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Thursday, 7 November 1946

Mr CALWELL - by leave - Newspapers have recently given some prominence to complaints that approximately 200 alien passengers were taken on board the British liner Strathmore at Port Said, and it was stated that this action was taken at the request of the Australian Government and that consequently a number of British a,nd Australians were deprived of the opportunity to join, the ship in the United Kingdom. It is neither correct to say that the Australian Government requested the allotment of these passages or to suggest that a corresponding number of British or Australian people in the United Kingdom were deprived of passages on account of those who embarked at Port Said. Representations were certainly made on behalf of a few close relatives of Australian residents in cases where it was In ought under notice that these relatives had been stranded at Port Said for months while awaiting passages at a cost of £50 a month to the guarantors in Australia. Sonne scores of other people, both British and foreigners, the latter being relatives of residents in Australia, were stranded in Egypt through not being able to secure accommodation on ships bound for Australia. During the present year thousands of Australians and practically all the wives and children of Australian servicemen have secured passages from the United Kingdom, and it was mainly through the efforts of the Australian High Commissioner in London that extra ships were made available for this purpose in spite of the acute shortage of shipping. The people waiting at Port, Said for passages saw ship after ship pass through the Suez filled with passengers from the United Kingdom and without any vacant berths for them. It was not unreasonable, therefore, that on one ship out of many, some provision should be made by the British Ministry of Transport acting in conjunction with the Middle East Sea Passages Priorities Board, to lift the most needy of the passengers who were stranded at Port Said. As a matter of fact, practically no British residents of the United Kingdom were displaced, because of alien passengers "who joined the ship at Port Said. The aliens who joined the ship at that port numbered less than 200 if we exclude Maltese and Cypriots, who are British subjects. Of the passengers who embarked in England, 151 disembarked at Port Said, and this provided a special opportunity for those waiting there to be provided with accommodation on the ship. It may be added that all the foreigners on this ship holding permits to enter Australia were close relatives of persons already resident here, who guaranteed their maintenance and accommodation on arrival in this country. Of the total number who came to Australia, about 180 were Greeks. They have relatives in Australia who had guaranteed the cost of their passages, accommodation m this country, and the avoidance of their being a charge on the public revenues for a period of five years.

Mr McEWEN (INDI, VICTORIA) - They should not have received priority over fiancees of Australian airmen.

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