You are doubtless familiar with terms of our agreement with I.R.O.
for taking up to 12,000 displaced persons per year from Europe.
When agreement was concluded I was assured by I.R.O. they could provide suitable shipping, that first ship would sail from Europe in October, 1947, with every indication that UP to 4,000 would reach Australia this year.
Preliminary advice was received from Geneva giving make-up of first shipment timed to leave Europe 30th October. However, on 22nd September, after discussions with Linney, I.R.O. Shipping Controller, Commonwealth Migration Officer, London, cabled that I.R.O. were meeting with insuperable difficulties in securing suitable shipping. I.R.O. was depending on two ships, Prince David and Prince Robert, British vessels which British Ministry advise are entirely unsuitable and unseaworthy. I.R.O. are hoping to have vessels overhauled in European shipyard, but considerable delay must occur on account bad condition each ship. On present outlook it does not appear that first ship can sail before 1948.
I have despatched strong protest to Innes of I.R.O., London, pointing out that agreement was signed on understanding that suitable shipping was available, that wide publicity was given to the admission of displaced persons, arrangements made for their employment, accommodation and assimilation, and that any delay in despatching first shipment would cause considerable embarrassment to Government and employment authorities here who are anxiously awaiting this additional labour.
I fear that unless some outside assistance is forthcoming suitable shipping will not be available and shall be glad if you will approach William Benton, Assistant Secretary, Department of State, Washington, with view securing on behalf I.R.O. shipping considered suitable and safe for shipment displaced persons to Australia. High degree of comfort not required for these persons generally have been used lower standards than American or British.
I discussed question of displaced persons scheme with Benton when in Washington. It should be emphasised to Benton that the shipping of displaced persons from American Zone will greatly relieve American expenditure that area.
United States made available certain number of C4 vessels for charter or loan to I.R.O. for carriage displaced persons to South America. Similar boats would be suitable for I.R.O.'s Australian run.
Your urgent representation and assistance in this matter would be greatly appreciated.