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Monday, 5 June 1939

Mr MENZIES (KOOYONG, VICTORIA) (Prime Minister) - Messages were received this morning, in the first instance from Cocos Island by cable, indicating that the authorities there were in wireless touch with the Guba but that, on 'account of the inability of the flying boat to obtain a cross bearing to any vessel in the neighbourhood, it had experienced considerable difficulty at that stage in locating Cocos Island with a view to making a landing there. Subsequent reports indicated that the Guba was cruising in the neighbourhood, but was unable to locate Cocos Island. At about lunchtime I received a message from Mr. Percival, on the Guba, indicating that they had. decided to proceed east in the direction of Batavia. Just as I entered the House this afternoon I was handed a further message which had just been received from the Guba, stating that it is now flying on a course towards Soenda Strait, between Java and Sumatra, in conditions which, at the . position of the aircraft, were overcast, with considerable haze. This procedure is in accordance with the decision to proceed to Batavia rather than to use surplus fuel in an endeavour to reach Cocos Island, under existing conditions. I may saythat the tone and terms of that message, like those of the message previously received from the Guba, do not indicate that any gravedoubt was felt regarding its ability to reach Batavia, and it would appear to have been assumed that the condition of the fuel supplies was satisfactory for the purpose. I can only say that we all sincerely hope that this is so.

When the matter first came before me, and thereappeared to be some real doubt of the Gubabeing able to make a safe landing at Batavia, having regard to the condition of its fuel supplies, I immediately had a communication sent to. the British Government representative' at Batavia, requesting that arrangementsbe made at once with the Government authorities there to send out a ship, if necessary, in the direction in which the Guba was travelling. I think it proper to assure 'honorable members that no delay was permitted to occur in taking such steps as mightbe necessary. I, of course, hope that they will prove to be unnecessary.

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