Diary of a Labour Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister



On 15th April, 1942, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made a national broadcast. Mr. Curtin said –

"Men and women of Australia.

"What means this war? The answer is your way of life; all you own or hope to own; your job, the betterment of that job; your self-respect; your freedom; your life are at stake. We Australians are fighting for survival as starkly as if smallpox were sweeping our land. The issue is life or death. It is highly improbable that this struggle will end in stalemate, unless it be the stalemate of exhaustion; and if that be the case then that exhaustion will be little less dire than defeat. Depend upon it, if in defeat you escape with your life then you will escape with nothing else. The British, the Germans, the Russians, the Italians have no illusions about this struggle. Nor has any sensible Australian. It is a fight for self-existence and the devil take the hindmost. Australians! Your self-existence is the stake. If there be any among you who are complacent about it, then this Government values the existence of the rest as the greater consideration.

"The most vital battle we are fighting to-day is a battle to gain time in producing the many essentials of war. Every hour gained now will hasten the hour of victory. Every week gained now will spare the lives of thousands of fighting men. Every month gained now will speed the return of peace and happiness to men, women and children throughout the world. Time won now will later win more and more people back from misery and horror. From dawn to dawn, 24 hours each day, the nation's fighting men and war industries are now gaining time for the rest of us.

“The war is costing us more and more every day. Over the past four months the Australian war effort has expanded rapidly, and it is still expanding. The spending of your money must be transferred to the nation so that resources shall be concentrated upon war and not ill-spent on things the nation has only in short supply or other things we can do without. The Government is now spending one-third of our national income on the war. We must go much further. Our enemies have already gone further, and that is why they have a great pool of weapons of war with which to challenge our security. We must outmatch them in providing weapons of war. That is fundamental to victory.

"We are not thinking only of the immediate security of Australia. With the growing assistance of the United States of America, we shall one day go out and drive the enemy from positions from which he now menaces our security, challenges the life lines of the British Empire, and endangers democracy in the Pacific and in all the world. There is no limit to the effort this nation must make. It must be an effort in which every citizen, however humble be his or her position, contributes in some way towards it. We cannot all be soldiers, sailors, airmen or members of the women's auxiliaries. We cannot all be munitions workers or be engaged in supplying the fighting forces with their varied requirements. But we all must have a part; we must all make sacrifices; we must work if we cannot fight; we must save rather than spend. The less demand for goods for civilian consumption, the more men will be freed for war service. It has been said that thrift is a virtue. To-day it is more than a virtue; it is an urgent duty, one of the most important duties that all citizens must perform. The Government knows that some families have little enough to provide the necessities of life. It is not demanded that there be a sacrifice of basic needs; but everyone who has any surplus above these basic needs must save that margin and contribute the surplus to the war effort. Everything you can go without, every shilling you save, is one snore blow at the enemy.

"Next I want you to consecrate - yes, to consecrate your savings by putting every shilling saved into war funds. There are two ways in which you can do this: you can put your savings into War Savings Certificates or into National Savings Bonds. With War Savings Certificates you are already familiar. There is a limit of £250 on the holdings of savings certificates by any one person. We are now providing a security in the form of a National Savings Bond of a value of £10 bearing interest at the rate of a per cent. per annum. There is no limit on the total holding of these bonds. They will be available at all banks and money order post offices. You may buy a bond by instalments, with a deposit of £1 and pay £1 monthly. The interest will be payable to you or to your account half-yearly. The bond itself will be repayable in cash in ten years.

"By purchasing a National Savings Bond you are contributing to your own safety and ultimate welfare. It is as good as an insurance policy. The Government places this campaign on the level of an integral part of the war effort. It is next in importance to the part played by the munitions worker, the transport worker carrying defence goods, all of which is next to that of the fighting man himself. If you spend above your real needs you are demanding civil goods which have to be produced by men and women who should be working to produce war equipment. You are, in fact, hindering the war effort. In this crisis the Government cannot allow that to continue.

"You may be told that failure to spend may mean putting somebody out of work somewhere. That is not the case. There is plenty of work in the armed forces and in the war industries for every man and woman who is available. If, for a short period, any one is out of work during; his transition from peace to war activity, the Government will look after him or her. Your part in the National Savings Campaign can be taken in the full knowledge that you are injuring no one. On the contrary, you become part of the war effort, and therefore, you help the nation.

"Every £10 bond you buy is a positive contribution to the conduct of the war. A £10 bond will enable the Government to employ a war worker; or to pay the cost of transport of some necessary defence goods; or to contribute towards the manufacture of munitions and weapons of war. The same £10 spent on non-essential goods makes no contribution to war. On the contrary, it keeps workers away from urgent and necessary war work, and retards the transition of this country to a total war effort.

"The Government in the past three months has cut down the production of many unnecessary things. It is also developing important economies in the distribution of goods so as to free labour and transport for the war effort. This nation cannot wage war on a winning scale and also maintain peace-time standards of production. We must maintain and expand the things that are essential to war and eliminate the things that are not. We must conserve supplies of important materials like steel, rubber, copper, oil, cotton, for essential war needs. We must conserve shipping space for essential imports. That means cutting down supplies of non-essential goods. You must save the money that you would normally spend on these goods. To seek new ways of spending your surplus income will merely result in the expansion of other non-essential industries. The Government is watching this and will take the same action with regard to these non-essential industries as it has already done in regard to many other such industries. The Government's policy is to limit non-essential production. Your part in that. policy is by joining wholeheartedly in the National Savings Campaign.

"It is not sufficient for you to transfer existing savings into National Svings Bonds. That makes no contribution, because it merely puts your savings out of one stocking into another. We must have from you a new stocking of savings. We shall use your new savings for the national good by employing more and more men and women; and using more and more materials for the war effort. Do not think of this problem in terms of money, but rather in terms of effort. Your effort must be one of economizing in your spending and of diverting all your surplus income from things which will give you immediate enjoyment to things which will give you ultimate safety.

“To spend now is to disregard national security. To save now is to make an effective contribution to national security. There is a clear duty for all. Your every waking hour must be an hour devoted to Australia. Your every penny must be weighed first in the light of national duty before you spend it. Unless you want the standard of the Japanese yen for your money in this country, then play your part in the National Savings Campaign and start now!"

JCPML.  Records of the Commonwealth of Australia.  Digest of Decisions and Announcements and Important Speeches by the Prime Minister. No. 25, 5 - 22 April 1942.  JCPML00110/30