know how the passage of the Family Law Bill, or the debate on it, is going to cure the great national problem of inflation. Therefore, the Leader of the Government was indulging in humbug.
– Why not mention the next Bill?
-The Concilation and Arbitration Bill?
– Why do you not return to the subject matter?
– Why do I not return to the motion before us? I am delighted to hear that invitation and I will come to it in a moment. Do not get excited. Senator McLaren invited me to comment on the Conciliation and Arbitation Bill.
– Why do you not come back to the motion?
-Senator Poyser would prefer me to ignore the invitation. Very well, I will come back to the motion. Senator Murphy said, when he commenced his speech, that the motion before us is a stupid sort of motion; that it should never have been moved; that it is shameful and disgraceful, ineffective and all the rest. If I remember correctly, not so long ago the then Opposition moved a number of censure motions. I remember one moved against the late Senator McKellar. If ever there was a shameful and disgraceful motion brought before the Senate, that was it. I remember two being brought against Senator Wright when he was a Minister. Were those motions shameful and inaccurate and should they never have been brought? I also recall such a motion being moved against Senator Greenwood. Why did the then Opposition move those motions? Were they moved because they were ineffective and because the then Opposition just wished to play politics? Come, come, senator, you should do a lot better than that.
I do not think it is improper and it certainly is not indecent- or it certainly is not decent, to use the exact words of Senator Murphy- for the Opposition to move this motion in its present form. I say without hesitation, Mr Deputy President, that if any Minister sitting on the front bench opposite has earned this sort of treatment it is the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee. Even Senator Murphy has not treated the people who have asked him questions with the contempt with which Senator Willesee has treated Opposition senators who have asked him questions.
– He has been slightly evasive.
-That is fair enough. I admire Senator Murphy’s dexterity in avoiding answering questions, but I do not think he has ever been insulting. I do not think any Minister, apart from Senator Willesee, has been insulting. From the day that Senator Willesee became a Minister he decided that as far as question time was concerned he was going to wipe the Opposition off. He not only ignored members of the Opposition but also waved them aside and thought he could joke his way through question time. The main reason why this motion has been moved is Senator Willesee ‘s total incapacity in question time to give the facts and to satisfy the Opposition.
– That is the reason, is it?
-It is one of the reasons. I will give the honourable senator an example. If Senator Willesee came clean with the transcript in this case he might well answer a lot of questions. Why will he not do so? He is not prepared to answer any questions. Do honourable senators remember one of the things he did on the Thursday when we asked him questions about what was happening in the Ermolenko affair? When he knew at that time that a Royal Australian Air Force plane was on its way, or that it had arrived, I believe he deliberately misled the chamber in the answers he gave that day.
– That is a serious charge you are making.
-That is right. He could have said at that time that he ordered the aircraft or that it was on its way. Why did he not advert to it that morning? If he did not mislead the Senate he deliberately withheld information which the Senate was entitled to have. That is the way he has been treating the Senate. He is not a fit and proper person to be a Minister because he will not come clean. Why will he not come clean? His whole course of conduct has been that of a person who will not come clean.
Senator Murphy said that this motion should not have been moved against Senator Willesee because there is collective responsibility and this was a collective decision of Cabinet. Mr Deputy President, that used to be the rule of government; but when has that been the rule of government since December 1972, or under the Whitlam-Cairns Administration? That is the greatest joke of all time. The Prime Minister was alleged to have said in answer to a question by the television interviewer David Frost that the greatest blunder of his administration was the raid by Senator Murphy on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I thought that the statement was an interesting one. I did not say it. I asked Senator Murphy a question on that matter, and Senator Murphy said words to the effect that it was an example of collective responsibility. This Government has not really impressed itself upon the nation as one which believes in collective responsibility. When the parliamentary salary increases were mooted the members of Cabinet demonstrated collective responsibility by fighting amongst themselves in Caucus. Do not try to excuse the acts of Senator Willesee on the ground of collective responsibility. Honourable members opposite may be able to spell the words but they would not know what they mean.
Senator Murphy continued to defend Senator Willesee by saying that Senator Willesee honestly told the Senate about the whole of the Ermolenko affair. Mr Deputy President, I do not think that anybody in Australia is satisfied that all the facts came out during that sorry week of the Ermolenko affair. Then we saw confusion between Senator Murphy and Senator Willesee. Senator Murphy said that Ermolenko was not being detained in Australia by anybody. Senator Murphy said that he was not being detained by the Commonwealth Police or by the Russianshe was not being detained. But Senator Willesee said that Ermolenko had to be flown out of Australia because he was being detained against his will.
– Not by the Commonwealth Police.
-But Senator Willesee said that he was being detained against his will.
– Come on, you are quibbling.
– Yes, he was. He was being detained. Make up your mind. He was either being detained or not being detained. You cannot have it both ways. I know that you do not like it. It is admitted he was not being detained by the Commonwealth Police.
– By Alexandrov.
-We do not know that he was not being detained by Alexandrov because Senator Murphy indulged in one of his beautiful exercises and said that on a date, which he did not quote in his spech, the motion for a writ of habeas corpus was quashed at the instigation of the person who applied for it. He did not say when it was quashed. When I interjected at least he admitted that it was quashed after the bird had been flown out of the country. It would have been rather ridiculous to persist with the writ when Ermlenko had gone. That is not exactly coming clean, is it? But the inference was that the person applied for the quashing of the writ prior to Ermolenko going.
– Everybody knows that.
-Yes, but you attempted to imply that. Everybody here knew it was not correct, but those unfortunate people who may have been listening to you would not know that it was incorrect. That is why I advert to it at this stage. The writ was withdrawn after Ermolenko had been surreptitiously smuggled out of the country. What is the purpose persisting with it? Senator Murphy said that the judge thanked counsel for appearing and for their assistance. Knowing His Honour, I imagine that that would be his normal courtesy. I have no doubt that counsel were of assistance to him in helping to advise on the law. Senator Murphy tried to put the proposition that the judge thanked counsel for the Australian Government because he was saying: ‘Senator Willesee is a very good man; therefore I thank his counsel. ‘
– I did not say that the judge challenged or usurped the Minister’s role.
-The judge did not praise him or condemn him.
– That is the important thing.
-But Senator Murphy said that merely because the judge did not condemn him he praised him. You cannot get away with saying that. That is why I say that it is really not good enough. I turn now to the transcript. Why ought not that transcript be tabled in the Parliament? The Government says that the reason is that Mr Ermolenko, who is now in Russia, has some right of privacy.
– No, he is not. He is in West Berlin. We understand that he is in West Berlin.
-We understand that he is in West Berlin.
– It is subject to verification, but that is our understanding.
-That is right. That is the situation to the best of our knowledge, information and belief. Has Mr Ermolenko been consulted? Can Senator Willesee say that he has written to Mr Ermolenko and Mr Ermolenko does not want the transcript released? Has he said that? No. Senator Willesee says: ‘I know what is in Mr Ermolenko ‘s mind. He would not want the transcript released, and that is the reason that it will not be released.’ Mr Deputy President, that is a terrible reason. At least the Minister could say that he would attempt to find out whether the other party would have any objection. But has he? One is left only with the suspicion that the Minister does not want the transcript to be released because it would harm his case- to rest upon it. I thought Senator Murphy was about to say that he would table it, to which I would have replied: ‘Delighted’. I am sorry. I thought he was about to rush out, as Senator Gorton did once to put the VIP manifests on the table. I thought that we were getting to that stage. But Senator Murphy is not cast in the same mould. Why does the Government not table the transcript? The Government says that it is private. At whose request is it private? Is it private at the request of the Government? What was it?
– How about saying something to the nation?
-I am trying to expose the humbug which the Government has been putting forward. I realise you do not like this because the normal method of debate of those opposite is to make a set speech. You do not like to have some of Senator Murphy’s wild assertions corrected and put in their proper context. That is why you are making this sort of interjection. That is why we claim that Senator Willesee is not a fit and proper person to be a Minister. His conduct during the whole of the Ermolenko affair is such that he -
– You say that because Senator Murphy made a wild speech Senator Willesee is not fit to be a Minister.
-I said that Senator Willesee ‘s conduct during the whole of the Ermolenko affair has been such that he is not a fit and proper person to be a Minister. It is as simple as that. I do not run away from saying that. I am not trying to hang this charge around the Government’s neck. I am hanging it around the neck of the person who is completely in charge of the operation and who should be thoroughly ashamed of his conduct in that week.
-You will not frighten him into resigning.
-I know that he will not resign.
– That is the first correct thing that you have said all afternoon. He will not resign.
-That is right, because he has no sense of shame. That is why he will not resign. A man who could conduct that affair in the way it was conducted that week has no shame. I believe that he has no sensitivity for human rights.
– I do not think you have him worried.
-We will not worry Senator Willesee because he is not a man who is sufficiently sensitive on these matters to take note.
– You are being terribly unkind, and it is a poor form of debate.
-Oh, no. He has earned those words because of the way he has conducted himself in this chamber. Let us look at the Baltic states affair. Senator Murphy said that some time between 1966 and 1970 3 names were left off a list of treaties. He implied- leaving the inference to us- that at some time in that period the Australian Government recognised de jure the incorporation of the 3 Baltic states in the Soviet Union. If that is the best he can do he ought to give up.
This Government did something that it was not quite game to make public. How did that recognition come out? It oozed out- just as the Budget did- over two or three weeks. It oozed out- leak, leak, leak. That is what happened as regards the recognition of the Baltic states. The Government has said that we must face reality. I do not think that that argument is sufficient to convince anybody. My colleague, Senator Sim, said: ‘What about the realities of Taiwan?’ Everybody admits the reality of Taiwan. I think that even honourable senators opposite admit that the Government in effective control is the Government which claims to be the Government of Taiwan.
– Are you suggesting that we recognise Taiwan and not Communist China?
– I am not saying that.
– It must be one or the other because both claim to be the sovereign government for the whole of China. That is the choice which you have to make.
-No, that is the choice you were given.
– It is the choice that everybody has to make. The Government of Taiwan also claims to be the Government of the whole of China.
-There you go again. Just because this Government was cowardly enough to pick up the choice and do as China or Russia advised -
– The Russians are not the Chinese. Make up your mind. Are we pro- Chinese or pro-Russian? We cannot be both at the same time.
-Can you not? This Government can because I thought that it had 2 foreign policies- and it certainly had 2 economic policies on the night when the mini-Budget was presented about a month ago. Does Senator Wheeldon mean to tell me that this Government cannot be 2 things at once? That is the whole trouble with it; it does not know which side it is on at the present time. We do not know whose foreign policy is running this country, whether it is Senator Willesee ‘s foreign policy or Dr Cairns ‘ foreign policy. The Government can be 2 things at once. There are 2 parts of a party trying to be one thing or the other, and this is the Government’s whole problem. Anyhow, when Senator Wheeldon rises to speak he will no doubt inform us as to the whole reason why this action over the Baltic states was taken. He will no doubt inform us that he was a party to the discussion and that he was consulted both as a Minister and a member of the Government and as a member of Caucus regarding the whole reason why this action over the Baltic states took place. We have not been able to obtain that information from Senator Willesee and we have not been able to obtain it from Senator Murphy. Perhaps it will be 3 times lucky. Being the third Minister to speak this afternoon, we wait with bated breath for Senator Wheeldon to give us chapter and verse as to the total reasons why this decision was taken. As we are so anxious to discover those reasons and as we more or less have an assurance from Senator Wheeldon that he will give them, I now invite him to stand and give them so that for the first time the Senate may obtain some information as to this whole shabby, sorry, affair.
- Mr Deputy President, I would not want to claim that this is the first time this afternoon that you are to receive some information about this sad and sorry affair. It is the third time. You have received it from Senator Willesee and you have received it from Senator Murphy. Now you will receive it from me. But I will concede that you certainly have not received any information from any Opposition senators. I must say one thing in commencing to make my remarks on this subject, which will be few because this tedious, dreary debate, in which even the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) has clearly lost interest, is not something which ought to be prolonged unduly. The one thing which I should do at the beginning- and I must say that I feel constrained to do it- is to congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Greenwood) on the very fine feelings for human rights and civil liberties to which he has so recently been converted. I can well remember when Senator Greenwood was the Attorney-General. Far from applauding demonstrations such as that which took place at the Perth airport, it was Senator Greenwood himself who, at a similar demonstration which took place, I think, at the Melbourne University, sent in the Commonwealth Police in order to arrest those students who were taking part in the demonstration. But now he has changed. He is in favour of demonstrations. He is in favour of people in mobs preventing the transit of people through public places- something to which he told us once that in the interests of law and order he was opposed. I am interested also to find that Senator Greenwood is such a recent convert to the doctrines of civil liberties and freedom of speech, because I remember some years ago- in fact, it was very early on the morning of Boxing Day of one year- there was a ring at my front door, and what did I find there? I found a Commonwealth policeman who had been sent there at the instructions of the then AttorneyGeneral, Senator Greenwood, to interrogate me as to why I had authorised an advertisement in a newspaper in relation to the National Service Act. I find it very interesting that Senator Greenwood, who sent in the Commonwealth Police to arrest demonstrators at the Melbourne University, and who sent the Commonwealth Police to investigate and interrogate members of this Parliament for exercising this freedom of speech which he believes is so essential in the Soviet Union but which at least in the past he did not think was of any value in this country, has today emerged as the champion of human rights, the champion of civil liberties and the man who says that a person should be able to get up and say what he likes whenever he wants to say it and that he should not be interrogated by the police, that he should be free to insert advertisements in newspapers and should be free to demonstrate at the Melbourne University or at the Perth airport or anywhere else. I only hope that this new libertarian tendency which has become so recently discernible in the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will continue into the future, because if it does it will show a remarkable change and a remarkable conversion on the part of the so illnamed Liberal Party.
But let me return to this issue of Mr Ermolenko. If ever a subject, in my opinion, has been talked out in this Parliament, it is the subject of what did or did not happen to Mr
Ermolenko. We went through it all once before. It is quite obvious that honourable senators opposite want to go through it all again because they are afraid to confront the real issues which are facing the Australian people. They are afraid to discuss the issues concerning the economy. They are afraid to discuss the propositions which have been advanced by this Government. They are afraid to discuss seriously any issues relating to foreign policy. They want to get back again to Ermolenko. What was the position with Ermolenko, as we understand it and as everybody else understands it? Apparently at some stage Ermolenko said something to some people connected with the University of Western Australia, the Reverend Mr Johnson and the Reverend Mr Borthwick- although I find that on the whole honourable senators opposite, showing the same lack of knowledge of the finer points of ecclesiastical terminology, as they do of foreign policy, tend to refer to them as the Reverend Johnson and the Reverend Borthwick. But the Reverend Mr Johnson and the Reverend Mr Borthwick at some stage apparently were told by Mr Ermolenko that he did not want to leave Australia. I certainly do not want to rehash this business which has been gone over again and again inside this Parliament and outside of it about what they said and what they did not say. But the fact of the matter is that every possible precaution was taken by this Government to see that those persons who were interested in the security and safety of Ermolenko should find out what Ermolenko actually wanted to do.
