Diary of a Labour Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister



"Men and women of Australia,

“This is Armistice Day eve. On this night, 24 years ago, the world stood breathless awaiting the news that the most horrible conflict known to mankind had ended. The news came and civilization as we knew it lived again. To-day, civilization is once more menaced. Armistice Day has lost its original significance as a new, and more terrible, conflict sweeps the world. The Axis forces stalk abroad and all that came to pass on 11th November, 1918, has been lost. Armistice Day of 1942 - the fourth to fall in this new war - is a day of dedication as well as a day of remembrance.

“We recall into warm memory the undying gratitude that is owed to those men who fought and died from 1914 to 1918 and, in their name, we dedicate ourselves anew. This day, then, is a day of dedication on which the nation calls to all, for the year that is ahead, that everything - material, spiritual, emotional -shall be devoted to the single purpose that must be pursued if the nation is to survive as a free nation.

"Australia has never lacked brave men; brave not only on the battlefields, in the air, on the seas; but brave in meeting all the ordeals that confront peoples everywhere. Famine, pestilence, drought, depression and economic hardship, the building of homes in the wilderness, the shaping of communities - all have imposed great tests upon our people. Australian men and women have won their land for themselves by the strength of their own hands, the determination of their own spirit, and the consciousness that their way of living was one which could be made richer and freer in the march of time.

“Today the test of nationhood is upon us. Bravery alone will not suffice. Gallant fighting men and steadfast women's auxiliaries alone cannot meet what is involved in this war. When last I spoke to you, I referred to the starkness of war our fighting men face in New Guinea. The lesson of New Guinea is that brave men will fight to the fullest capacity of flesh and blood and sinew, but that they must have the means to fight, means which are of such a variety, which call for such intricacies in their devising and immense tonnages in shipping to transport, as to outmode completely all previous conceptions of what warfare required. To provide those means, the whole nation must devote its total organization to war. Everything must be subordinated that cannot be employed usefully for the fighting men, and for the forces of our allies. I told you, when last I spoke to you, that we were holding on in New Guinea and that I was confident that we would hold on until a span of time, which I fixed at not less than six months, had been bridged when we could expect to gather forces requisite to an all-out onslaught against the enemy. I said also that, as I spoke, our fate was in the balance as the new phase of the Battle of the Solomons opened. Nothing has happened to alter what was said then.

“The fighting men are the Government's primary concern. Their maintenance and the development of their strength as an offensive unit have occupied the attention of the Government for twelve months and will continue to occupy its attention. Their employment in theatres of war here and there, involves, among other things, proper lines of supplies, and no demands by civil interests which would impair the efficiency of the fighting forces in any way can or will be tolerated. I say that bluntly to those interests clamouring for the release of men from the forces, and I say it equally as frankly to those interests who find that their peace-time opportunities for `business as usual' are being either eliminated or sharply restricted.

“On this Armistice Day we remember those who died, but also we think of those who are fighting now, and we are determined that the sacrifices made by our men in 1914-18 shall in no measure be exceeded by those engaged in this conflict because of any failure by the Government to arm them and supply them. The austerity campaign has had, as its guiding purpose, the bringing to all the people of a realization that total war is raging in this country just as surely as if the enemy had invaded our shores.

“The first approach of the campaign has been to stress the importance of the state of mind into which all the people must place themselves, and that is that the tasks of war are your tasks, not the other fellow's. Stalingrad stands because the Russian people are single-minded in their attitude to war. All must share the burdens, all must work and fight if all are to survive. I give you an example. A few days ago I saw a march of the Volunteer Defence Corps through the streets of Perth. Marching gamely and proudly with his mates was a man with a stiff left leg and with practically the whole of his right side paralysed. I hope that man is listening to-night, because to me he was the living evidence of the true spirit of the Australian people. What that man can do, all can do. I know that the true Australian spirit is to be found everywhere, but I know, too, that there are those persons whose outlook is warped by the desire for personal advancement - whether it be the haggler over wages or the profiteer in the business world.

“Therefore, the austerity campaign provides not only the opportunity for the true Australian to follow a pattern which fits in with the war programme, but it strikes drastically and will strike even more drastically at those whose pattern of life conforms to nothing but greed and selfishness and who I label as un-Australian, as traitors and as worse than fifth columnists.

"I remind the nation of the pledge that I asked, when the austerity campaign was opened in September last, that every Australian should take. I repeat it to you now. (See Digest No. 39, page 20.)

“I ask you now to look back upon the ten weeks that have elapsed since that pledge was put to you to take. In essence, that pledge is one to work or fight, to give all, to withhold nothing. In the name of Australia, I ask you what has been your fulfilment of that pledge? The Government has made decisions which have been imposed. It has made requests, many of which have been met. It has now placed before you the largest single loan ever floated in the history of this country. The £100,000,000 loan was opened last Tuesday. It will close next month, and I want it to close over-subscribed as evidence to our fighting men and to our allies that this country has put aside privileges, comforts and rest in the nation's cause and as a crushing answer to the enemy that here, in a free land, a free people have given, and will continue to give, freely for the preservation of everything that the enemy would ruthlessly thrust into an oblivion of misery and degradation.

“Australians have ever been record-breakers. On the cricket field, in aviation, at the Olympic Games and in almost every sphere of peacetime endeavour our Bradmans and our Kingsford-Smiths have smashed existing records. Here is a war-time record to surpass. This is a record loan. Australia asks that the record be broken.

"In my last talk with you, I gave you the picture of what was demanded of this nation as it entered the fourth year of war. That picture has not altered. The grim god of war still decides the pattern of our lives The men of 1914-18 wiped clean the slate. Shall their blood have been shed in vain? Are we, with all the potential strength at our command, to fail now to bring to reality what is demanded if we are to survive? Remember, the sons of those men of 1914-18 are the fighting men of to-day. Think of their fathers on this Armistice Day eve and dedicate yourselves grimly, and without reservation, to the service of their sons of to-day. For, if you fail those sons to-day you fail their sons of to-morrow. It is the children of to-day who will enter into slavery under a conqueror's heel.

"Therefore, I enjoin you to live in austerity for your own sake and for the sake of generations of Australian children in all time to come so that, as I have said, this fair land, your land, my land, our land may be held free. This we can do. On the battle-fronts, in every theatre, the enemy has ceased to make headway. Our troops, with freedom in their hearts, now ask you, by giving of your best, to put victory on their banners!"

JCPML.  Records of the Commonwealth of Australia.  Digest of Decisions and Announcements and Important Speeches by the Prime Minister. No. 45, 6 October - 13 November 1942.  JCPML00110/50.