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Wednesday, 3 April 1946

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Minister for Immigration and Minister for Information) . - I had a discussion earlier with the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) regarding the proposal which he has just put forward. If the contingent which is going to take part in the Victory Parade were to remain in London for a considerable period, it might be possible to do what the honorable member suggested. While they were there, the ship could return to Australia with the wives and children of ex-servicemen, and then return to pick up the members of the Australian contingent. The present proposal is to use the Shropshire or some other unit of the Australian Navy to take the Australian contingent to Britain. I shall take the matter up with my colleagues, and I assure the honorable member that his suggestion will be investigated sympathetically. The Government is conscious of the need to obtain more ships, so as to bring to Australia the wives of exservicemen. It is evident that we are doing all that is humanly possible with the ships available, and I believe that we are giving satisfaction. The matter is primarily one that concerns the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), but I, as Minister for Immigration, am concerned with the return of Australians who have for years been resident abroad, and with persons who propose to settle in Australia. The co-operation between the Minister for Repatriation, the Minister for Supply and Shipping and myself is complete.

Mr White - At present no passenger ships are running between Great Britain and Australia. I have suggested that one should be used.

Mr CALWELL - Lt is true that only cargo ships have been running, and that is the cause of the hold-up. Up to the end of last year, we were able to obtain only between 100 and 120 berths on cargo ships each .month. Our present quota is about SOO. The passenger ships mentioned by the honorable member are at present being used to bring Australian troops back to the mainland from the islands. If it is true, as he says, that some of these ships are not being used as much as they were, there may be some prospect that his suggestion will be adopted. In any case it will receive sympathetic consideration.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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