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Friday, 5 April 1946

Mr CHIFLEY - Trouble regarding Dutch ships arose in the ports of -'Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, and was due in the first instance to the fact that Dutch nationals walked off the ships, and refused to work them. The waterside workers decided to support the Indonesians. As to the value of cargoes -on the Dutch ships, some extravagant statements have been made, and it has even been said thai the value was between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000, a ridiculous over estimate. The total value could not be more than £3,000,000, and it may be very much less. There are sound reasons for believing that it could not be more.

Mr Ryan - Oan the Prime Minister find out what is the value ?

Mr CHIFLEY - It is very hard to learn the precise details because conflicting statements are made. I have based: my statements on the most reliable information from the Dutch side, and from those who know what goods the Dutch hold. There is no' substance in the charge that the waterside Workers control the Government's foreign policy. "There are some things which people can physically prevent one from doing. I shall not go into the pros and cons of the situation now. At all times I have tried to treat it with a great deal of reserve, because it is an extraordinarily difficult situation in which the British, the Dutch, and the Indonesians have been in constant conflict. I have taken the opportunity to have personal talks with people very closely associated with the negotiations. I am sorry that it has not been possible to reach a satisfactory settlement by which the goods, or at- least the ships, could be released. Of course, some of the ships are. in need of repairs, and I do not think that they could he moved before repairs are made. The remainder, I believe, could be moved without undergoing further repairs. The dispute has been the subject of negotiations on the- highest possible plane. I can only say that, up to the present, they have not been successful. Considering all aspects of the case, it is -neither possible, nor desirable, for me to comment upon it.

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