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Thursday, 20 June 1946


Mr CHIFLEY - The answer to the first portion of the honorable member's question is " No ". In reply to the second part of the question, -I inform the honorable member that negotiations have proceeded almost, continuously, and at one stage representatives of the British authorities participated with a view to terminating the dispute involving Dutch merchant ships, but. I regret to say, without success. It has not been possible to reach any satisfactory arrangement to meet, the position. I am not aware of all the circumstances relating to the Piet

Hein.I understand that it is not a commercial vessel, but a war vessel.


Mr Menzies - It is a destroyer.


Mr CHIFLEY - Some of the equipment of some destroyers has been removed so that the vessels could be used for certain other purposes. However, I understand that the PietHein is still equipped as a warship. The Minister for External Affairs has made some inquiries regarding this vessel, which has been proceeding from port to port. He has not been able to make satisfactory arrangements for the vessel to be repaired. It was said that the ship sustained the original damage in the English Channel. The Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for the Navy have been endeavouring to obtain information as to where the Piet TIein came from, the ports at which it called, and the nature of the damage which it sustained, but it has not been possible to make any arrangement for the ship to be repaired. I shall have something very much more to say at a Inter stage if those who claim to represent the Du tell Government persist in making statements of the character that were made quite recently. I have always endeavoured to deal with diplomatic representatives in the most courteous and amicable manner. I have endeavoured, -subject to limitations about which the honorable' member knows, to meet the requests of the Dutch authorities. The Government has been able to meet many of those requests despite other difficulties. I consider that it was most inappropriate, in view of the knowledge that there was trouble already with Dutch commercial vessels in Sydney, to send the Piet Mein to that port, because it was evident that unless the existing dispute could be overcome the warship also would be involved. At the moment, one does not see any particular reason for warships being used; I do not know what the urgency can be. We have tried, within reason, and with certain .limitations, to meet the Dutch authorities iri the most courteous way possible, and I merely say at this stage that I regret the circumstances that have given rise to this question. On the first occasion when I had some discussion with the Dutch Minister on a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, about certain correspondence, all that correspondence appeared in the Melbourne press on the following day. The Dutch Minister has assured me, and I accept his word, that he was nol, responsible for the publication of that correspondence between the Government and the Dutch authorities. Still it was rather a strange thing that correspondence of that character between officers of the Department of External Affairs and the Dutch authorities should appear in the Melbourne daily press. I must confess that I was not at all pleased with the statement that was made the other day. I am quite prepared for the Government to take whatever criticism should come to it about matters of this kind; but I consider that diplomatic relations are not, improved when representatives of other governments engage in newspaper controversy which can easily be taken as intended to damage a government then in office. I am always prepared to take the most generous' view of these things, and accept the view that no such intention was held by the Dutch Minister in connexion with the statement that was made to the press. This particular trouble has arisen because of differences that the Dutch Government has. with its own subjects. Whatever trouble has arisen in connexion with this matter has arisen because of some difference of opinion between the Dutch authorities and . subjects of the Dutch Government in Indonesia. The dispute has travelled, and the repercussions have become very much wider now than the matter of the Dutch ships in this country. I would have thought ' that diplomats would have been serving their country much better by trying to settle the differences that exist between the Dutch Government and its own subjects than by engaging in newspaper controversy in another country.







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