Diary of a Labour Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister


JCPML00408/17 Centenary of the City of Sydney, 20 July 1942

Précis of the whole event, followed by the transcript of John Curtin's speech:


Meeting of the Sydney Council at Sydney Town Hall on the occasion of the city of Sydney Centenary. Tape 1: Lord Mayor (Stanley S Crick) introduces Governor of NSW. Lord Wakehurst: Reads message from the King. One of the most beautiful and popular cities of the world. Progress for first time interrupted by the war. Also message from the Governor-General. In spite of critical days passing, the desire to join you in celebration of incorporation of the city. First capital city to suffer from hostile actions. Message from Governor of Victoria. Conveys congratulations. Town Clerk (R Hendy): Reads message from British Government, Premier of NSW, Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Mayor of City of Greater Newcastle, Lord Mayor of Hobart, Consul of Royal Consulate of Yugoslavia and Lord Mayor of Adelaide, all expressing congratulations and admiration for courage and strength displayed by citizens during the war. 10-'30" Lord Mayor: Reads minute. Today the 100th anniversary of declaration of Town as city and incorporation of citizens. Foundations of Sydney laid 26 Jan 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip landed at Sydney Cove. Outlines history of city. First meeting places of Council and achievements. City of today, pre-eminent among the great cities of the world. Fealty and loyalty to King George VI. Replies to message from George VI (at 30'00") 31'22" Alderman Arthur McElhone, Alderman of forty years : Seconds the minute. Honour to be there, here's to my city. 32'30" Senator Alderman Armstrong: Supports the minute, visualises colony of 1842. Place among cornerstones of democracy. 35'10" Lord Wakehurst: Lively recollections of sesquicentenary. History of the Council. Sydney changed a lot since last century, on one generation became second white capital of the Empire. Incorporation means Sydney became a legal personality but suggests that Sydney's personality has much more than legal meaning to inhabitants. Would they otherwise be so sensitive to rival attractions of other cities. Truth is that the people of Sydney love Sydney. Perhaps he has lived here long enough to understand and share that sentiment. Today live in jeopardy. Sydney had a brush with the enemy. Happy relations with Lord Mayors. 44'50" John Curtin Prime Minister: Very great pleasure to share in the celebrations of centenary of any capital city but enhanced when it is Sydney. First foothold established in country which we now occupy and are determined to hold against any assault. Not only largest and first incorporated city but important economic and commercial place. Focal point of what we can describe as concentrated mind of Australia. People can feel rich sentiment of pride in what achieved. Founders had glorious vision. This war is irreconcilable conflict between opposing philosophies. 57'18" Most Rev H W K Mowall, DD, ?Anglican Archbishop of Sydney: such an occasion a reminder that municipal government an ancient tradition in British life. Anglo-saxon fathers had aldermen charged with serving the community. Important part which town and later city played in widening concept of freedom.

Tape 2: Mowall (continued): May city be a citadel of freedom. For nearly 68 years town hall and cathederal stood side by side. Governor Macquarie intended cathederal to be centre of great square and municipal council encroached by securing old burial grounds, but always been good neighbours. 5'13" Most Rev Norman T Gilroy, DD, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney: Glory in citizenship and proud of city of birth. Remarkable progress, singularly blessed by Almighty God. Exquisite situation, natural wealth and genial climate. People of lovely character. 13'00" Hon J M Baddeley, acting Premier of NSW: Comments on the Lord mayor's minute. Wonderful city, nothing like this in Australia today. Love it, cherish it, going to fight for it. United to meet oppressors who would take democratic right away from us. 18'34" Hon James McGirr, MLA, Minister for local government and housing: Comment son minute. Progress of local government in the last 100 years. Area changed little. Very great pity because if had unbuilt areas would be great opportunity build homes for people. His very respected and worthy leader, the premier Mr McKell foresaw this in 1931 and endeavoured to enlarge the area of city but not successful because Legislative Council saw fit to be recalcitrant and refused. Announcer: Been listening to city of Sydney Centenary. Apologise for curtailing broadcast but have to for news commitments.


Centenary of City of Sydney 20th July 1942. Speech by John Curtin.

Gentlemen allow me to introduce the Right Honourable John Curtin MP, Prime Minister of Australia. And, may I thank you Mr Curtin for coming from Canberra to join us.

MR JOHN CURTIN My Lord Mayor, Your Excellency, Mr Acting Premier, your Graces, Chief Justice and gentlemen. It's a very great pleasure as well as a great privilege for the Prime Minister of Australia to share the 100th Anniversary of the incorporation of any capital city within the Commonwealth. But that pleasure, and I am quite sure that privilege, is enhanced when the celebration is of the 100th Anniversary of the capital city which is in its very history the first foothold that the men and women of our race established in the continent that we now occupy, and which we are determined to hold against any assault.