Ermolenko said on a television station in Perth- he said it to journalists and to all sorts of people- that he wanted to leave Australia and go back to the Soviet Union. He did leave Australia and he did go back to the Soviet Union. It would be an absolutely impossible situation, as Senator Murphy and Senator Willesee have said, for the Australian Government to say: ‘We have got a civil libertarian in our place, Senator Greenwood, who has a very keen sense of the rights of free speech and the free movement of individuals. He is so sensitive, he gave such an earnest example of it when he was AttorneyGeneral, that because we do not want to upset this man’s delicate sensibilities we are going to place Mr Ermolenko under arrest and compel him, whether he wants to or not, to spend 24 hours in the company of the Reverend Mr Johnson and/or the Reverend Mr Borthwick, and then we will have another look at it after he has discussed these matters with these clerical gentlemen. ‘ We were not prepared to do that.
Ermolenko made it perfectly clear that he wanted to leave Australia, and he did leave. As it happens, he is now in West Berlin as a member of a Soviet musical ensemble which apparently is giving concerts in West Berlin. Are we to understand from the sort of nonsense that the Opposition is talking today that the West Berlin authorities are also a part of this Russian conspiracy, or is it perhaps that they are a part of the Chinese conspiracy, to both of which, with this tremendous versatility which is attributed to the Labor Party, members of the Government apparently are capable of being party simultaneously? Ermolenko is in West Berlin; let us find out whether he tries to seek asylum in West Berlin. Nobody, I think, would accuse the authorities in West Berlin of being communist stooges. He is there, he has travelled there; let us see what happens.
Now there is the other issue which was raised about Senator Willesee ‘s terrible attitude towards the courts in Western Australia, the contemptuous attitude that he showed to the Supreme Court of Western Australia because he arranged for Mr Ermolenko to leave Australia while a couple of actions were pending. As it happens, there were not 2 actions pending. One of the actions had already been quashed. It was a most extraordinary piece of litigation, a writ of habeas corpus being applied for against, I think, an inspector in the Commonwealth Police. He was supposed to be holding Ermolenko in custody, but at that stage the Commonwealth Police had never seen Ermolenko. There was another proceeding against Mr Alexandrov of the Soviet Embassy who, with those remarkable psychic powers which I had thought had been generally attributed to the more oriental communists but apparently are also possessed by communists from Russia, or by some sort of thought control, was able to retain Mr Ermolenko in custody while Mr Ermolenko was in Perth and Mr Alexandrov was in Canberra. The proceedings were not against the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The proceedings were not even against Mr Ermolenko. They were against Mr Alexandrov. Also there had been proceedings against an officer of the Commonwealth Police.
It is of no use for the Leader of the Opposition, who has now retired from the chamber, to say that it is quite irrelevant to say that when the proceedings- the ridiculous proceedings- were being concluded in the Supreme Court of Western Australia the learned judge thanked the counsel for the Australian Government for his assistance and to say that this is merely the usual courtesy which is shown. That, of course, is not the case. If the judge believed that the counsel for the Commonwealth was representing a client who had behaved in any way improperly during the course of the proceedings, then of course he would have taken the opportunity to point it out; he would have referred to the fact that the person whom the counsel for the Commonwealth of Australia was representing in the proceedings in the Supreme Court in Perth had acted improperly. In fact as Senator Murphy has asked- I believe it has to be asked again- if there has been some contempt of court, if there has been some improper action taken by Senator Willesee or by the Australian Government with regard to the Supreme Court of Western Australia, why does not the Tory Government in Western Australia institute proceedings within the Supreme Court of Western Australia against the Minister for Foreign Affairs? It is not going to do so because it knows that it does not have the slightest grounds for doing so and it knows that this is merely a lot of puff and drivel which has been served up to us today in order to waste the time of the Australian Parliament.
I come to the second part of this rabble motion which has been moved by Senator Greenwood. It reads:
This part of the motion refers to ‘the Baltic states’. I take it that the Opposition is referring to the 3 Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. I assume that the Opposition does not mean the other Baltic states of Finland, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Sweden and Denmark. What is the situation with regard to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia which are or were three of the Baltic states? Their incorporation in the Soviet Union is one of the most shameful acts in modern European history. It was something which took place as a result of a disgraceful, shameful and discreditable treaty signed in Moscow in 1939 between Stalin and Ribbentrop, the then nazi Foreign Minister.
The argument is used- I think there is a certain amount of justification for it- that the Soviet Union needed to take some steps to protect itself by entering into some sort of treaty with the nazis because the Western powers at that time had refused to co-operate with it and had rebuffed its efforts to organise a common front against the then menace of the Axis powers- nazi Germany and fascist Italy. I think there is a certain amount of justification in this argument, but only a very partial amount of justification. I do not believe that this in any way justified the Soviet Union believing that it could forcibly incorporate those 3 states inside the Soviet Union and I do not believe that it entitled the Soviet Union to occupy the eastern third of Poland and to take part conjointly with nazi Germany in a military attack upon Poland which was then, with whatever faults there may have been in the existing Polish Government, fighting alongside the democracies in defence of the world against nazism and fascism. I do not believe there is the slightest excuse for it whatsoever.
I also do not believe the arguments which are sometimes put forward to the effect that it does not really matter about Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia because the people who were there were nazis and generally behaved in an undesirable manner during the Second World War. I certainly think that is true of many people from those countries, as unfortunately it is true of many people of a number of other countries. I do not think there is any question that the Latvian SS, for example, was one of the principal participants, and possibly the most brutal participant, in the massacre of the Warsaw ghetto. But the fact remains that these people were a minority within Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. There are many people from those 3 countries who are now living as refugees and who are fine democrats. In fact, the Social Democratic Parties of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are just as illegal as any nazi or neo-nazi organisation.
I know this from my own experience in Perth. When I was practising law there I had as clients a Latvian family who had come to this country as refugees. They were working class people. They had been members of the Latvian Social Democratic Party in Riga. They had taken part in the anti-nazi resistance and were rewarded for their troubles by being arrested by the Soviet occupation troops upon the arrival of the Soviet Army in Latvia. I do not think there is any question that the treatment of the ethnic minorities, the culture and the language of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania under the Soviet Union is something of which the Soviet Union cannot at all be proud.
What is it that the Government is doing? The Government is recognising a fact. It is an unpalatable fact. I find it a lugubrious duty and I wish that one did not have to recognise this fact, but it is a fact. The same argument, I suppose, can be used- I am not trying to change the subject; I believe it is a parallel argument- when we find that there are certain people who say that the state of
Israel should not exist because the Zionist movement somehow was wrong and the settlement should never have gone there. I do not agree with that and I never have agreed with it. But, even if such an argument should be maintained, the fact remains that the state of Israel is there; it exists as a state and it has to be recognised as a state. It has to be given de jure recognition as a state and one has to deal with it as a state, whatever one might or might not have thought about the Zionist movement, although, I repeat that I have always been a sympathiser of the Zionist movement.
What we are doing with regard to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia is recognising an unpalatable fact of life; that is, that they have been incorporated within the Soviet Union and there is no foreseeable chance, beyond a third world war, of those 3 states coming out of the Soviet Union.
– What is the reason for the change of attitude?
-Senator Greenwood has asked what are the reasons for the change of attitude. I am telling him my reasons for my change of attitude, which I believe reflect those of the Government. We are not welcoming the fact that these countries have been incorporated in the Soviet Union. What is it that the Opposition is asking us to do? Is it asking us to raise an expeditionary force to go to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and to fight there? Is that was Opposition senators are asking us to do? No, they are merely asking us to carry on with a farce or a fraud and to say to the people of the 3 states: ‘De jure we do not recognise your incorporation inside the Soviet Union, but de facto we do.’ As Senator Murphy has indicated with regard to the matter relating to extradition treaties, the previous Government de jure recognised that Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia no longer exist by virtue of the fact that their names were excluded from the list of countries with which Australia has extradition treaties. At the present time one of the most important problems facing the whole of the world’s people is to bring about what for some mysterious reason- I have never quite known why- is called detente, a relaxation, an end to the cold war, a certain amount of give and take by the 2 major sides in the present world conflct.
One of the things that has to be done in order to bring that about is to face a number of realities and some of those realities are unpalatable. There has to be some recognition of the fact that whether we like it or not or anyone else likes it or not, or whether it is just or unjust- and I believe it is unjust and I do not like it- Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have been incorporated into the Soviet Union. To continue to say they are not part of the Soviet Union while the Soviet Government and I daresay a majority of the Soviet people believe that they are is something which lessens opportunities for bringing about peaceful settlements with the Soviet Union, and peaceful settlements with the Soviet Union are essential.
If it were being put forward that something serious could be done in order to free Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia from the existing occupation, if some proposition were being put forward as to how this were to be done and there would not only be a de jure Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia but a de facto Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, certainly I for one would be prepared to listen to it. But no such proposition has been put forward. No one has suggested how these countries are to regain their freedom. All that has been said is that we should continue to reject the claim of sovereignty made by the Soviet Government. In the circumstances which face us, in the curcumstances which bring about the necessity of negotiation and co-operation for world peace- and I know that well meaning, honest people will disagree with me on this- I submit that one of the essentials is to recognise the sovereignty of all of the major powers over those areas where they can make some strong de facto claim for such sovereignty.
The third matter that is before the Senate, and about which I might say not much has been said, is the claim that the foreign policy alignments that Senator Willesee is promoting will not serve Australia’s national interests. What are the foreign policy alignments that we are making? They are not referred to. Is it alleged that we entered into some new alliances with someone, military or otherwise? If so, with whom? What are these alliances? What we have done is to establish diplomatic relations with a number of countries with which we did not previously have diplomatic relations. We established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Is there someone who will say that this should not be done? Does the Liberal Party say that if it were elected to government it would cancel recognition of the Government in Peking and say that the real Government of China is in Taipei? This is the alternative. You cannot recognise both of them. Both the Government in Taipei and the Government in Peking claim to be the government of the whole of China. It is an all or nothing choice. Again it may be, one might say, an unpalatable choice. But you have to do one or the other- you cannot recognise both of them. Is the Opposition saying that we should go back to recognising Taipei and that we ought to try to exclude China from the councils of the world, from the trade which it is engaged in with this country and other countries?
We have established diplomatic relations with the German Democratic Republic which is the tenth industrial power and a growing power in the world. Is it suggested that we should not have diplomatic relations with this country? Is it suggested that we should not have diplomatic relations with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam? Is it suggested that we should not have diplomatic relations with the government in North Korea? These are not alignments. But no other alignments have been referred to. These are positions for which the Australian Government is not apologetic. The Government is proud that it has taken independently steps to see that Australia is talking to all of the major forces within the world. We are not conducting our foreign policy in accordance with some sort of ideological quirk. In the same way we have diplomatic relations with Spain and we had diplomatic relations with Portugal under its previous Government. We continue to have diplomatic relations with South Africa. We have diplomatic relations with other countries with which the former Government would not have diplomatic relations. We believe that these are major contributions to world peace. Never has the reputation of the Australian Government throughout the world been higher than it stands at the present time.
The last time there was an Australian President of the United Nations was when Dr Evatt was the President. The Australian Labor Party Minister for External Affairs was the President of the United Nations. What do all indications show? They show that the next time an Australian will be President of the United Nations he will also be a member of the Australian Labor Party- Senator Willesee. For 23 years a conservative government sat here. Would anyone have ever suggested that anyone of its motley collection of Ministers responsible for Foreign Affairs should have been President of the United Nations? Of course they would not, unless it were an April Fool’s Day party and they were trying to amuse the delegates. Such a suggestion would have been greeted with gales of laughter. I suspect that the primary reasons for this nonsensical series of non sequiturs which have been served up to us this afternoon are to waste the time of the Parliament and to prevent the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs from becoming the
President of the United Nations. We are proud of our Foreign Minister. He has carried out the policies of the Australian Labor Party. He has carried out the policies of the Australian Government which have been supported by the overwhelming majority of Australian people. This Party and the Government stand behind the Minister for Foreign Affairs and totally repudiate this ridiculous motion which has been moved this afternoon.
– The Senate is debating a censure motion against the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee. That motion has 3 parts. Firstly, it is a motion of censure of Senator Willesee regarding his mishandling of the affair of the young Russian violinist Ermolenko who let it be known that he sought refuge in Australia. Secondly, the censure is directed against the Minister for the action taken in the furtive and gratuitous recognition of sovereignty by Soviet Russia of the 3 Baltic states, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Thirdly, it is a censure motion aimed to direct criticism against the Minister and his Government because of the way in which the Minister is leading Australia away from the policies of the Western world into the pro-communist and radical policies of the Third World.
It is a serious matter to move a censure motion against a Minister of State. The AttorneyGeneral, Senator Murphy, made much of the fact that we had done so. He said how outrageous it was and that it was quite improper for an Opposition to move a censure against a Minister on his actions and on the policies of the Government. What strange quirks happen in that man’s mind.
On 14 August 1968 Senator Murphy moved a censure motion against the Minister for Repatriation on the grounds of his personal and policy behaviour. On 19 August 1969 Senator Murphy moved a censure motion against Senator Wright for the same reason. On 1 March 1972 Senator Murphy moved a censure motion against the then Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood. Senator Murphy now has the gall to come into this Parliament and base virtually the whole of his speech on the fact that it would be improper for an honourable senator in this chamber to get to his feet and move censure against a Minister. The present Attorney-General’s whole life style is based on his change of life- his political menopause- in the last 3 years in which what he saw in Opposition as virtuous he now finds as vile.
Today Senator Willesee was given the opportunity to state his case. In stating his case he condemned himself. I want to take this in 2 sections. Honourable senators tomorrow can look at the Hansard of the speech of Senator Willesee and they will find- I wrote the words down as he made much of this statement- that when referring to Ermolenko he said: ‘It would have been very desirable to get him away. It would have been wonderful’: He said in that part of his speech how important it would have been for this young man to have been got away from the Russian diplomats and be given a chance to be free from them to make up his mind. He then went on to indicate that he had found it impossible -
– Come on.
– I repeat his words: ‘It would have been very desirable to get him away. It would have been wonderful’. Those were the words of Senator Willesee. He admitted the failure of the Minister and the failure of the Government, including the Attorney-General, to get this young man away from what was some three to four days virtual captivity by officers of the Russian Embassy. Does anyone deny this?
– Yes, of course we deny it.
– Let me draw attention to the speeches of honourable senators opposite last year when we were debating a motion of criticism of the U.S.S.R. regarding Sakharov, Sol.zenitsyn and others. When reluctantly, at least, Labor senator after Labor senator admitted the tactics of the U.S.S.R. and said that it was a vile totalitarian government that used imprisonment, torture and bloody murder to get its way, honourable senators opposite, including Senator James McClelland, agreed that it was utterly wrong that this should be so. Solzhenitsyn’s books are today vivid testimony of the fact that if a man or a free nation is condemned to captivity under such a country, they are condemned to a likelihood of a kind of captivity, a kind of torture, including bloody murder, the like of which in our lifetime we have not seen. Let members of the Government get up and say that they do not agree that the Gulag Archipelago is right. Last year they said it was right. Three new islets have now been added to the Gulag Archipelago- Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. De jure sovereignty has now been given to the Russians and those States have been added to the chain of 1,000 prison camps which Labor condemns but which lie across Russia.
Against this background Labor senators sat last year on the Select Committee on Civil Rights of Migrant Australians and took evidence. They heard many cases. They heard, and there is no refutation, of what happened, as given in evidence on 9 August 1973, of the fate of 2 Russian officers of a merchant vessel. One was a medical officer named Dr Nazid Solovien and the other was Mr Victor Strahkovsky. Early in February they sought refuge in Australia. Evidence was given of how they were hounded and how into private homes came the second secretary of the Russian Embassy seeking to intimidate and seeking to force them back. If honourable senators wanted any more evidence of this, how much more evidence could they obtain than the evidence of the doctor, as reported on page 372 of the Hansard transcript. He was found to be very unhappy and was asked what happened. He said:
Tulayev, the Second Secretary of the Soviet Embassy brought me a small tape-recorder and I hear with my own ears the torture of my child, wife and mother.
