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Wednesday, 3 April 1946

Mr FORDE - If the honorable member had mentioned this matter to me or placed the question on the notice-paper, I could have given him the exact dates of the sailings of ships. When I visited

Lae and other centres,, questions were asked about the expected departure of the troops, and the local commanding officer, having a full knowledge of the .sailings of ships, was able to supply the information. The arrival of the WinchesterVictory at Lae was delayed, because 5,000 Japanese had been shipped from Faroe Island, leaving a large number of Australian troops there in what is considered to be an Unhealthy area. The Winchester Victory was diverted by the Director of Movements at Army Head-quarters, Melbourne, to go first to Faroe Island and lift the Australian troops there before proceeding to Lae. Having before him the over-all picture, he considered that that instruction was advisable in the interests of Australian troops generally. The Winchester Victory was then sent to Lae, ' where it lifted the troops, and it arrived in Sydney early this week. [ have not broken any promise that I made to the troops at Lae. By order of the Director of Movements, who has before him a chart showing the position of all these ships, some alteration has been made in their running. The Director of Movements is a highly trusted officer, who possesses all the necessary information, and I arn confident that every decision which he ma Iws is in the best 'interests of the troops generally. The position is not always known to individuals who, becauseof a lack of complete information, sometimes criticize particular decisions. I assure the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that I am just as anxious as he or any other member of the community is to get all the troops back from the islands. As the result of very definite action taken by the Commonwealth Government, the return of troops is far ahead of -schedule.

Mr Francis - What about the men who were to have been repatriated in J an u a ry ?

Mr FORDE - It is obvious that the honorable member is concerned more with making cheap, petty party political capital out of these matters than with learning the truth. When the war ended, we had only enough ships to bring back 6,000 troops a month, but by intensive organization on the part of the Army authorities, the Commonwealth Government, the British Navy, and the

British Ministry of Shipping, we have been able to bring them back in what is considered to be record time.

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