Sydney is not only the largest city in Australia, as well as being the first incorporated city, and - as you have said Sir - the place where the first representative election took place, but it is also, notwithstanding whatever scenic disadvantages it may have, the important commercial and economic place which associates this Commonwealth with the life of the world at large. This is no mean city. This is the focal point of what we can describe as the concentrated mind of Australia. It's quite true sir that that focal mind has many tributaries some of them no doubt in any assessment major in their contribution. But here from time to time gathers the representative life and thought and action of Australia, commercially, economically and politically. It gathers here because here is the largest concentration of men and women who are alike unto those who occupy Australia as a whole. The Commonwealth capital is 200 miles away. Other capitals of this Commonwealth are at various distances stretching up to more than 2000 miles away. This is the heart of a great continent - old geologically, but yet young as measured by the ages of the great cities of the world. I am in no boasting mood, God forgive me if ever I should feel tempted to that, but I doubt if any country in the first century of its existence or any capital city in the first 100th year, first 100 years of its incorporation, can show the extraordinary development which marks Australia and marks this capital city.

The first 100 years of existence of most of the countries of the world took, of course, time which was a time vastly different in the inheritance of the race to that which has marked their own position. But it was very humble beginnings that marked the commencement of the annals of our own country. And it is true Sir what you have said, that traditionally we haven't got much to build upon except in so far as that tradition is linked with the lives of all our forebears whatever they may have been. From Captain Cook and Mathew Flinders and Arthur Phillip and Sir George Gibbs and Oxley and Hume, from names such as these and those who were associated with them thousands of other names have come to identify the people who laid the foundations of this great country.

Today the people of Sydney can properly feel a rich sentiment of pride in what they have. But I put it to you - if it were possible - which generation is entitled to the larger prize? Those who started it or those who were here to consummate and enjoy it. The founders of this nation, whatever there may be in the minds of critics, had in them the imagination of a glorious vision. And, that vision must have been a vision intimately related to making better the national life that they themselves had inherited. And their explorations and their discoveries and their settlement in those new places was entirely for the purpose of transplanting the race they belonged to, the culture they had inherited, the vision of the future that they entertained, to a land where it would have greater scope and freedom to unfold and to mature. They were not separatists; they were largely expansionists. Thus here, in this tremendously large place, as we measure the territory occupied by the men and women of our own race in their own home land, we seek not the divorcement but an enlargement of all of Great Britain, Ireland have not only had, but have come to be, in the life of the great world of mankind.

And, these are the things, my Lord Mayor, which are the intangible elements in all that we today seek to defend, to maintain and to perpetuate. This war is an irreconcilable conflict between opposing philosophies. It may have its material applications that I dare, but basically, the men who went to vote to decide who should administer the affairs of their town 100 years ago, went to perform an act of associated citizenship which everything that this nation today is fighting for is derived from. The inherent right of a man to be himself and to associate with his fellows freely and in dignity and in order so that law and not mere violence shall be the measure of one man's relationship to another.

This 100 year - years that have passed - it admits of deep meditation and probably long statement. But I sum it up Sir to say that here the city meets to manage the city. Somewhere in this city the representatives of the State meet to manage the State. Somewhere in this country the representatives of the whole country meet to administer the Commonwealth. Wider than that, various other places, the representatives of our country from day to day carry on their diplomatic relationship with other countries. And every now and again, there is a formal convening of what amounts to an Imperial Council upon which this country with the other dominions of the British Commonwealth and Great Britain herself sit down at a table no larger than that which stands in front of me, around which the representatives of the wards of the city council today sit. That imperial table, in the wide circumference of imperial responsibility, has its roots centered in the soil of freedom and its authority no less implicit in the people than is the case that those gentlemen who today sit round the table of this council to decide where the markets shall be and what the fee shall be for the right to trade in it.

The war, ladies and gentlemen, brings to us the great issue to preserve the priceless inheritance of freedom which British men and British women through the ages have sought to make a reality, the landmarks of whose achievements, now and again, we have the achievement to commemorate. Here, 100 years ago, evolving all that had gone before, they formally incorporated a city. Today Sir you celebrate that fact. I put it to you that the formalism is but incidental and the manifestation to it deep abiding sentiment which this race holds as precious and which we shall stand upon so that it shall never perish from our country.


Thank you Mr Prime Minister