Does anyone disbelieve that in this country agents of the Russian Government are using duress on people? A lot has been made of the fact that in other countries, if an Australian were in this same position, particular things would happen. Does anyone suggest that if there were an Australian in the United States of America who was in a similar position that the officials of the Australian Embassy would take that Australian, hold him and not allow him freedom of movement? The simple fact is that Government members are deliberately confusing 2 things: They are confusing the right of free access of embassies to their nationals and the right of continuous access and continuous duress. I say that it is intolerable if, in Australia, a Minister rises in the Parliament, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs has done today, and confesses that he saw no way of disallowing a situation which, based on the history of the Russians and even the Russians in this country, allows a foreign embassy, not on embassy soil even, to remain in continuous contact with, and therefore placing continuous duress on, that young man. It is no good saying that the young man could have left. Does the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) say that there is no legal process in Australia whereby the Australian Government could arrange for such a person to be moved from a situation of apparent duress and given asylum in a temporary way to make up his or her mind? Do Government members really say that? No, indeed, Senator Willesee says that it would have been very desirable to get Ermolenko away. He says that it would have been wonderful. But what did he seek to do? Nothing at all. Did Senator Willesee rise in the Senate and say that he went to see
Smirnov, the Charge d ‘Affaires, in order to ask him to remove his officials for a day or two so that the young man could make up his mind? Is there any suggestion that there was any approach to the Russian Embassy to give the young man a breathing space? Is there any suggestion at all that an attempt was made to free him of what really were his captors? Does anyone deny that they were, in fact, his captors?
- Senator James McClelland interjects. He would do well to look at the speech he made last year in the debate on the Russian dissenters in which he identified the techniques of the Russians in terms of their attempts to strangle the freedom of intellectuals and others. Now, he does not recognise that these officers of the Russian Embassy may well have been doing exactly the same thing. This was a selective affair. Everything was done to get this young man out of the country.
The protest, because it was not led by a member of the Australian Labor Party or a communist, has been called a bad protest. It was refered to as a mob and, to use Senator Willesee ‘s words, a pack of louts. I hope that the people of Western Australia know that those decent people- the students, the churchmen and the others- who were out there protesting in favour of freedom were described in the words of Senator Willesee as a pack of louts. Of course, he said it and I asked him to repeat if. This is great stuff. A protest is valid and in the cause of freedom when it is led by a member of the Australian Labor Party or by a communist. It is as wrong as hell in the eyes of” the members of the Australian Labor Party and is to be put down if it is led by a Liberal or a member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. Did honourable senators listen to the smears that came from the Government benches when it was suggested that an official of the Federated Clerks Union was a member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party? That is selective freedom if ever there was any, and it exists in the media today.
It was said that the Government had an aircraft at the Pearce Air Force Base which I am told is 20 miles or half an hour by motor car away from the commercial area. But they did not, in fact, take Ermolenko to the commercial aircraft. Is the Government going to use Royal Australian Air Force aircraft to break strikes and to break up demonstrations that it does not like in the future? Mr Minister, is that the tactic we are to have? Look, the simple test on Ermolenko is this: He was entitled to make up his mind quietly and free of the Russian Embassy. It was admitted by the Minister that that was his entitlement. The Minister said- I repeat it- that it would have been very desirable to get him away; it would have been wonderful. But it did not happen. Indeed, the Minister and the Government did not do it.
So, we have a situation in this country where today a citizen of another country can be intimidated and held under duress. Does anyone deny the testimony of the Russian doctor? Does anyone not feel horror in his testimony that they played a tape which allegedly was a recording of the torture of his wife and child and mother in order to bring him home? Does anyone put out of his mind the possibility- and this is in Australia, and on Australian soil -
– Is this Ermolenko?
– This is a Russian citizen seeking asylum exactly as Ermolenko was and in similar circumstances with an intervention by Embassy officials and an allegation of torture and of duress- exactly the same. Does anyone suggest that there is not the same parallel? There can be no greater ground for censure of a Minister or for a Minister being removed from office than his abdication of his duties and the revelation by him of his recognition of his duty and his failure to discharge it. It was he, not the Opposition, who described this situation. He it was who spoke of the need and the sheer desirability to do this and of the failure of the Minister and the Government to do it.
This Minister will make his place in history. He will do so not only for this tragic case. It is no use, may I interpolate, to talk of the fact that Ermolenko may be in West Germany and be free today. If there is a message in the works of Solzhenitsyn it is that the Devil sups with a long spoon; the Devil has a long memory; the Russians will wait; they will sit it out; they will move in their own time; they will move when people have forgotten. This lad and his family for the rest of their lives must walk in fear of duress, of torture and of intervention by the Russians. Does anyone doubt this?
-Well, it is well to know that Senator Georges doubts in fact the whole of the Solzhenitsyn story.
– Do not put words into my mouth.
– He doubts the whole basis of the ‘Gulag Archipelago ‘.
– Do not twist my words.
– All I am doing is repeating what Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov say as to what in fact happened. Does Senator Georges doubt that what has happened to Sakharov and what has happened to others can happen to Ermolenko?
With respect to the Baltic situation, may I say that on 23 August 1939, 2 notorious criminals of international history- von Ribbentrop and Molotov- signed a secret protocol on the division of the spheres of interest in Eastern Europe- I have the text in front of me- and therefore seized the 3 States which had been independent and free States. The Minister for Foreign Affairs in effect has put his signature to this protocol because he has made de jure what they made de facto by force of arms. One of the basic reasons why we fought World War II was to free nations such as the Baltic nations- or that was the reason as I read it. I understood that we won World War II. But the actions of the Senator Willesees of this world are doing much to translate the result into losing the peace. In fact what he has done has been to sell out the small people and the small nations of this world for the price of a numbers game in his and his Government’s power politics, as revealed by Senator Wheeldon. Senator Wheeldon said: ‘What is wrong with promoting Senator Willesee for the candidature of president of the United Nations?’ Of course that is a numbers game. The job is to get around the world, discrediting all your principles, to seek from wherever you can a vote, because a vote from the smallest nation, from the most radical nation, the most communist nation or the most tyrannous nation is as good as a vote from Britain, America or France. This is precisely the reason, as has been revealed today by Senator Willesee and Senator Wheeldon- ‘mine own executioners’. Senator Wheeldon said: ‘Yes, he ought to be president of the United Nations’. Here we are looking at the sellout of Australia and other people for that.
My goodness, we had an example only the other day of the arrogance and the tyrannous mind of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) who gratuitously said to the world that the people of Portuguese Timor should be annexed into Indonesia. I hope that he does not take the same attitude to the 1 3 million people of Australia if he believes that he can play around with the people of the world like pawns on a chessboard. It so happens that I know something of Portuguese Timor and of the Portuguese Timorese. Are we as Australians willing to say that we will make up our own minds about people who ethnically, in terms of their languages and cultures, are as different as can be from the people of western Timor or Indonesian Timor? Are we willing to say that? Is this the kind of arrogance that we are to display? Are we going to pass people around as though they were on a chess board because it adds up to a numbers game?
Let me look at the situation. Without any announcement at all we discovered, because it trickled out, that this Government and the Minister had agreed to the de jure recognition of the 3 Baltic countries. What an extraordinary thing it was that the day before the last general election the Prime Minister of Australia wrote to the President of the Council of the Lithuanian Community denying that there would be any de jure recognition and indicating that the policy would be as in the past. He had in 1968 made it clear that his Party would support the Chifley Labor Government’s attitude and would support all those parties which belonged to the Socialist International. This is the policy. What an interesting thing it is that a telegram from Stockholm on 12 August this year from the chairman and member of the Council of the Socialist International stresses its total opposition to the de jure recognition of the Baltic States. The only argument that has been raised has been: ‘Well, Sweden has done it and Switzerland has done it. ‘ I invite the Government to come forward and study the situation in those 2 countries and then state categorically that those countries have, de jure, recognised the Soviet incorporation of the Baltic States. I understand that legally that is gravely in doubt.
On the day before the elections, conscious of the importance of the migrant vote- and many times before that- the Prime Minister said: ‘We will not recognise the incorporation’. For months before that all Labor senators had been going around saying this too. Mr Chifley had said it; Mr Caldwell had said it; Mr Whitlam had put it in writing. What has changed since the day before the election? That was barely two or three months ago. It is only a handful of months, so what has changed? Senator Wheeldon advanced the extraordinary story that the Cold War had ended. It was apparently still on on 1 7 May but is now off. Why? On what desiderata is this so? We look to Senator Willesee. He said: ‘It is the policy of the Government to recognise realities’. Well, the reality is that East Germany is incorporated into the U.S.S.R. Do we in fact incorporate East Germany in the U.S.S.R.? The reality is that the Smith Government has de facto sovereignty over Rhodesia. Do we recognise that? Need I go around the world? Is it your principle, is it really your policy, that you will recognise realities? Is East Germany a part -
– What about Chile?
– Do not intervene away from the main course. Is East Germany a part? Let us have a look at this.
– It is not a part of the U.S.S.R.
– The senator will have his opportunity. The incorporation was condemned by every newspaper, by every writer, by every main commentator in Australia, and widely, I think without exception, throughout the free world. Not bad, when the Labor Government now says it does not matter and we are the only ones in step in the regiment. Everybody else is wrong. Indeed, the cold war ended on 18 May. Let me read the argument from the Melbourne Herald’ editorial of 7 August. It said:
This recognition of permanent Russian occupation is inconsistent and puzzling. We encourage ethnic and political liberation movements from Vietnam to Bangladesh to Guinea-Bissau. We refuse to countenance ‘realism’ whether invoked in the name of defensible frontiers for Israel or of South African occupation of the diamond-mines of SouthWest Africa. We have not given ‘face’ to the Chinese rape of Tibet.
But to three European republics that stand in the way of Moscow’s reach for the Baltic, we have gone out of our very distant way to be contemptuous. Western associates far closer to the continuing problem refuse to admit any Moscow right to hold captive ‘constituent’ republics. Can Canberra refute the claim of Baltic people here that this diplomatic initiative is a betrayal?
Every one of the newspapers without exception condemned the recognition. May I read now from the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ editorial of 15 August. It said:
In defending it . . .
That is, the recognition- . . the unfortunate Senator Willesee cannot be said to have made the best of a bad job. On the contrary, he made just about the worst possible fist of it. Some of his arguments were so feeble as to invite derision. When asked, pointedly, if the decision was not a clear ratification of the agreement between Hitler and Stalin in 1939, one which signalled the conquest by force of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, he said no’. The correct and honest answer would, of course, have been ‘yes’.
– Who said that?
-That is the ‘Sydney Morning Herald ‘ editorial.
– Every commentator of any stance in Australia and throughout the free world has condemned what has been done. Every commentator has said that it was wrong. We have in fact done damage to our own image. We have gone against the policies of the North
Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries, of Britain, of Canada, of America. It is no argument to say ‘Yes, but Switzerland and Sweden have done so’. In fact there are grave doubts that they have. We have done worse than that. This Government and this Minister have broken an election promise. It was bitterly clear to the Australian people, and this must be faced, that at the election of 18 May the Government had given its word that there would be no de jure recognition of the incorporation of those states in Russia. Yet within weeks of that this was done, but not done publicly. No statement was made by the Minister.
If I could pause there, no Minister who has held that important portfolio has added less to the constructive dialogue on foreign policy. The Minister virtually refuses to answer questions. If he does, he treats them contemptuously. If he does, his usual retort is ‘I do not read newspapers’. One does not now think that was a cynical remark. There may well be a basis of truth in it. Indeed, no Minister has treated the people of Australia and this Parliament with more contempt on matters of foreign importance than this Minister. Where indeed are the basic foreign statements? Where indeed is the laying down of a statement on the incorporation? Was there one? Not at all. What does the Government say? It says: ‘We did the same as you did in Goa ‘. Does anyone suggest that a free and democratic country- India- in incorporating Goa can offer to the Goanese the potential duress, the potential tyranny, that Russia can offer to the Baltic states? Does anyone suggest that India is a military threat in that regard? Yet extraordinarily, looking at all this and looking at the racial background, the Government rests on 2 things: ‘You people recognised Goa, and Sweden and Switzerland have come to the party’.
– Finland and Switzerland.
– No. For many years Finland had recognised the sovereignty. I was referring to Sweden and Switzerland and suggesting that the Minister might investigate the validity in international law of his Government’s claim that they have recognised the incorporation of the Baltic states.
Let me draw my argument together. This is a censure motion based primarily on 3 things: The mishandling of the Ermolenko affair, the gratuitous and furtive incorporation of the Baltic states in Russia, and the rapid move to the left in our foreign policy. In relation to the Ermolenko case the Minister for Foreign Affairs said- in his own words a confession of failure and abdicationthat it would have been good to have had the man free to make up his mind, but it had not happened. It had not happened and he had done nothing about it. In relation to the Baltic states, in the face of the whole of history of this moment we are prepared to hand over these people de facto and de jure. It is not good enough to say: ‘It has happened ‘. Is it the test that we are willing at all times to sacrifice our ideals, to sacrifice our principles and put them away on the entirely expendient altar of reality? Are we to say: ‘It is here so it will always be. We will always recognise the existence of the right of the big dog to take over the small dog, to deny the small dog freedom’? Is this it? Have we lost the power of idealism? Have we lost the power of intellectual honesty? Have we lost the guts of the independent Australians?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
- Senator Carrick has just treated the Senate to a most bizarre exercise in logic which went something like this: He said that because I spoke in this place last year against the suppression of freedom in Russia I must conclude, without evidence, that Ermolenko was taken prisoner in Perth by the Russian secret police and prevented from exercising his free will as to whether he would stay in Australia or leave for Russia. I am not naive enough to suggest that the Russian secret police would not be capable of such an exercise. All I am saying is that I need more than Senator Carrick ‘s assertion to accept it as proven fact. Of course, he offered no such evidence. It may seem curious to some honourable senators that, at a time when the Opposition is asserting that the Australian economy is in a situation of acute crisis, it finds time to play to the Senate today a tired old barrel organ tune entitled ‘Variations on a Theme by Joe McCarthy’. Of course, this is a theme that has helped honourable senators opposite in the past to win elections. It is most noticeable that every now and then they are seized with the nostalgia to repeat this formula which, unfortunately for them, no longer works.
Today’s variation to this theme goes something like this: The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is contemplating a visit to the Soviet Union at the end of this year. Accordingly, for some strange reason which is not immediately apparent to me, it is therefore necessary for him to toady to the Soviet Union. Illustrations of this, unsupported by evidence, are that his Government through his Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) prevented a would-be defector from leaving this country. Also, out of the blue, we as a government grant de jure recognition to Russia’s annexation of the Baltic states. This is set in the context of some sort of plot. As I say, it is a variation on a tired and familiar old theme. Somehow or other, while professing to be democratic socialists, we are, according to the Opposition, really tarred with the communist brush. According to them, it is not surprising that we should be giving this further illustration on the eve of the Prime Minister’s visit to Russia. We are asked seriously to believe that, if the Prime Minister did not do this, somehow or other he might not be able to go to Russia; that he would not be welcome there. I do not know whether Senator Greenwood and those who espouse this proposition also suggest that in some way there is something indecent about this Government attempting to improve its relations with Russia. I thought this was an underlying idea which was not spelt out but which lies deep in the psyche of the Russia haters across the floor.
