Diary of a Labour Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister



On 19th November, 1941, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made a national broadcast. Mr. Curtin said -

"For the purposes of this recruiting campaign, today is Tobruk day. It is my duty to put as forcibly as I can the fact that our fighting forces everywhere need strengthening. The valiant resistance of the garrison at Tobruk for over seven months symbolizes the desperate odds against which our fighting men are contending in all theatres of war. They need greatly strengthening in men and materials. I tell Australia the plain straight fact that on the fighting fronts a maximum number of gallant men are required to meet the enemy wherever he may strike, and those men have to be backed on the home front by more men and more materials. "My appeal, therefore, is twofold. Firstly, there must be no diminution of the supply of man-power to all our fighting forces. There must be no slackening of the supply of the most modern weapons of war to them. Secondly, in Australia, men and materials must be devoted, paramountly over everything else, to the production of those weapons of war. I point to the fact that France failed in the factory before she failed on the battle-front. The people had forgotten how to pull together. Employers refused to sacrifice profits, while men declined to work. In the zero hour of desperation, France had no substitute for preparation and she was lost. We must, and can, win this struggle for every man and woman playing their part. Australians know how to work and we must work harder, not every man for himself, but every man for his country, whatever his job. There must be perfect teamwork between the man in the factory and the man in the fighting forces.


That calls for a proper distribution of man-power, and it is my purpose to point out to the manhood of our nation that the one clear road to victory and peace lies ahead of them. That is the road of service, either in the fighting forces or in the factory. "The defence of this nation demands that all of us must rise above self-interest. We must join forces for the common good. Our industries must run to capacity. Our man-power, strengthened in all theatres of war, together with men, materials and morale on the home front, will win through. Unity is the heart of national defence. Nations in Europe have gone down into the abyss of defeat at the hands of Nazi-ism because they were at war within themselves. People who refused to face facts were caught unprepared and, as the storm broke, had no spirit with which to meet the onslaught.

"Team-work does not come from high talking in high places or from low living among the masses. It comes from self-sacrifice, brains, sweat and selflessness. Self-sacrifice will demand many things. Our men in the fighting forces are giving their all. We, as a Government, have endeavoured to see to it that those they have left behind have a scale of living something in proportion to the sacrifice their men have made and are prepared to make. It means, as I have said, not only placing surplus income at the disposal of the Government, but ceasing to engage in any active competition with the Government's war effort by curtailing spending on peace-time luxuries, amenities and services. It means giving the ultimate in skill, brain-power and physical exertion in the defence works throughout our nation. It means making our land the home of the strong and the spirit of our people invincible.

"Australians to-day, holding the outposts of our continent in distant theatres of war, need your constant support, and the present recruiting campaign is aimed at giving to them the assuredness of full reinforcements. Their fight at those outposts is a grim one. The fight at home must be conducted with equal intensity. It must be a fight against extravagance, materialism, laziness, complacency and 'passing-the-buck'. It must be a fight in which the line of battle passes through every home, every office, every factory, every farm. It must be a total battle with courage and imagination, because nothing less will suffice if we are to defeat the most powerful, the most ruthless and the most determined enemy our nation, the British Empire, civilization itself, have ever faced.

"This Australia is a land of cities and golden plains, of great rivers and vast spaces. It is a land in which countless thousands of plain, ordinary men and women have toiled long, mostly for little reward; who sacrificed and who built our heritage. If this heritage was worth their lives to build, it is worth ours to preserve. We must mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our honour as a nation if this nation is to survive for future generations to build into a greater repository for those things that indeed are the only things worth living for. In the name of Australia, I appeal for the fullest support for this campaign in the firm belief that no appeal to Australians for Australia will fail Australia.

JCPML.   Records of the Commonwealth of Australia.  Digest of Decisions and Announcements and Important Speeches by the Prime Minister. No. 6, 12 - 14 November 1941, p11-12.   JCPML00110/11.