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Thursday, 11 October 1956

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - I understand that a statement did appear to the effect that a weakness had been demonstrated in the administration of the Department of Immigration in that apparently the department was unaware of the desertion from a ship by the woman concerned until the fact had been brought to public notice by the publication of a report in the press. That comment illustrates one of the difficulties confronting us in this place in our efforts to get the facts of any situation over to the public, because any honorable gentleman who cared to study the detailed report which I made available to the Parliament and to the press yesterday will be aware that the department knew of the desertion by this particular woman from a ship in the port of Brisbane about six weeks before the statement .appeared in the newspaper referred to. She was actually on our deserters' list for that number of weeks before any publication occurred. It is, indeed, a fact that there are many desertions from ships in the course of the year in Australia, as in any country which is visited by shipping from other parts of the world, but with co-operation between the Department of Immigration and the police we are generally effective in locating the deserters and deporting them. In fact, in the course of the last two years some 158 persons have been apprehended and deported after deserting from their ships.

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