Let us examine in some detail the ingredients of this charge. It has three separate wings. The first is that in denial of human rights and contrary to the rule of law we did what we did in relation to Ermolenko. Let us look at this proposition of the denial of human rights. This was given some emphasis by a well known, well authenticated and familiar defender of human rights in the form of a former Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood. I think the lawyer in him would agree that this charge, in order to be established, demands first of all that Ermolenko be proved beyond doubt to have wished to stay in Australia. I listened closely to what Senator Greenwood had to say. He talked about a female journalist calling out, presumably in English, to this young Russian as he emerged from an hotel and asking whether he wished to return to Russia and his answering ‘No’. This is a standard of proof which falls somewhat short of the standard of proof that Senator Greenwood was demanding of us in the controversy surrounding the Ustasha and the Croatian terrorists in this country.
Senators who followed that debate- it was a long, continuing debate- will recall that Senator Greenwood was constantly demanding that we on this side of the chamber should not indulge in loose accusations and that we should come up with hard evidence before we dared to make any such accusations. His standards change when he comes to attempt to make this charge of a denial of human rights stick in the Senate today. He used such emotive phrases as ‘spirited out of this country’ and ‘made to do things against his will’. I suggest that in order to establish the first leg of his argument- namely, that there has been a denial of human rights- this demanding lawyer carries an onus of proof which he has not discharged. He has been content with impressions, with hearsay and with matters which by any standards, let alone a lawyer’s standards, fall far short of satisfying the onus of proof that Ermolenko was denied any human rights. I suggest that we can put aside any serious consideration of that part of Senator Greenwood’s argument.
This brings me to examine the curious insensitivity which honourable senators opposite have shown to the human aspects of this story. Here was a young artist, a young man aged 18 years. We may assume that he has not spent much of his life outside his own country. We may assume that he would be impressionable, as most sensitive young men of his years are. He finds himself in the beautiful city of Perth. An honourable senator from this side who spoke earlier forbore to become lyrical about his own native city, but I am sure that if he had adverted to this he would have found in the beauties of his own city a large explanation.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner in discussing the Opposition’s censure motion on the handling of the Ermolenko affair by the Minister for Foreign Affairs I was considering the situation of an impressionable 18-year old violinist finding himself for the first time in the beautiful exhilarating City of Perth- a city which numbers among its favourite sons such diverse characters as Senator Wheeldon, Lang Hancock, Bob Hawke -
– Alan Bond.
-The egregious Alan Bond. Also I might mention, so as not to be accused as being a sexist, our own fair Senator Ruth Coleman.
- Mr Snedden comes from Perth also. Why not be bipartisan?
– I would think that Mr Snedden also rates a mention although he could be considered an expatriate, could he not? Mr Snedden is a fugitive from the talented circles I have just mentioned. He went to Victoria. I was suggesting that in considering this matter the Opposition had been peculiarly insensitive to the human aspects of this matter. The fact that Ermolenko may have been so carried away by the novel circumstances in which he found himself that he may have expressed a desire to remain in Australia evidently blinds the Opposition to the eminently believable proposition that he may also, soon afterwards, have freely changed his mind. It is not at all surprising that a young man could have been temporarily persuaded that he wanted to live in this country or, indeed, in any country other than the one from which he had come. It is a sort of naive simplification of human complexity that leads the Opposition into believing that because Russia is a country with manifest shortcomingsshortcomings to which I have adverted in previous debates in this chamber- people who have an opportunity to leave Russia must clutch at the first opportunity that comes along to get out of the place.
Speakers on the Opposition side have referred repeatedly in this debate and in previous debates to the case of Solzhenitsyn. Surely we could get no better illustration of” the point that I am attempting to make. If there is anybody who has reason to underline the negative aspects of Soviet society it is Solzhenitsyn. He is a man who went to war, was taken prisoner of war, came back to his own country and was immediately exiled to the harshest of concentration camps, spent many years in hardship in these concentration camps -
– What is negative about that, for God ‘s sake?
-Senator, I wish you would listen to me and you would understand.
– You began your preface by saying it was a negative attitude.
-No, I did not say that, Senator. Would you please listen to me?
– I am listening to you.
– I said if ever there was a Soviet citizen who had reason to understand and to underline the negative aspects of Soviet society, it was Solzhenitsyn. He was a man who underwent all these hardships, a man who wrote about these hardships, a man who was persecuted for his beliefs and a man who had to circulate his literary works in the Soviet underground. Yet, despite all those hardships this was a man who had to be forcibly ejected from his native country. Despite everything that he had undergone in the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn still regarded it quite clearly as a severe punishment to be expelled from the Soviet Union.
I also refer honourable senators to the works of another great Soviet literary dissident. I refer to Boris Pasternak, the author of Dr Zhivago and of many other less known works, including translations of Shakespeare and other poets. Pasternak was a man who also suffered from the repressive regime of the Soviet Union. In case honourable senators on the other side of the chamber have not got the message that we on this side understand fully- and understood before them- the repressive nature of Soviet society, I would like to point out that Pasternak was writing long before Solzhenitsyn. He was a critic of the Soviet regime. But anybody who has read his works must be impressed with his passionate love of his own country and with the intense patriotism of this man who was fully conscious of all of the shortcomings of the Soviet regime. If the Opposition senators had this human understanding of the problems of Soviet citizens who hate the repression of the Soviet regime but who still love their country, they would not take nearly such a simplistic view of the vacillations of this young man or of this little human tragedy which, to the members of the Opposition apparently, was just a matter of an opportunity to score some political advantage against the Government. This man as I see it, this young impressionable artistic man, went through agonies for a few days. First of all he thought he would like to stay here but I think- I have no more conclusive evidence than the Opposition has- quite believably, he finally decided that with all its shortcomings, he wanted to go back to his native land.
– Who should be the judge of that sort of question?
– I am glad the honourable senator said that. I do not pontificate on this. I do not presume to understand finally and to be able to prove in the sense that Senator Greenwood is always insisting I prove. I do not claim -
– I am not pontificating. I am just asking who should be the judge.
-He should. I will come to the other question about being contrary to the rule of law and the proceedings in the law courts in the course of examining this question. I say that none of us sitting here in our ivory tower are entitled to pontificate on the agonies of this young man and to suggest that any of us has any positive evidence about his final wish. To suggest that anybody is in possession of evidence that he was kidnapped by the secret police and that our humane, tolerant, non-fanatical Minister for Foreign Affairs whose record will stand up to the epithets that I have attached to him was somehow acting as a stooge of the Soviet Union and went along with the idea of a kidnapping so that our Prime Minister would have a red carpet when he went to Moscow is in my view in the realm of spy fiction fantasy land.
– You are being unnecessarily partisan in putting that view.
-Senator Greenwood is one who has asserted, as a man who insists on hard evidence before anyone is to be convicted, that the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of the proposition that this man was dragged away from Australia against his free will.
– No, I have not said that. I have said that it was an issue for the courts to decide.
– I remind the honourable senator that he went much further than that. I took a note of his ipsissima verba. Senator Greenwood spoke of this man being spirited out of this country and made to do things against his will.
– No. I asked whether he was being asked to do things against his will.
-You did not say that, Senator.
– You read it in Hansard.
– Yes, I will. My recollection is that Senator Greenwood asserted positively that there was evidence upon which we should form a judgment that this man was spirited out of this country against his will. I say that the evidence does not go anywhere near that. Looking at this matter in a human light, it is eminently understandable that this young man, having on the spur of the moment decided that he wanted to stay in Australia, without any pressure from GPU men and without any pressure being exerted on the Australian authorities to intervene, could have changed his mind and decided that in the final analysis and on balance he preferred to go back to his own native country. That, I say, is supported by the evidence of the conduct, behaviour and literary works of men who have suffered, as presumably he had not suffered, at the hands of the regime in the Soviet Union. I do not find it difficult to believe- as I said, I have no more positive evidence than honourable senators opposite have- and I do not find it at all incomprehensible that this man would have decided to go back to the Soviet Union of his own free will.
The second leg of the charge against us is that what was done by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and by this Government was contrary to the rule of law. I do not think I need to labour this proposition, because the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) amply demolished this argument in his speech before the suspension of the sitting for dinner. As I understood Senator Greenwood, what he was putting was the extraordinary proposition that when a bunch of citizens with good intentions, with the best intentions in the world, but without any instructions -
– But with a host of affidavit material.
-As a lawyer Senator Greenwood knows what I mean by instructions’. It means a direction from a client to take action on his behalf. The proposition put by Senator Greenwood, as a lawyer and not only as a senator, is that when a bunch of well intentioned citizens, without instructions from the foreign national involved, launches proceedings affecting him in an Australian court, the Government of Australia is thereupon prevented from taking any action in the matter until the court gives its decision. Indeed, Senator Durack, another lawyer as well as being a senator, in a debate in this place on 13 August when this matter was hot and when the young man was in Perth going through this agony, went further and suggested that the Australian Government was duty bound to prevent him from leaving this country.
– ‘Until such time’! Go on, be fair about it.
– I suggest that Senator Young’s lawyer colleagues have made a sufficient mess of this proposition without his weighing in as a layman. Mr President, I think I have said sufficient about the first arm of this motion. I turn now to the second item in the motion which seeks to censure the Minister for Foreign Affairs and, by implication, the Government in these terms: in breach of a clear undertaking to the contrary given by the Prime Minister the Government shamefully and furtively extended recognition to the in corporation of the Baltic states in the U.S.S.R., the Minister withholding any announcement or explanation of the decision.
Mr President, I say quite frankly that I get no pleasure at all from this de jure recognition of the Baltic states and frankly I wish it had not been done.
Opposition senators- Hear, hear!
-But before honourable senators opposite become too comforted by that concession I point out that certain elements in the Liberal and Country Parties have always exploited, in a quite unconscionable way, the longings for independence of the Baltic peoples. Every year, on what is called Captive Nations Day or Captive Nations Week, we have been subjected to the spectacle of the more rabid members of the conservative coalition turning up in the highly emotive atmosphere of these gatherings and addressing the Lithuanians, the Latvians and the Estonians.
– Have you been to one?
– Is Senator Young suggesting that this is not true? Has he heard of Mr Darby? Has he heard of Mr Wentworth? has he heard of ex-Senator Hannan? Is he suggesting that his representatives do not go along and inflame these people with expectations that, as Senator Wheeldon put it, we will be raising an expeditionary force on their behalf to go and liberate them from foreign domination?
In a rational moment today Senator Greenwood conceded that the only hope for independence of the Estonians, the Lithuanians and the Latvians was in the aftermath of a cataclysm. As Senator Wheeldon freely, generously and sincerely conceded today, we on this side of the Senate believe that these people should be free. They are victims of history, as are the Czechoslovakians, the Poles and various other people. The Irish, at a certain stage and for a large part of their history, the Chinese and the Indians also were victims of history. They happened to be so situated that they were overrun by foreign conquerors and only short periods of their national lives have been spent in conditions of independence. But let us not play games about this. The only time that subjected nations such as these gain their liberty is when their tyrants, their oppressors, are in difficulties.
As Senator Greenwood conceded, the only hope that these Baltic people have of being independent of their present oppressors- I freely concede that the Russians are their oppressors; I do not mince words about that- is in the aftermath of some cataclysm which I trust none of us here is barracking for, because the consequences of such a cataclysm would be not only the liberation of the Baltic peoples but also more likely than not the destruction of Western civilisation. So, as a matter of reality, we say that we have no power to free these people. We do not go along to their Captive Nations gatherings and imply, as ex-Senator Hannan, Mr Darby and Mr Wentworth do, that in some way or other our sympathy with them and our advocacy of their cause will take the foreign yoke from their necks. We do not fool them. We do not play around at these games.
– But you can make it worse, can you not?
– I have conceded that I wish this had not happened. But, after all, we are not in such disreputable company. Did we hear any condemnation from the other side of politics in this country when Britain hastened to recognise Communist China in 1 949, long before any other country did?
-Sir Magnus Cormack says ‘Yes’. I would like to examine the record of his condemnation of that conduct. I will freely withdraw that comment if Senator Sir Magnus Cormack can show me evidence of his condemnation of a premature recognition of Communist China by Britain. However, I suggest that this sort of thing, unwelcome as it is, is something that has happened in world history and somehow or other the indignation now being expressed by Liberal and Country Party senators -
– By your own Prime Minister some two or three months ago.
-By the way, I said ‘Country Party senators’; but curiously enough we have not heard from them. Maybe they do not share the fanatical view of the Liberals on this matter. As I said, one detects, especially in the remarks of Senator Greenwood, that he finds it reprehensible that this Government should seek to be on good terms with Russia. After all, in the simplistic view of politics which one has come to associate with his name, Russians are baddies; they are communists; they have a bad record of oppression; they are not people of whom Senator Greenwood could possibly approve. We do not approve of them either. We on this side of the Senate do not in any way condone the horrors that have been perpetrated in the name of socialism in the Soviet Union. In fact, if anything our horror is greater than that of those on the Opposition side because we believe that in many ways the Russians have sold out many of the things in which we believe but in which people on the Opposition side do not believe. We believe that it is possible to have a just society without the oppression that has been practised in the Soviet Union and we are not heard to condone the tyranny that is practised in that country on individuals or in Russia’s relationships with other countries. If only life were so simple that countries would recognise only countries of whose regimes they approved. Unfortunately life is not like that at all. Although, as I have frankly conceded, I do not like what has happened, I ask honourable senators to contemplate that we have done no damage to the Baltic peoples and have not altered their place in the real world. I would have preferred that we had not wounded their susceptibilities, but I submit that the terms of this motion are hysterical and hypocritical. Because we recognise the incorporation of the Baltic states we are taunted that we are somehow tainted with communism while the Liberals are the upholders of freedom- not undifferentiated upholders of freedom. Their views do not extend, for instance, to the blacks in Rhodesia or the Bantus in South Africa.
In closing I suggest that we get this proposition in perspective. It is a rather unpleasant little piece of real politic, but it does not adversely affect the real position of anybody inside or outside the Baltic states.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (8.22)- Before I discuss the matters that are engaging the attention of the Senate at the moment, I must refer to the observations made by Senator James McClelland which drew his attention to me. He referred not only to Solzhenitsyn ‘s recently published book ‘Gulag Archipelago’, but also to ‘Cancer Ward’, ‘First Circle’ and ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’. Senator James McClelland used the delightful phrase ‘the negative aspects of Russian life’. I draw attention to this phrase because it is a piece of pure Marxist dialectic. It means that the positive comes from the negative- that is to say, if it had not been for the system of the negative aspects of Russian life, Russia would not have achieved anything positive. That is the real meaning of that phrase. It is just sheer double-talk. The ‘National Times’ apparently invited the polemist of the Communist Party of Australia to do a critical review of ‘Gulag Archipelago’. The article appears in the edition of 19 August 1974. This week it attracted a long letter which I do not intend to read.
– He was not from the Communist Party in Australia. He was from the Socialist Party of Australia.
– He is a man called Brown. Senator Wheeldon would know him very well. Part of the letter in reply to that article states:
The article is a crafty combination of what may euphemistically becalled deliberate misquotations, irrelevancies and non-sequiturs, all in the finest traditions of Marxist-Leninist polemics.
