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Thursday, 11 April 1946

Mr CHIFLEY (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Prime Minister) - I do not know the reason which caused the Dutch to cancel orders they had placed in Australia.

Mr Harrison - They cannot get the goods away.

Mr CHIFLEY - There could be reasons other than that. The Government does not attempt to condone the refusal of the waterside workers to load goods, particularly foodstuffs and mercy cargoes. As honorable members know, this has been a subject of very great difficulty.Ministers have made every effort to reach a solution of the problem, which is related to the very complicated position that has developed in Indonesia. As I have pointed outpreviously, the trouble on the waterfront was due in the first place not to any action by Australian waterside workers, but to the fact that Dutch nationals had walked off Dutch ships and had refused to handle the cargoes that weresought to be placed on them. Had that incident not occurred there would not have been any trouble with the waterside workers.

Mr Harrison - Surely the right honorable gentleman has some responsibility in the matter of protecting our trade !

Mr CHIFLEY - Of course we have responsibilities,but if the people of another nation refuse to work their own ships, that is something which certainly does not come within our jurisdiction.

Mr White - That was only the original cause.

Mr CHIFLEY - Yes, that was the original cause.

Mr Harrison - There have been other causes since then.

Mr Menzies - Of course, there has been no trouble with the waterside workers at all!

Mr CHIFLEY - I said that I did not condone the action of the waterside workers, but I have stated what was the original cause of the trouble. All sorts of statements have been made about the quantity of goods which the Dutch authorities hold in Australia, and most of those statements were incorrect. I know approximately the quantity of goods which they hold. I do not propose to say anything which might create international complications. There may be other reasons - I have no doubt there are - why the Dutch cannot buy £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 worth of goods in Australia.

Mr Anthony - £6,000,000 worth is the quantity involved now.

Mr CHIFLEY - Even that figure may be as much exaggerated as the other The Dutch have only limited resources for the purchase of goods in Australia, and I have no doubt that some of the orders have been cancelled for that reason. During the visit to Australia of Lord Louis Mountbatten, anattempt was made to get the Dutch ships out of Australian ports, not so much so that goods might be carried, but so as to put the ships into use. I am sorry to say that, up to yesterday, those attempts had not been in any way successful. Further conferences are to take place, I think, to-day, and I hope that, at least, the ships will be able to sail. I am sorry that there has been loss of trade. Even if the amount is only £1,000,000 or £300.000, it is still important, and it is unfortunate that circumstances have arisen to cause that loss. In the earlier stages, before there was any labour trouble, we were told that the Dutch had placed large orders in Australia, but it was found that they were not prepared to pay our prices. This, no doubt, was in accordance with sound commercial practice. If they could get the goods cheaper elsewhere they would buy them.

Mr White - No doubt they got tired of waiting.

Mr CHIFLEY - I am referring to a period before there was any hold-up at all. Wo submitted quotations for goods said to be required by the Dutch. The New Zealand authorities also submitted quotations, which,I understand were somewhat lower, and the orders went there. There is no sentiment in such matters. I repeat that this is a very delicate situation, and I do not propose to go into it any farther.

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