Diary of a Labour Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Leader of the Opposition




On this day, two years ago we were on the threshold of war. We were, despite the scourging of the First World War and the grim years of the economic depression, still a young nation.

Today it is my belief that we have earned full title to nationhood. I say that because I am convinced that we have developed a national purpose that is undeniable and will be inflexible in the face of whatever dangers, threats and actual physical contact with war our community confronts.

There is complete unity in regard to the war. As a nation we are in this war with all the issues clearly in our minds; with conviction as to the justness of our cause; and with an adamant determination to see it through so that we may work out for ourselves the way of living to which we feel entitled.

The Labor Party, throughout the two years of war, has resolutely refused to have anything to do with political intrigue and with seeking after advantage and position. We have said that we would give our all. Our record has shown that we have done that. And we will continue to do so.

The faults and cracks in the structure of the Australian Government have not been of our making. They did not commence, and have not been widened, by any word or deed of the Opposition nor of the War Council. Therefore, as we enter the third year of the war, the Labor Party's declaration is this:-

'We will govern when we are given a mandate by the people to do so. If disintegration and dissension among our political opponents or ill-conceived policies on their part result in a call being made to Labor then we are ready to govern.'

I make that statement because I know the mind of the workers of Australia. Their enthusiasm, energy, skill, ingenuity and unstinted sweat provide the backbone of our war effort. They want none of manoeuvres and jockeying for position. Least of all do they want a Labor Government that would be but the miserable echo of a name. Their pledge, and our pledge, is to Australia.

All that has happened is a revelation that, in this war, only our utmost will serve. To do less than our best is not to do enough.

Our gallant forces have come from the patriotism of our manhood; they need behind them the whole-souled industry and the equal patriotism of every man and woman. This, I am confident, they will have.

And who knows where the circumference of the titanic struggle has been plotted? All over Europe; in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean; in North Africa and the Middle East the battles go on. In the Pacific, perils persist. Our devoted service and loyalty are the elements by which every test will be met and every danger overcome.

Each Australian now knows that there are no geographical limits to the war. There can, therefore, be no limits to our efforts at resistance and our determination to emerge unconquered.