The final paragraph is significant and I commend it to Senator James McClelland for his further ruminations. It states:
The Gulag Archipelago’ will serve best as a memorial to the martyrs of Russia ‘s past and it will do this if it prevents the West from being lulled into becoming the martyrs of the future.
I now address myself to the third paragraph of the motion, which states:
That is, Senator Willesee- is promoting will not serve Australia ‘s national interests.
Senator Willesee and I have been members of the Senate for many years. I think that he has learned in that time that I hold for him a personal affection, and I still maintain it. But I do not accept and have never accepted- Senator Willesee, I am sure, would be the first to agree with me- his view on foreign policies. I fundamentally disagree with them and have done so since I first met Senator Willesee in 1 95 1.I have said before in the Senate that a nation’s foreign policy should be the policy which is best directed to serve the national interest. It is a successful policy only if it preserves and serves the national interest. The first element must be the protection of the interests of the nation, including its capacity to defend itself. It is against that background that any analysis or examination must be made in the context of a foreign policy. I am in the difficulty- all honourable senators on this side have been in the difficulty- of attempting to find out what is the real foreign policy of this country since December 1972. Only by a process of deduction can one discover the clues which will lead to what Australia foreign policy really is.
– That is induction not deduction.
-I said deduction’, and I will use ‘induction’ too if it satisfies you. Certain clues enable one to deduce further what the foreign policy is.
– It could be seduction.
-I will explain the seduction in a moment. One obtains some clue from Senator Willesee ‘s speech this afternoon in which he stated- I wrote it down at the time- that one of the problems that he and his Government confront in their foreign policy is that they are dealing with the shibboleths of the cold war. He said also: ‘We do not crawl to great powers’. The shibboleths of the cold war inevitably refer to matters such as the invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and other elements of Russian policy. They are supposed to be shibboleths. They are not shibboleths. They are hard, cold facts. As Senator Wheeldon said, we live in a world of hard facts. But they are not shibboleths.
The next thing that honourable senators must realise is that we know we are living in a world of detente- that is to say, we are living at a time of pause in the relationships and competition between the 2 great superpowers. We may be indeed the beneficiaries of detente between the 2 great powers. But what is detente? It is no more than a pause. It is a most fragile web that has been spun by one man- Dr Kissinger.
– Who said anything about a pause? A detente is not a pause; it is a relaxation.
-Mr President, it is not often that I appeal for protection, but against the undergraduate humour of Senator Wheeldon, I now crave your protection.
– I must insist that the Senate come to order. It is disorderly to interrupt when a senator is speaking.
-This detente is so fragile that even an event such as the attempted coup in Cyprus by the Greek Government can upset the detente. It is as fragile as a web that is struck by a bird. Whether welike it or not, it is in this area that we become dependent for our foreign policy. We cannot create a system of detente at all. It is created by the agreement of the 2 superpowers. Perhaps the world is the beneficiary of it, and I hope that we will continue to be the beneficiary of it. But that is not the Australian foreign policy.
The next clue that one can get is that some 12 months ago in answer to a question, as I recall it, Senator Willesee said that our foreign policymeaning the foreign policy of his Government -is based upon fraternal relations and not paternal relations. Fraternal relations with whom and with what fraternal party? Of course, this becomes clear as the debate continues. Senator James McClelland just mentioned that the fraternal relationships are the fraternal relationships with fellow socialist parties or as he said, splitting hairs, with socialist democratic parties. So I must assume now that our relationship is a unilateral relationship with friendly socialist nations and not with the nations with which we have been in the habit of having relationships in terms of alliances in the past and nations which have a cultural kinship with us. They are the nations where the concepts of law and order, justice and the rights of free men and freedom of speech are maintained. The policy is being changed over to a relationship with socialist democratic nations, and I cannot think of one of those nations at the present time which do not have concentration camps and which are not sustained by a military dictatorship.
– Do they have concentration camps in New Zealand?
-We are not talking about New Zealand. Then I had to search for a further clue in this matter. So I went to the Parliamentary Library this afternoon, because I have a good memory, and I discovered an article in the Sydney ‘Bulletin’ of the first week of January 1973. It was written 3 weeks after the present Government was elected in December 1972. It commenced ‘Dr Evatt- a great patriot’. It is a 3-page article. It was written by a man named Mr Allan Renouf who, shortly after he wrote this article, was appointed Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs. I will refer to 2 extracts from this article. On the third page he said:
I would also say that it is the policy - referring to Dr Evatt ‘s foreign policy- which Australian governments of the future will be forced to follow whether it is their inclination or not.
Finally he said:
His most notable achievement in foreign affairs was that he formulated and implemented for Australia a truly national foreign policy; the only kind of foreign policy any country worth its salt can have.
That is what he was saying and that is what the Government is saying. What was Dr Evatt trying to do? Dr Evatt believed that Australia’s foreign policy should be founded on the basis of formulating a foreign policy sustained and based upon the United Nations. He also believed that the United Nations should be controlled and conducted by the small countries and that it should attempt to curb and take power away from the 5 great superpowers which have the power of veto inside the United Nations Organisation and which, in essence, provide the sinews with which the peace of the world can be sustained. That was Dr Evatt ‘s theorem. In the process he became President of the United Nations. This caused an enormous amount of activity in the small Australian foreign service at that time.
We opened embassies all around the world and particularly in South America. I think that we opened 5 embassies in South America. Eventually, amongst the small nations, Australia was able to muster enough votes to enable Dr Evatt to be elected as the President of the United Nations. I do not think that anyone looking back over his shoulder- except the writer of the article to which I have just referred- would regard Dr Evatt ‘s foreign policy as being very substantial. But that is not the point. The point is that this afternoon Senator Wheeldon said that the Australian foreign policy is directed towards attempting to have my friend Senator Willesee elected as the President of the United Nations. It has been accompanied over the last 12 months by a galvanic effort to increase the number of missions and legations that we have throughout the world.
– That is not true. It is unfair.
-We have recognised the Chinese, we have recognised the North Koreans and we have recognised many other countries, such as Algeria. We have sent an observer to the Committee of 77. Perhaps honourable senators opposite have not heard of the Committee of 77. Nearly all of the countries represented on this Committee are socialist countries. I am dashed if I know whether they would qualify as socialist democratic countries. I will take the Latin American states. Argentina has a dictatorship. It has prison or concentration camps. I do not know what the position is in the Barbados. Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala and Haiti are all dictatorships. These are people who espouse the socialist doctrine or concept. I will refer to some of the African states which are represented on the Committee of 77. Algeria is another socialist state. Other socialist states are Burundi, the Cameroons, the Central African Republic, the Congo, Dahomey, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, the Niger, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania. They all claim to be part of the socialist brotherhood, and they are all dictatorships.
– Are you saying that Brazil is a socialist country?
-I am saying that it is. It is run by the army at the present time.
– A socialist country?
-There was a socialist regime there and the army upended it.
-D° you say that Chile is a socialist country?
-It was until Allende was killed. We have the curious situation in which we have moved away from ancient loyalties and old associations with countries with which we had equality of confidence. They treated us with integrity and we treated them with integrity. We have moved into the area of the Third World which is composed of these people to whom I have referred and who are centred in the United Nations. It seems to me that because most of them are of a socialist democratic nature or a socialist nature they are the foundations on which we erect our foreign policy.
– Even if they are dictatorships?
-Yes. This is the first occasion on which the Senate has had an opportunity to examine Australia’s foreign policy. This policy has been forced on us because there has never been a clear and coherent statement as to what Australia’s foreign policy foundations are. We have come to this Anal position. Is this the most effective foreign policy that can serve the best interests of Australia? That is the test. No honourable senator opposite answers that question. We then go on and look a little further to see what has been happening over the last 12 months. I find some clues in the Budget Papers which were presented last night. If one looks at the document relating to our foreign aid program one sees the extent to which the program has been increased over the last 12 months. I have not got the document with me at the moment.
– Will I go and get it for you?
-It would be jolly nice if you would do that, Senator Poyser It will be seen from that document that our multilateral aid through the United Nations has increased by over 30 per cent and our aid under bilateral arrangements also has increased by a very substantial degree. This has nothing to do with Papua New Guinea. The figures are extraordinarily high. According to the Budget Papers which were presented last night, they are higher this ensuing year than they were last year. All this has been done to impress these Third World people who come within the United Nations. As a member of this Senate I have served in the United Nations as an observer. It would be good if all honourable senators could go to the United Nations which is sitting at the present time. I would guarantee that there would not be one honourable senator opposite who would not get the greatest fright in his life.
Recently a delegation from the Committee of Twenty-four was invited to Australia. It is an illegal committee of the United Nations. What was that delegation invited here to do? It was invited to inspect sovereign parts of Australia. It was invited to come and look at the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. When one of the delegates was interviewed here in Canberra he was asked what right he had to be interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. He said: ‘We can do what we like’. As far as I am concerned, they cannot do what they like.
– Who said that?
-One of the members of that delegation.
– Which one?
-I do not know. He came from Venezuela or somewhere. This is the sort of foundation that this Government is using in an attempt to erect a foreign policy. If we can personalise nations, we have reached a situation in which we are pandering to our enemies because there is not a friend amongst those countries. We are rejecting and destroying our friends, the friends that have stuck with us for the last 25 years. As far as I am concerned, that is no foundation for a foreign policy; it is no foreign policy. I wish Senator Willesee well if he is to become the President of the United Nations. When he becomes the President he will find himself surrounded by the greatest bunch of international gangsters he has ever seen in his life.
– We have just listened to a speech from Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. We all came to recognise him as a great President of the Senate, but I think his facts on foreign affairs at this stage are somewhat out of date. He put up the argument that has been put from the Opposition benches, namely, that a good deal of the foreign relations trends that are now being developed by the Government and by Senator Willesee, who is an outstanding Foreign Minister, have been developed because the Minister wants to be appointed President of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
All the countries to which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack referred as having a voice in the election of the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations have no voice at all. Everybody in this place was rather surprised to hear the honourable senator refer to many democratic countries, such as Barbados, as being under dictatorship. The last time I was in Barbados I saw a typical British parliamentary system. It was very much a copy of the Australian system, with a strong British influence and parliamentary traditions. I mention in passing that apparently I have a relation there in the form of a police prosecutor. He is a coloured person and his name happens to be Bishop. Certainly the recent history of the countries referred to is good. The history has not been one of dictatorship. As Senator Willesee has pointed out previously, the argument put up by the Opposition to the effect that Senator Willesee is bending towards certain countries with a view to gaining votes is quite false because these countries are not entitled to cast a vote.
As everybody knows, since the Labor Government came to power there has been a breath of fresh air in our foreign relations. Senator Willesee is one of the most distinguished Foreign Ministers we have had. Opposition senators have always applauded him. I was rather surprised tonight to hear honourable senators opposite, who previously have applauded Senator Willesee as being a most moderate Minister, accomplished and reasonable in carrying out most of the jobs that he has had, say that he should be sacked. Why should he be sacked? This motion is a stunt by the Opposition in an endeavour to gain some political capital. The allegations have been completely refuted. This is the second time in recent months that the Opposition has raised this matter of the Russian who went home of his own accord. The Opposition has tried to get some capital out of this matter. I remind the Opposition and the people of Australia that the Opposition has used the argument that the Labor Party as a government and Senator Willesee as the Minister for Foreign Affairs should have used force to keep this man Ermolenko in Australia. What sort of argument is that to put up to a Foreign Minister?
I remind the Senate that most of our neighbours now record that the Australian Government, and Senator Willesee and Mr Whitlam, have ensured that Australia has a new independence. Honourable senators opposite accepted for years the proposition that detente was all right. When Nixon was in power it was all right to go along with the Soviet Union in respect of great issues in order to maintain a peaceful situation; but now it is wrong. Honourable senators opposite want to attack the Soviet Union. They want to attack this Government over a situation which was brought about by accident. As Senator James McClelland said, it was simply the adjustment by a young person to a new environment. That is the situation.
Let us be frank amout this matter. Most of my colleagues on the other side of the Senate who have been with me on overseas delegations or who have been members of other delegations are conscious of the facts. Recently I went with a number of members of the Liberal Party to Burma, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. If one were to ask the people in our neighbouring countries what they thought they would say that the Australian Government has had a new viewpoint since Mr Whitlam became Prime Minister and since Senator Willesee became Foreign Minister. There is no question about that. The Government’s record has been applauded by most of the responsible foreign commentators and also by the Press. Our record is good. What is our record? What are we trying to do?
I have sat under the chairmanship of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. He is a most astute chairman. He is intelligent and usually he is up to date on things. He asks what is our foreign policy, as though it has not been stated before by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I will remind him of some of the things which have been placed on record by the Prime Minister. This is quite separate from the argument which I have put against the Opposition’s claim in respect of the American alliance and what has been done to obtain a peaceful relationship with the Soviet Union. The Opposition wants to throw that alliance overboard and create antagonism.
– I did not say that at all.
-There is no doubt that the honourable senator had qualifications about detente and what it would mean. He said that Senator Willesee was looking for new friends so that he could get their votes
– That is right.
– Right. I told the honourable senator that the countries which he mentioned have no vote anyway. He asked what our foreign policy was. I have with me some statements which the Prime Minister made in Washington in July 1 973.
– What did he say in May this year?
- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack asked what our foreign policy was. I am trying to give the basis of our foreign policy. Mr Whitlam said:
He was talking in Washington in July 1973 about, of course, the Liberal-Country Party coalition- have sprung in large measure from a vague and generalised fear of our own environment, the feeling has been alien in our own continent and our own region.
As a result, we have tended to swing between -
– When did he say that?
– Can I answer the question raised by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack? The Prime Minister said:
As a result, we have tended to swing between isolationism and interventionism, between ‘ Fortress Australia ‘ -
John Gorton’s proposition- and over-dependence on one great powerful protector; and, culturally, between slavish imitation and brash selfassertion.
We were, as everybody knows, quite slavish to the United States of America in situations in which we should not have been. Such action has since been proven to be quite wrong. Recently the Prime Minister said:
We have got our political relations right with the United States, with Japan, with China, with Indonesia- with the United States, the most powerful nation in earth, with Japan, our greatest trading partner, with China, the most populous nation on earth, with Indonesia, the great next door neighbour of ours . . .
I told honourable senators opposite in February of this year- I suggest that they ask their colleagues who went with me to the countries I visited- that in those countries the Australian Government was applauded because of its policy. On 3 September Marshall Green, an internationally known diplomat, said on his return after meeting the new President Ford: ‘Our relations will improve. They will get better. They are good’. So the fact is that Senator Willesee has been a most astute Minister for Foreign Affairs. He is as good as any Ministers whom honourable senators opposite might have produced. Some of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs from the party to which honourable senators opposite belong sometimes put forward a policy not unlike that of the Labor Party. Of course I refer to our last Governor-General Hasluck. Many times he said the sorts of things which we are saying now but he could not put those suggestions into practice because he was in the wrong government. I put to honourable senators opposite: What are you up to?
– We agreed with the Government’s policy. We believed that what the Russians did was wrong and the honourable senator did too.
– What did the honourable senator want to do?
– We were both in agreement. The Government changed its policy.
