310 Chifley to Attlee

Cablegram 416 CANBERRA, 11 December 1946, 5 p.m.

As you are probably aware negotiations have been carried on at official and Ministerial levels between representatives of your Government and representatives of the Australian Government in London in regard to the provision of shipping for the carriage of migrants from the United Kingdom to Australia during 1947 under the free and assisted passage schemes.

2. The situation in regard to the acute shortage of shipping and the difficulty with which your Government is faced in endeavouring to meet global demands is fully appreciated.

3. It was anticipated that following the end of the war the shipping position would have improved and our migration planning has been on the basis that 35,000 migrant passages would be available for 1947. Negotiations to date between representatives of our Governments indicate that number of berths that can be made available for migrants may be less than 6,500 during 1947 and the highest figure that has been mentioned is 10,000. These negotiations are still proceeding.

4. Following upon a Conference held with the Premiers of all States in August last the State Governments undertook a survey of their absorptive capacity for migrants during 1947. These surveys have been completed and show that throughout the Commonwealth 46,661 migrants could be employed over a wide range of industries and occupations. This figure excludes dependents and also groups of child migrants who may be introduced by child migration organisations. The figure of 46,661 relates to jobs available and is based conservatively. In terms of migrants it represents upwards of 120,000 men, women and children.

5. The future development and security of Australia will very largely depend on the augmenting of our population by immigration and the target aimed at by the Commonwealth Government is the introduction of 70,000 migrants per annum from all sources. I realize that shipping and other factors will prevent this target being achieved for some time yet and that during 1947 only a proportion of the migrants offering in the United Kingdom can be lifted. Incidentally migration inquiries recorded at Australia House, London, up to the end of October cover over 156,000 men, women and children.

6. Immigration is of great national as well as political significance to Australia and serious repercussions will arise unless a reasonable allocation of shipping for migrants in relation to our requirements can be made for 1947. Knowing your many problems it is with considerable reluctance that I feel obliged to seek your intervention and assistance to ensure that shipping is made available to lift a minimum of 26,000 migrants under the free and assisted passage schemes during 1947.

7. I have referred to the national and political significance of this problem to Australia and I feel sure that you, with me, will also appreciate the importance from the Empire aspect of rendering assistance to us in our desire that our migration plans for 1947 should provide for a substantial quota of our kinsfolk from the United Kingdom. I do therefore earnestly request your interest and efforts in securing for Australia an allocation of migrant passages for 1947 on the basis indicated in the preceding paragraph. After carefully weighing every consideration I feel strongly that failure to achieve this objective will seriously embarrass my Government's position on the question of immigration.

[AA:A3196, 1946, 0.23230/31/58/59/60]