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Thursday, 4 October 1956

Mr WARD (EAST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In the continuing and persistent absence of the Prime Minister from the Parliament, T direct a question to the acting Prime Minister. Is the most consistent consideration by far, from Australia's viewpoint, to keep the Suez Canal open for world shipping? Has there been any suggestion or indication during the currency of the present dispute that the Egyptians have the desire or intention of interrupting the flow of shipping through the canal? Is it a fact that to prevent the passage of shipping would be against the best interest of Egypt, which would lose considerable revenue if such a course were followed? Is it a fact that the only action taken which was designed to obstruct the free flow of shipping through the canal has been the decision of the Suez Canal Company to withdraw the services of its pilots? Is it a fact that the company offered a guarantee to continue payment of the pilots' salaries for a period of time reported to be two years provided they obeyed its direction to leave Egypt? As such action could vitally affect Australia's interests, has the Australian Government protested against the action taken to induce these skilled pilots to leave their employment? Finally, having regard to the Prime Minister's statement that the Egyptian Government had threatened to imprison any employees of the Suez Canal Company who vacated their posts, is it a fact that no obstruction was placed in the way of pilots who chose to depart?

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