-No, it did not. Whatever mistakes our Government may have made- we have made mistakes and so will honourable senators opposite- and whatever we did for the first time we created a new, national aspect, a new form of nationalism which was well accepted in our region. Because of this the prestige of our country has been enhanced. One of the people honourable senators opposite are attacking tonight, and whom they have often applauded, is the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He has some qualities which we all know. He has a certain casual attitude, a diplomatic attitude which has gone a long way towards strengthening our friendships. What did honourable senators opposite want to do? They wanted to use this situation about the Russian to ask Senator Willesee to force the Government to retain within Australia a young person. This is so, whatever the variations of the story might be and there are variations. The fact is that finally it became apparent that the young fellow wanted to get back to bis homeland. But on 13 August 1974, not so long ago, Senator Durack moved this motion:
That the Senate demands -
Not asks, not requests- that the Government ensure that Georgi Ermolenko be able to consider free from duress . . .
– Finish it off.
-That is the essential thing.
– Finish it off.
– There are other statements.
– Be fair about it.
– I ask honourable senators to listen to me. I have not finished reading the motion which honourable senators opposite put up that Ermolenko be not permitted to leave Australia.
– It continues: ‘until such time’.
– That was repeated several times. Let me read a circular which was put out by the Federal President of the Liberal Party, Mr R. J. Southey, on 13 August 1974.
– I ask the Minister to give us the full quotation first.
-This is the great party which acts on its own and which receives no instructions from some central secretariat like the Labor Party! We agree with that policy in relation to conferences and executives. But this is a newsletter of 13 August 1974.
– I ask the Minister to spell it out to me. I have not read it yet.
– There you are, you will not let me quote it.
– Firstly, give me the full quotation of the motion.
-A11 right, if the honourable senator wants it. The motion states:
That is the important point- until such time as he has had the opportunity (for 24 hours at least) . . .
– That is a very different story.
– For heavens sake, what sort of logic is that in the reasoning of honourable senators opposite? They asked Senator Willesee to restrain by force this young bloke from leaving this country. If somebody did that to a visitor from Australia in the Soviet Union honourable senators would be up in arms, would they not? We would be, too. If anybody stopped me from leaving the Soviet Union or China I know that I would expect my country to defend me. Honourable senators opposite are saying that we have the right to stop this lad who had a certain change of opinion. I do not want to canvass that matter because it has been well canvassed. It is obvious that honourable senators opposite have instructions from their Federal President. One of the paragraphs in the letter to which I referred states:
If the Government wished it could establish circumstances in which Ermolenko could be placed on neutral ground for a day or 48 hours . . .
It then continues in another vein with very careful wording in the last paragraph:
The solution is simple- have Ermolenko put on neutral ground to make up his mind certainly free from the pressures of 4 Russian companions and guards. We will know how to judge the Government by the results.
Of course the Federal President was urging honourable senators to try to persuade the Government to take that action by force if necessary. Not only did honourable senators and their Federal President do that. Sir Charles Court supported the same petition in Perth. A report in a Western Australian newspaper states:
Sir Charles said he asked Senator Willesee to arrange for Ermolenko to be removed from the influence of the Russians.
What sort of a situation was the Minister in? The situation is reported in the ‘West Australian’ of 15 August. It states:
There were angry scenes at Perth airport last night -
Senator Willesee reported those scenes. The report continued:
A torrent of abuse greeted the Transport Workers’ Union secretary, Mr R. Cowles, the Musicians’ Union secretary, Mr Harry Bluck, and the Trades and Labor Council secretary, Mr Jim Coleman . . . Others yelled: ‘Traitors’ and Murderers’.
When Don Willesee was quizzed in Parliament on 16 August he stated the situation as he saw it. It seems to me that he completely justified his. action. After all, a Minister for Foreign Affairs surely has to be able to act as a Minister, not swayed by any unusual incidents. He has to act on behalf of his country in the protocol and tradition of his office as Minister for Foreign Affairs. He stated -
– Which page is this?
-It is at page 1069 of the Senate Hansard of 16 August. It states:
- Senator Durack knows perfectly well who they are. According to the information I had there was a strong possibility of very ugly scenes occurring at the Penh airport should the Government attempt to get the Russian party on the commercial British Airways flight from that airport. For example, on the previous evening large crowds had gathered at the airport, even though the Russians were not present, and created angry scenes when union officials were considering their attitude to the ban. A large crowd gathered at the airport next day in anticipation of the Russians boarding an aircraft. The Government decided that it simply could not guarantee the safety of the Russian party in such circumstances.
That is what Senator Willesee did. In my opinion, that is the sort of obligation which we would expect him to carry out. Tonight he has justified that obligation and he justified it formerly. All that has happened since is that honourable senators opposite, on the second occasion, have tried to make capital out of the 2 situations. I suggest that one situation has been completely spent, as Senator Willesee said today. Tonight this young bloke in fact is fiddling on in West Berlin. To suggest that we should have taken action by force to restrain him is futile. But what did Mr Snedden do? Have any honourable senators opposite promised to do anything about this? So far, the only statement we have from the Leader of the Liberal Party appeared in the Australian’ of 9 September. The report states:
A Federal Liberal Government would review Australia’s recognition of Russia ‘s sovereignty over the Baltic States, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, said in Melbourne yesterday.
Addressing about 300 members of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian communities, Mr Snedden stopped short of saying that he would reverse the decision.
Honourable senators will see that he condemned the position but did not promise any action. They are the realities of the situation. I want to conclude my remarks by saying that in my opinion what has been put here tonight was not properly put in relation to the motion. We heard contributions from honourable senators who talked about a number of wide international issues. In my opinion, Senator Willesee has passed the test that has been applied to him clearly. He had the responsibility of acting for his country and did so in a correct manner. As many of the newspapers have stated, he has had a golden run as the Foreign Minister. He is an accomplished Foreign Minister in the best traditions of our country. It is hypocrisy for members of the Opposition to try to condemn him. I suggest that the Senate ought to get on with the business of assisting the Government to run the economy.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Greenwood) is asking the Senate to recommend the dismissal of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) on 3 grounds which the motion moved by Senator Greenwood itemised. The second paragraph of his motion has been the subject of very many petitions and representations that have been made to the Parliament by citizens around Australia who have their ethnic roots in the Baltic countries. I am extremely surprised to find that the Opposition would bury the only real essence of this motion between 2 other paragraphs which do not belong in the motion at all. It would be quite impossible and unjust for the Senate, even though it is a formality of protest to put in the paragraphs which call for the dismissal of the Minister, to actually call for the Minister’s dismissal on what has been presented to the Senate over some hours of discussion today on what is known about the Ermolenko affair. No one has proven anything or given any evidence to the Senate to substantiate any claim for refuge or asylum made by that person. I heard Senator Jessop say by way of interjection that Ermolenko sought asylum. Senator Carrick said that he sought refuge. But no one has been able to prove that these things were said. Therefore, no one has given a reason for his request to stay in Australia, except that he liked it. That is the only construction I can put on what the Opposition is putting up to the Senate.
– Do you have any alternatives?
– I cannot prove anything, any more than Senator Jessop can prove anything. So Senator Jessop admits -
– Well, forget about it.
– I am quite happy to forget about it, but Senator Jessop is not. Senator Jessop, without the slightest proof, asks in the Senate that the Minister’s handling of the Ermolenko affair be one reason for his dismissal from office.
– But is not the point the fact that the opportunity which we might all have had was denied us by his being spirited out of the country on the day before court proceedings were taken?
-No, it is not. It is the very furthering of the argument that Senator Rae uses now that damages the central core of this motion. The central core of this motion is the cause of the Baltic states because that is unarguable as an action.
– We all agree with you.
-If Opposition senators realise it, why do they damage it? It is a very ill-timed or ill-thought out strategic move to bury between 2 unsupportable propositions the very real cause of the recognition of Russian sovereignty over the Baltic states.
– You are only expressing an opinion, are you not?
-Of course I am expressing an opinion in the Senate. That is why the people elected me here. Senator Webster can express his opinion. But I am telling honourable senators that that is my view and it is the view held by a considerable number of other people on this subject. It is very disappointing to find, as inevitably will occur, that the debate has centred on other than the Baltic states question. If honourable senators were to go through Hansard and add up the amount of time that has been devoted to the various parts of this long debate since it commenced some time after 2.15 p.m. today, they would find that the Baltic states have been a minor part of the argument. I would like to join in voting to censure the Minister on his recommendation to his Government, which apparently was accepted, or to censure him for his part in making the decision and the responsibility he bears for the Government’s recognition of the sovereignty of Soviet Russia over the Baltic states. For the Opposition to put 2 useless additional arguments in the motion puts senators who want to join in that protest in regard to the Baltic states in a very difficult position. Senator Greenwood has proven nothing. Every time he rises to speak in the Senate in relation to the Ermolenko affair, his credibility has gone down. It has gone down -
– You are sitting on the fence.
– I do not want to dignify Senator Jessop ‘s argument in the Senate. But if he can prove to the people who elected him to the Senate and to the people who elected me here that I sit on fences, I say good luck to him. As I have said, the situation is very difficult for people who want to support the representations of the people in Australia who have their ethnic roots in the Baltic countries when those who have brought the motion before the Senate have buried that case amongst irrelevancies.
The Ermolenko discussion- it is nothing more than that- is an attempt to put words into the mouth of someone when we have no idea what he said. As I have said, no one has given any reason as to why he wanted to stay here in Australia, except that he liked it. I know other people who would like to stay in Australia and who cannot. There has to be a bigger reason than just that. As far as the Foreign Minister’s handling of our alignments overseas are concerned, obviously that would be a matter of some political conflict. But the Senate cannot legitimately ask for his dismissal at this stage for his handling of that part of his responsibilities. There is nothing proven in that regard, with supporting arguments which would justify the Senate passing a motion on that basis. Certainly, paragraphs 1 and 3 are not supportable in the terms in which they are put to the Senate. What do those of us do who want to support only the essential middle ingredient of this motion? Are we to put ourselves in the very foolish position of asking for the dismissal of the Minister as a form of protest to be carried by the Senate by voting for all 3 paragraphs? If we vote that way, it would be not just an Opposition protest- I hope that the Opposition understands the importance of that- but the motion would be carried on the basis that the Opposition has proven its case in the Ermolenko affair and on the basis that we believe the Minister has harmed Australia’s national interest to the very serious extent that he should vacate his office.
Those of us who would like to support the Opposition are therefore made to look fools on two out of the 3 propositions contained in the motion. Senator Greenwood may think that is funny but it is not very funny because I do not want to join with the very stupid strategic moves for which he has been responsible in the Senate. I would have thought that, following upon the publicity that has been given to apparent changes of heart, the honourable senator may have upgraded his strategy in presenting his moves to the Senate. But he has not and he has greatly damaged his case. Of course, he did not pay me the courtesy of informing me what his motion would be. I obtained knowledge of that from the Government. Therefore, he has not asked for cooperation. Certainly, he has not sought it now in the way in which he has framed his motion. However, I do join with the protest on the central theme.
Of course, the damage which the Government has done is not practical damage in the sense of having any effect on the sovereignty of the 3 Baltic states. But what it does is divide the Australian community and to make very uncomfortable a very important section of the Australian community that has come from those countries or, as I have said before, has its roots in those countries. It is quite inexcusable that the Government should have taken this action, surely knowing that it would cause great disturbance to tens of thousands of people in Australia who hold very dear the precepts and the heritage they have from that part of Europe. Why the Government stepped far ahead of other companion countries in making this recognition is something of a mystery to the Senate and something about which the Minister will not inform it.
– He cannot.
-He cannot or he will not. Certainly there has been no real reason given why we in Australia should be marked in the world community as stepping forward out of Une with our allies in this respect. I resent the distress it causes to the people of those origins living in Australia. I feel very deeply for them, as obviously do the Opposition senators in general, and I join in that protest. I trust that the organisation that those ethnic groups are entering into will be effective in demonstrating to the Government that it cannot lightly throw aside such firmly and deeply held views of the people who have done a very great amount in Australia to develop this country and to change us for the better. So I support the second part of the amendment.
However, if I vote for this motion I will make myself very foolish as a senator from South Australia in giving support to the first and third parts of the amendment. I would suggest that Senator Greenwood who moved this motion would serve his case a great deal better and would certainly serve the case of people who have origins in the Baltic countries much more emphatically in this debate and in its result if he sought the permission of the Senate to excise from this motion the first and third parts, to leave quite clearly before the Senate the essence of the argument which ought to be concentrated upon and which is in the minds of those people in Australia who are so disturbed about this matter.
– Do you support the Government’s foreign policy by supporting the third part?
-Senator Greenwood was here when I spoke about that and I do not want to reiterate what I said. Certainly Senator Greenwood cannot separate the Foreign Minister from the rest of the Government and say that he ought to resign from the Foreign Affairs responsibility he bears any more than he can ask other Ministers to resign. Obviously honourable senators on this side of the House would like to displace all the Government Ministers, but that is the system in operation in any Westminster-type Parliament. But for heaven’s sake let us concentrate on the issues and not damage the core of the matter. I ask Senator Greenwood in a spirit of co-operation to tighten the message that he wants to have this Senate deliver to the Government and thereby give evidence to the public and serve the cause of those who feel so deeply about it by excising the extraneous matter.
Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria)-I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. Senator Steele Hall in the course of his remarks- and he is entitled to his views- said that every time I rise on the Ermolenko affair to speak in this place my credibility diminishes. I only want -
– He is entitled to say that.
– He is perfectly entitled to his view. I want to say only that this is the first occasion on which I have addressed myself to the Senate- apart from the questions I have asked- on the Ermolenko affair.
– I do not propose at this stage to assist Senator Steele Hall in deciding on which side of the fence he should get off. He stated that he opposes one of our propositions but supports others. I will not go into the Ermolenko affair. I think we have had it fully debated in this House over the last half dozen days of sitting. If by this stage certain people are not convinced one way or the other I am quite sure that nothing I will say will alter their situation. I will go to the third part of the amendment because I believe that in it we have the very crux of the foreign policy of this Government. We say that the foreign policy alignments that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) is promoting will not serve Australia’s national interest. It is all very well for Government supporters to say, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) said, that it is a collective decision. It is obviously not a collective decision in Cabinet because Caucus seems to run the Government these days. So we might say that it is a collective decision of Caucus. But there are people outside who control Caucus, so God knows how far we go before we find where the collective decision is made.
The foreign policy of this Government has been a disaster not only for this nation but for the free world. If the Minister is prepared to accept the responsibilities of the position of Minister for Foreign Affairs and is prepared to accept all the decisions from either his Cabinet colleagues, Caucus or the outside body which controls them, he has to take the responsibility for those decisions. As I said earlier, I believe that our foreign policy has been a disaster. Whenever these matters crop up in this Parliament the communist countries can do no wrong and the Western world can do no right. We have seen this time after time. Because of our geographical situation we need to have strong allies. We need to make sure that we have friends and we must be sure that we have agreements with our friends. Of course, we must have a defence force to back up those agreements. But what have we done in the life of this Government? We have isolated ourselves from our traditional friends, those who have the same parliamentary system of government as we have, who have the same way of life as we have, and who believe in peaceful coexistence.
– Who are they?
-Senator Keeffe knows who they are because they helped him and me when we were up in the islands in the 1940s. I know he was there. These are the people who do not believe in interfering in other people’s and other nations’ affairs We have rubbished them. This Government and the nation- of course, we are all part of it now- have lost respect throughout the free world, the anti-communist world. We have lost its respect, but whenever a communist nation or one of the -
– Like Brazil?
-That is all right. We saw Senator Wheeldon gyrating always to the
Left when he made his contribution to this debate.
-Left of what?
– I do not know what he was left of but he was going to the Left further and further. I do not know whether he could go any further, he went around so many times. I disagree with the attitude of this Government.
– That is the wrong word.
– The words should be that I disagree with the unqualified support that this Government gives to everything that the communist countries do. We have had examples of it here. We had a few questions yesterday and today about fishing boats off Western Australia Men were put in gaol and we complained because Senator Wriedt said that we did something about it. Those men happened to be Taiwanese. But what happened to the Indonesian fishing boats? They got different treatment altogether. Whenever there is someone from the Western world the Government has to give him different treatment.
– Like Taiwan.
– Yes, like Taiwan.
– And that is the Western world.
-They have just as much right to exist in this world as the Chinese or anyone else but they get different treatment from this Government. We saw a great example of this the other day. The only aspect of the Ermolenko affair I want to refer to is the use of the Royal Australian Air Force aircraft. The Government could use a RAAF aircraft to take Ermolenko out of the country to beat union bans but I have not seen any move to date to use the armed services to avert the fuel crisis in Australia and particularly in areas of Queensland.
– You are out of date.
– I know that Dr Patterson came down and obtained fuel for the Navy up in Cairns but there is none there now. It has all been used. What is the Government doing now about the problems that we have in Queensland today? Honourable senators opposite know what the supply situation is there. They also know that Queensland produces 95 per cent of Australia ‘s sugar.
– What has this to do with Latvia?
– It has a lot to do with Latvia. It has a lot to do with the situation I am talking about because the Government, by giving its support to the communist nations and their fellow travellers in this country, has given them an air of respectability.
– Who are they?
– Are they not running riot in the country today?
– Give us a list.
-Mr Mundey is quite happy to get up, under the protection of this Government, and say: ‘Yes, I am a communist. I am the President of the Communist Party in Australia. Just wait. We are going to have an autumn offensive and we will bring this country to its knees’. We do not have to wait for an autumn offensive; we have a spring offensive. Any one who has any knowledge of what is happening in the fuel situation with the Transport Workers Union and the associated unions will know that the position today is very critical. That is why I am saying that this Government’s attitude towards the communist nations is not only bad for us overseas but also, by giving an air of respectability to the communists in this country, it has allowed them to use honourable workers, under the guise of obtaining better conditions and higher wages for them, to gain control of key industries, to bring this nation almost to its knees.
Let us face it. We have a situation where we have a fuel supply of only about 2 days. This is happening. The Government knows that it is happening. The sugar industry which is worth $375m to Queensland, is in jeopardy because it is necessary to have fuel to run the harvesters and mills. The crop cannot be harvested next year or in 6 months time. The same situation applies to wheat. In Queensland the wheat crop is harvested a lot earlier that it is in the other States. It is about to be harvested now in the north.
- Mr Deputy President, I draw your attention to the Standing Orders. The speaker has completely deviated from the subject matter under debate. I fail to see that sugar has anything to do with the Ermolenko affair.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- I suggest to Senator Maunsell that he connect up his arguments.
– I thought I had done that twice. I repeat that because of its alliances and because of its grovelling to the communist countries of the world, the Government has given an air of respectability to the communists in this country. It has put a cover over them and has said: ‘You can go and do what you like.’ They are now disrupting the industries of this country. Senator Keeffe is not interested in what happens to the sugar industry in Queensland. He does not care if the sugar is not harvested.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Maunsell, if you want to be heard in silence you should not argue with Senator Keeffe.
– I will accept your ruling, Mr Deputy President. These are the facts of the matter. I am concerned that the wheat harvest in Queensland will be coming up very shortly and there will be a shortage of fuel for harvesting that wheat. After all, one cannot harvest wheat by hand. Consequently I would like to know exactly what the Government intends in its policy towards the communist nations. What is it going to do with the communists in this country? The whole nation will go to the wall shortly if this policy continues, and all for what purpose? Maybe it is to sell a bit of wool to China. We still do not know the price. Is that the idea? Is the Government making friends with that nation so that we can trade with it? That is what Dr Cairns informs us. He says that we have to be friendly with these countries. Of course we all agree that we have to recognise the fact that they exist. But that does not mean that we have to grovel to them. To this date we do not know what was paid for that wool or what was its quality. Nobody has been prepared to tell us but we know that wool was sold to Communist China.
We also know that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and others will shortly be visiting Soviet Russia. I presume that that has something to do with the recognition of the Baltic states. Only a few months ago the Prime Minister said that he would not have a bar of it.
– Did you go to Russia last year?
– Yes. I will go to any country to find out for myself because I believe that one should not stand in this place, make a decision or give one’s views about any nation until one has been there. That is the reason I went there.
– Give us your views.
– I have given them from time to time. I am quite satisfied that this is a much better country than Russia and much better governed, even if it is under a Labor Government. These are the reasons.
– What would Russia be like if it had our Government?
– If Russia had your Government I reckon the Russians would probably rush off to the United States of America and make an alliance with that country straight away. But if you carry on much longer they might change their minds.
– Order! If the honourable senator addressed the Chair his speech might be more acceptable.
– If he spoke on the motion it would be better.
– I have been speaking on the motion. I support the motion before the Chair. As I said before, the Ermolenko affair has had a great airing in this place. The Opposition has made many inquiries and has not been able to obtain much information. This applies not only to the Ermolenko affair but also to other matters on which questions have been asked of the Minister and we have not been able to obtain the answers that we want. I do not know whether the Minister was able to persuade the Prime Minister, Cabinet, Caucus or the outside body but apparently he was able to change this Government’s policy in respect of the Baltic states. The Opposition is completely opposed to it.
– To what?
– To the Baltic states being incorporated in the U.S.S.R. We have stated that. Honourable senators opposite all agreed with us two or three months ago. I certainly believe that the foreign policy that this Government has been carrying out in the last 18 months or so has been completely dangerous to the security of this country. It has put us in a situation where we are being isolated. We have had a fortress Australia policy. If ever we needed a fortress Australia policy it is today because we have been isolated from all our friends. Where is the fortress Australia? What has happened to the defence forces of this country? Since this Government has been in office they have been run down. No one can understand the intention of the dreadful Budget that was brought down last night but certainly in one direction everyone can understand it, and that is in the allocation for the defence forces of this country. There is no doubt that we cannot expect to have a decent defence force under last night’s allocation. We must have a strong defence force if we want to back up the so-called independent, isolated foreign policy that this Government has been carrying out. I support the motion.
– 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 -
– You called ‘no’.
-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.
– You did not ask for the Standing Order to be suspended.
– The motion I asked to vote on was that the matter be dealt with forthwith and that we suspend Standing Order 127.
– What is wrong with that?
-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 Ermolenko at 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.
– And Mr Snedden.
-And Senator Withers may 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.
– You might have got into trouble.
– 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.
– There has been no suggestion of that hitherto. Is there any basis in that? Is this something that has been withheld from us?
– I do not make statements which have no foundation. Senator Greenwood based all his arguments on Press reports.
– Why did not the Minister tell us?
– 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 Ermolenko himself 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?
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?
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.
– The Senate is discussing a motion which states that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) is deserving of censure and ought to resign because:
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Cavanagh, who has just resumed his seat, said that in his view this matter was holding up the debate on today’s Senate business. He reduced such an important matter to a few flippant references to some romantic issue. I ask the Minister where he was a few weeks ago when in Adelaide thousands of people crowded into Victoria Square and into St Peter’s Cathedral. My colleagues Senators Laucke, Jessop and Young were there. Where was Senator Cavanagh if he was concerned about the Baltic people? Where will he be tomorrow when bus loads of people from Sydney, Melbourne and Newcastle and as far away as Adelaide and Brisbane will assemble in front of Parliament House to tell him and the Government what they think of him and of the policies which he and the Government have been following in relation to these Baltic people? The Minister, as a Minister of the Crown, might have done better than to reduce the importance of the issue before the Senate today to the level that he did. No less a person than his colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs, when trying to defend his feeble action in relation to the Baltic states, said: ‘They have never had freedom as we understand it. ‘ In short, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, representing this Government, is prepared to say that, because the people of the Baltic states have never had freedom ‘ as we understand it’, they should never have it or have an opportunity to have it.
Later in the debate Senator James McClelland deplored the fact that the Baltic states had been taken over by the Soviet Union. All day long Government senators have deplored the fact that the Soviet Union had taken over the Baltic states. Yet not one, either by his words or his contribution to the debate, has said that the Government might at least have adopted a more sympathetic, a more understanding and indeed a more honest approach when making a decision on this matter.
There are two or three things in this motion about which we might say something. We believe that all matters brought forward for debate in the Senate have degrees of importance and gravity. This issue has both importance and gravity. I deplore the fact that Senator Milliner who is trying to interject and others obviously regard this matter as having no importance whatever and certainly no gravity. The importance of the issue is emphasised because it includes attitudes to other nations, relations to foreign policy, the people of those nations and the relationship between the welfare of those people, on the one hand, and the Australian Government’s decisions on the other. The issue has a gravity because, in giving effect to its importance, the Government today has in its relationship with other nations and the people of those nations taken decisions and implemented policies that I can describe only as unnecessary, unjustified, unreal, unsympathetic and even callous and cruel. I do not shrink from the full meaning of the words ‘callous’ and ‘cruel’, for along with other honourable senators and honourable members I have gathered an appreciation of the treatment and policies of the Soviet Union in relation both to individuals and nations and of the intrigue which it employs. When the Government gives effect, as it has done, to this sort of policy one must use these terms, and I do so.
The first paragraph of the motion refers to something which I can describe only as a denial of human rights and as events contrary to the rule of law as it applied to Ermolenko. The case involving the Russian violinist is a matter of deep concern. Between Sunday, 1 1 August, and Thursday, 15 August, a series of events took place in Perth, Western Australia, which to my mind are still of the gravest concern. I submit to the Minister that the events have about them all the atmosphere of unanswered questions and unresolved issues. The Minister has not satisfied the inquiries of the Parliament and the Australian people. The Ermolenko case gives grave cause for suspicion and deep personal anxiety and concern. I believe that the Russian violinist requested residence in Australia, and I say that it was refused. The speeches of the Minister and Government senators on this issue have not answered my questions or satisfied my anxiety. When a visitor applies for residence in Australia many factors are raised. Therefore, we recognise that in applying to Australian officials for residence in Australia Ermolenko was in effect applying for political asylum. In my view the asylum was refused, and I am not convinced to the contrary by the Minister’s answers. I am convinced that on this issue the Australian Government has lost enormous moral credibility. The Government which claims to have made progress in the areas to which I am referring, has indicated that it has little concern for the people of the Baltic states and for the future of a 19- year-old musician.
The best the Government can offer to us by way of explanation is that at the moment the man is playing with some orchestra in West Berlin. He may well be, and I hope that he has many future engagements and tours of duty throughout Europe and the rest of the world. I repeat what has already been said on this side of the Senate today: There is a long arm of memory in relation to these people, and there is always the uncertainty and the question mark relating to his freedom and that of his family. This debate was initiated by the irresponsible action of the present Government during the visit of the Russian violinist to Australia. We have just had read to us a recent newspaper report to which no other honourable senator has referred during the course of this long debate. What about the report that the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs asked the Soviet charge d’affaires, Mr Smirnov, for assurances that the young violinist would not be punished for having sought political asylum and residence in Australia? Mr Smirnov very readily gave these assurances.
During the years thousands of Australians have taken up residence in other countries, but at no time has it occured to the Foreign Minister of those countries to ask the Australian charge d’affaires or ambassador for clemency should those people desire to return to Australia. Is it true that our Foreign Minister found it necessary to ask Mr Smirnov for such an assurance? The Minister for Foreign Affairs has said nothing about it, and neither have the other Ministers who have spoken in this debate. Significantly more than one other Minister, including the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy), has spoken in the debate, so they must attach some degree of importance to this matter. Mr Smirnov apparently was not offended by the fact that our Foreign Minister asked for this assurance. In fact, he took it quite seriously. Does this not prove to the Senate and to the whole nation that here is a situation in which both men know that the U.S.S.R. is a country which could be described as a virtual prison and where its inhabitants are virtual prisoners and are kept in check and prevented from any form of escape by that essential ingredient in any totalitarian society- the secret police.
- Mr Deputy President, I must rise to a point of order. If Senator Davidson really believes what he is saying it would not be necessary for him to read his speech. He is in contravention of the Standing Orders. He has another 20 minutes in which to speak and we should not have to put up with it. Mr Deputy President, I direct your attention to the fact that honourable senators are not allowed to read their speeches.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The story of Ermolenko is really a story of which the Government cannot be proud. I have a report that as late as the Monday morning Ermolenko indicated that he did not want to live in the Soviet Union because in his own words, as I read the report, Australia was a better place in which to grow up. The Minister may say what he will, but in the case of Ermolenko there are too many reports from too many people and too many questions have been raised that have not been answered. I am not satisfied with the position. There are reports from officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs. There are reports from officers of universities and colleges. There are reports from officers of trade unions and from others. The Foreign Minister has not given complete assurance that the story that he has put to us is completely watertight.
I turn to the subject raised in the second paragraph of Senator Greenwood’s motion. It refers to the Baltic states. Reference has been made to it by Ministers and by other honourable senators who have spoken in this debate. Almost daily members of Parliament are confronted with problems and issues that arise from the actions of the government of the day. Some of these matters affect people in a way which may not totally please them. But the Government’s decision to recognise the incorporation of the Baltic states in the Soviet Union is the most extraordinary decision I have heard of for many years. It affects many tens of thousands of people in Australia Of course it affects a great many more people in the states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. Maybe there was no Government decision. From my recollection of the answers which were given to questions that I asked in the Senate, I do not know who made a decision, if a decision was made or how the decision came about. The decision, such as it was, was not related to trade or economics or defence or even to international aid. It related to nothing but the people who lived within the Baltic communities.
The Baltic people who live in Australia represent a substantial segment of the population. They are good Australian citizens. They are hard-working people. They are successful and they are contributing to our standard of life. Their goals are very high. They are people who were driven from their homeland and who retained the hope that one day their homeland at least would be free and that if in the fullness of time this hope was not fulfilled in the way in which they wanted it to be fulfilled, at least the peoples of the free world would recognise the situation in which they were placed. These people were driven across the world by cruel events and the tyranny of a cruel invader. Yet this Government, for no apparent reason, has by its decision condoned this cruelty. It has accepted the circumstances by which the Baltic people were driven out of their country. It has accepted the circumstances by which the Baltic people were forced to creep dangerously by night and to hide as best they could by day. If honourable senators opposite have ever shared in the experiences of these people, as I have, they will know that the things which I say are true.
The Government has placed itself in the company of the invader. It has placed itself in the company of the tyrant, the dictator, and the preventer of freedom. It is no wonder that when the event took place I described the decision to recognise the incorporation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union as cruel and unnecessary. The Government by its decision greatly undermined the work which already had been done by the Western powers, and this is a very important point for the Senate to remember. The work of obtaining more freedom in international arrangements and understandings which had been achieved by the Western powers has been greatly undermined. In the future it will make it more difficult for the Western powers to continue to work to achieve the freedom and independence of the smaller states. All the work that had been done in the past has been greatly damaged by Australia ‘s action.
Because of the involvement of the migrant policy, the Government’s decision has denied its own stated pOliCY of ensuring the happiness, reunion and peace of all migrants to Australia. It has left the Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians completely isolated and completely unrecognised. Anyone who has had anything to do with the Baltic communities will know that the emphasis which these groups place on freedom is an example to all Australians, and their reminder of the price to be paid for freedom has been completely disregarded by this Government. Most serious of all, the Government has shown its own attitude to the tragic events which led to the dominance of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union. The Government’s attitude- and this has been exemplified today- has been one of indifference to smaller states which have been overrun by a merciless great power. The Government will see tomorrow what these people think of the Government’s decision in this matter. Some 2,000 people will assemble in Canberra to give effect to their own feelings in this matter and to let the Government know how strongly they feel about the Government’s decision to recognise the incorporation of the Baltic states in the Soviet Union.
It is no wonder that many of us have been constrained to describe the decision as being cruel and unnecessary. It has caused a great deal of heartache and grief to the Baltic communities throughout Australia. Those people- and I was one of them- who went from special meeting to special meeting of Baltic communities on that particular Sunday afternoon will know how these loyal, hardworking, honest and decent Australians- former Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians- were reduced to grief, anxiety, great sorrow and great disappointment because the nation which they had trusted had let them down. When Parliament re-assembled I sought to get some information on this matter. On 13 August last I asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs a number of questions in the Senate. The replies to those questions appear from page 78 1 onwards of the Senate Hansard of that date. Other questions in relation to the Baltic communities were asked by my colleague from South Australia, Senator Young. I was not at all satisfied with the Minister’s answers. I sent telegrams to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), and the best that he could do was to send me a photostat copy of pages of Hansard containing the answers to which I have referred. Among those answers the Minister said:
It is unlikely that the Soviet Government will grant independence to these territories.
Here is an admission by the Government that the Soviet Union is acting against the charter of the United Nations. One sees in the platform of the Labor Party that its members subscribe to the policies of the United Nations charter. Here is an admission by the Government that the Soviet Union is acting against the charter of the United Nations dealing with the self-determination of people. It is also an admission by the Government that the Soviet Union is acting against its own constitution which provides, amongst other things, that every union republic shall have the right freely to secede from the U.S.S.R. Surely the Minister for Foreign Affairs was not serious when he said that the recognition of the incorporation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union will facilitate consular activities, particularly in relation to the reunion of families. Does he really believe it? Surely he must know that in relation to any emigration from the Baltic states permits to emigrate are issued not by the puppet governments in the Baltic states but in Moscow itself. The reasons put forward by the Minister in connection with both these issues are, in my view, completely unconvincing. I am of the view that they dishonour clear undertakings. They are out of step with the rest of the world. They recognise and condone grave injustices that have been committed. They deny the Government’s claim to champion small nations. To cap it all, they led to a decision which was carried out, as the motion says, furtively and shamefully. So the whole issue is one that gives reason for condemnation not only because of its cruelty but also because of its betrayal. When there is betrayal there is cause for very great concern.
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I again refer to standing order 406 which says in very simple terms:
No Senator shall read his speech.
I suggest that if we have Standing Orders we should uphold them.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Web ster-There is no substance in the point of order. It is my belief that the honourable senator is quoting from copious notes.
-I now want to read out a letter from the Prime Minister. This letter was written to the President of the Council of the Lithuanian Community. It is written on 17 May which was the day before the last election. It was in reply to an earlier letter from the President of the Council of the Lithuanian Community in Australia. In the opening sentence there is reference to an earlier communication from the Council. The Prime Minister went on to say:
The policy of the present Australian Government is that while not formally recognising the incorporation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia into the Soviet Union, it must be cognisant of the de facto situation and deal with the government which has effective control of the territory in question. . . .
On a number of occasions the Government has made its views known on the question of civil liberties and on fundamental human rights, its own adherence to them and its wish that those rights embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be extended everywhere.
In an address at the United Nations Association on the occasion of Australia’s celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration I said, inter alia, . . . ‘the Declaration has come to be recognised as one of the enlightened events in modern history ‘ and that it is a . . . fundamental objective of the Labor Government to ensure that Australia ‘s policies are soundly based on respect for and on the protection and enhancement of civil liberties and basic human rights’. The Soviet Government is aware of the Australian Government’s position in this matter, and we will continue to seek opportunities in the United Nations to promote respect for and observance of basic human rights by all members.
– Who signed that letter?
-It is a statement by the Prime Minister of this country. It is a statement by the Leader of the Government in this country. It is a statement by the man who, according to the Hansard from which I have quoted, made the decision in relation to the Baltic states. According to page 784 of Hansard of Tuesday, 13 August, when I asked Senator Willesee whether he made the decision he said: ‘No, the decision was made when I was out of the country’. The inference was that the decision was made by the Acting Minister for Foreign affairs. Yet here in this letter the Prime Minister conveyed to this Council, which represents some 40,000 to 50,000 people in Australia and a whole lot of well wishers beyond, an assurance that the Labor Government would promote respect for and observance of basic human rights by all members of the United Nations. It is no wonder that there is also support for the third part of the motion which is now before the Senate, that is, that the foreign policy alignments are not serving and will not serve Australia ‘s interests.
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order under standing order 364. In his speech Senator Davidson said: ‘I have a report that on Monday he- I presume that means Ermolenko- did not want to leave Australia’. I move:
– And also the Prime Minister’s letter.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- All I can do is ask Senator Davidson whether he quoted from the report to which Senator Poyser has referred.
– Here is the letter. It is a photostat copy. I have the report somewhere. It is a report from Western Australia entitled ‘Pelican’. As soon as I have it I certainly will table it.
– I ask that it be tabled now, according to the Standing Orders. I do not want any shenanigans about this.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I do not think there are any shenanigans. The honourable senator has offered to table the document immediately he finds it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-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.
– My rising to speak now has the effect, as you stated Mr Acting Deputy President, of closing the debate. I am sure that there are other speakers on both sides of the Senate who would have desired to speak in the debate. But with the mutuality that from time to time governs the affairs of the Senate, we recognise that there ought to be a decision taken on this matter this evening. I will not take up much of the time of the Senate. The motion which the senate has been debating states that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) is deserving of censure and ought to resign because:
The facts in relation to that paragraph of the motion have been well canvassed in the debate. I think that we were all interested to hear the account which was given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs when he spoke in the debate. However, I make 2 points: Firstly, he acknowledged that at the interview with the Department of Immigration officials, Mr Ermolenko, on the Monday morning, indicated that he wanted to remain in Australia. As I understand the position, he was prepared to take those further steps which were necessary to give formal effect to that request. It was at a later stage that he indicated that he wanted to go home. That later request created the furore and the doubt as to whether it was a genuine request because it was a request which he made only after he came into the custody of the Russians.
I was interested to hear some spokesmen in the course of this debate almost suggest- I certainly interpreted what they were saying as a statementthat there was nothing thereafter to indicate that Ermolenko did not want to go home. But a number of statements were made. There were the statements which were made to a woman journalist, doubts which were expressed by interpreters and other persons who believed from their assessment of what the man was saying that he was not speaking his mind in the various interviews they witnessed
– You are not addressing a jury now.
– All I say is that in those circumstances the question of whether or not the man was being held under duress ought not to be determined by a Minister and ought not to be determined by any individual who is under suspicion that he is serving his own, his Party’s or his Government’s interests. That issue ought to be determined by the courts, as it is always determined in this country where native born Australians are concerned.
– Why do you not finish your remarks so that we can take a vote on the motion?
– I detect the usual sort of sniping interjections from Senator Poyser and Senator Cavanagh. I know that they find the recitation of facts such as I am putting forward to be distasteful.
– You have not put facts before us yet.
– I am putting facts before the Minister which are absolutely incontrovertible. No one appears to want to carry forward what are the consequences of those facts. But as I have said- I think that the case for the Opposition really depends upon this- the Minister chose to make his own assessment instead of leaving the matter to the courts. In a vital matter of human rights and of individual freedom we believe that it is completely wrong for a Minister of the Crown to say that in his view a person is not being held under duress and to deny to the courts an opportunity to make that decision. It is not the Liberal approach. It has never been the Liberal approach and it never will be the Liberal approach. We believe that in those circumstances the Minister is deserving of censure by the Senate. The fact that after Mr Ermolenko had left Australia in the Royal Australian Air Force aircraft -
– What was the position when you conscripted young men to fight in Vietnam? That was the Liberal approach.
-Senator Poyser has been spending the day not in addressing himself to this motion but in sniping away by interjection when other honourable senators have been speaking. One can only hope that the Labor Party will not send too many senators of Senator Poyser ‘s calibre into the Senate chamber if it does not desire to make that standard of contribition. We have had the Minister’s statement that the writ of habeas corpus was discharged by the court. That was a decision of the court after Mr Ermolenko had been taken out of the country by the special Royal Australian Air Force aircraft which the Minister had arranged. In those circumstances at that time it is common sense that the writ which was to be heard by the court would not be further heard by the court. I fail to see what point can be made by way of support for the Minister’s case.
The second leg of the motion states:
What the Government has failed to acknowledge in the course of this debate is why an undertaking given in May was dishonoured in April. The basic proposition which we assert is that in May the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in response to questions asked of him, said that the Government did not propose to change the existing policy. I shall quote from a letter from the editor of the ‘Latvian News’ which was written to the Australian Press. I quote from the Hobart Mercury’ of 6 August 1974. The Prime Minister was asked:
Q: Do you plan to touch on the question at all, during your coming visit to Moscow?
Q: So you are, in fact, saying that your policy in the matter is the same as that of the previous Government?
Q: Do you intend to change it?
That was stated prior to the election on 18 May. Why then did the Government change its policy? We have not been given an answer, and the only attempt at an answer by the Minister was that the Government recognised the realities. Were not those realities which the Government now relies upon the realities of May 1974? Has anything happened between May and July which warranted a change?
– Yes, the people voted.
-Senator Cavanagh says ‘yes ‘. What was it?
– The people voted. They locked you out.
-Senator Cavanagh may be giving a revealing answer. When the Government got the vote of the people it felt it could make any decision it pleased and so it repudiated the promise. That is the fundamental basis of the Opposition’s motion which says that the Minister is deserving of censure because a promise to uphold the ideal of freedom, cherished by people who came to this country and by their descendants, was utterly and shamefully repudiated. Therefore it is a matter which we say is deserving of censure. The third part of the motion is that the Minister should be censured and ought to resign because the foreign policy alignments he is promoting will not serve Australia’s national interests. We have indicated the transformation which has taken place in Australia’s stance and relationship with other countries in the 1 8 months in which this Government has been in power. The Minister carries the political responsibility for that decision, and as he is in this chamber it is appropriate that the motion be directed to him. It is not novel because motions moved when a different Government was in power were directed at Ministers for decisions they took in discharge of obligations which they had to the Government of which they were members.
There is one final point to which I refer. It has been suggested by Senator Steele Hall that he found himself in a predicament in regard to this resolution. As he saw the position- and he expressed it as is his right- he felt there was merit in the second leg of this three-pronged motion and would have voted if he had the opportunity against the first and third legs but in favour of the second leg. I suggest to him that it is not easy to be the independent or the individual senator in this chamber. The motion which the Opposition has moved is a resolution of the Opposition parties and in putting it forward I am discharging an obligation which I have as Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate to put forward the Opposition ‘s viewpoint. If Senator Steele Hall desires to eliminate from the motion any part of it to which he objects he may move an amendment to the motion. But he has not moved an amendment. Alternatively he may ask that the matter be taken separately and if he had I am sure that we would have conceded the right of an independent senator to have that approach accepted. But as I understand it, it is a matter for the Senate ultimately to decide.
We believe that we would not be fulfilling the obligation which we as Opposition senators owe to an electorate which put us into this chamber on the policies which we expressed to the electorate if we were not to express views totally consistent with the views which we held in Government and which we put to the Australian people. We believe that the conduct which the Minister has shown with regard to these 2 events- the recognition of the Baltic states’ forceful incorporation into the Soviet Union and the attitude which the Government adopted with regard to the surreptitious departure of the young Russian musician, Ermolenko, from Australia- is such that the Minister has a political and personal responsibility which he cannot escape. We believe that his conduct was such that he is deserving of censure and it is for that reason that we have put the issue before the Senate.
by leave- In view of the remarks just made by Senator Greenwood I suggest that the motion moved by him be put in three separate parts.
Senator GREENWOOD ( Victoria)-by leave- If the Minister proposes it or if Senator Steele Hall proposes it we will not oppose it. We have put our motion as we decided.
– I rise to order. After a motion has been moved and the mover has replied, is it not your duty, Mr President, to put the question? Can the Senate then rearrange the motion? I spoke in this debate but if the motion is going to be separated it may well be that I will want to speak on it as it will be put and in this case it will be a different motion from that to which I spoke.
– I rise to order. As I understand standing order 130 you have the right to divide a difficult question. That is your prerogative. The Opposition is not asking you to divide the question but I understood that Senator Douglas McClelland -
– It was Senator Greenwood.
- Senator Greenwood did not. As I understand it he said it was an option that was open to Senator Steele Hall. Mr President, I think that before you put the question any honourable senator- and I am just speaking to the point of order and not to the merits of what might be said -
– Did you raise the point of order?
– I raised the point of order. I think any honourable senator is entitled to rise in his place and ask you to use your discretion under standing order 130. That is a contrary point to that put by Senator Cavanagh that in effect another procedural matter is before the chair. I think that is a reasonable interpretation of standing order 130.
– I rise to order. I understood that Senator Withers was speaking to standing order 130. In the debate I expressed the view that the motion was a complicated one with 3 quite divergent viewpoints. I ask under standing order 130 that you divide the motion into its constituent parts so that the Senate can give an individual and properly based view on each part.
– I do not classify the motion as a complicated motion and if Senator Steele Hall feels inclined to divide the question I ask him to seek leave to do so as he raised the matter here.
– I seek leave to divide the question.
-Is leave granted?
– No. Honourable senators seem to disagree with me. I would like an explanation before I withdraw my objection. What I object to about this procedure, although I am prepared to go along with the Senate, is that we have debated the composite motion all day. Although the point was made by Senator Steele Hall that that part of the motion dealing with the Baltic states was hidden, complicated and confused and made ridiculous by the other parts of the motion, nevertheless we debated the motion as a whole and we should proceed to vote on it as a whole. If Senator Steele Hall then wants to proceed with another urgency motion dealing with the Baltic states or take some other action he is entitled to do that, but why make this appear ridiculous? I do not want to be standing out like an odd person not granting leave if the rest of the Senate is prepared to grant leave, and if that is the case I will withdraw my objection.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. A colleague of mine and a member of the Government is under attack by the motion that has been moved by Senator Greenwood.
– In 3 parts.
– In 3 parts and they are on 3 different issues. I have discussed this matter with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is the subject of the motion, and he has expressed the opinion that questions should be put on each of the 3 issues. Therefore I suggest that the Senate should express its opinion on these 3 issues separately.
– I have asked the Senate to give leave to Senator Hall. I will put it again. Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
– I will move, if that is the appropriate thing to do, that this question be divided into 3 constituent parts and taken seriatim in that fashion.
– I will now proceed to divide the question into 3 parts. The preamble will apply separately to each part.
That the preamble and paragraph (a) (Senator Greenwood’s amendment) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the preamble and paragraph (b) (Senator Greenwood’s amendment) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the preamble and paragraph (c) (Senator Greenwood’s amendment) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Order! It being after 1 1 o’clock p.m., in accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 September 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740918_senate_29_s61/>.