Diary of a Labour Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister


"This is the most momentous election in the history of Australia for three reasons.

"Firstly, the Government elected will be responsible for the organization and direction of Australia's part in the growing offensive action against Japan, which, after Germany is defeated, will finally culminate in victory in the Pacific theatre. Having passed from the defensive and wrested the initiative from the Japanese, the first task of the new Government will be to review the nature and extent of Australia's war effort. This will primarily be governed by the Commander-in-Chief's strategical plan of operations as approved by the joint Chiefs of Staff and as related to the global strategy laid down by the combined Chiefs of Staff.

"Secondly, the Government elected will probably be responsible for participation in the peace conference, at which the system of collective security for the post-war world will be decided, and the fundamental principles of the charter of the rights and privileges of the peoples of all nations will be determined. Our destiny in the Pacific will hinge on these momentous decisions.

"Thirdly, the Government elected will be responsible for the drafting of the plans for demobilization and post-war reconstruction. It may have to give effect to the first stages of these measures in accordance with the broad basis of the peace treaties and Australian conceptions of the principles which should govern the national life and economy in the post-war period.

"The people of Australia have before them the record of the Labour Government in the recent critical period of our history. There has been much controversy, as there always will be in a virile democracy in time of crisis, as to what has been done or should have been done. The record of the Labour Government and its claim for a mandate for the future rests on what it has done to organize a war effort, which, in respect of the man-power in the armed forces, munitions production, and other essential needs, is comparable with that of Britain.

"The situation with which the Government was faced following the fall of Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies was expressed in London in the following words:-

"We all sympathize with our kith and kin in Australia now that the shield of British and American sea power has, for the time being, been withdrawn from them so unexpectedly and so tragically and now that hostile bombers may soon be within range of Australian shores."

"The degree of Australia's preparedness to meet the grave threat with which it was confronted at that stage of the war is relevant to-day only as the starting point from which to measure what the Labour Government has done, and not what others may have left undone or been unable to accomplish.

"Comparing our lot with that of the people of Britain, Russia, or the occupied countries, we have cause for deep gratitude that our land has been spared the direct ravages of war, except for raids on certain centres and in our waters. We have suffered grievous losses in many theatres of war beyond our mainland, but these men have as truly defended Australia as if they had opposed the enemy on our own soil.

"Final victory has still to be won. Until Germany is defeated and the full weight of the United Nations can be thrown against Japan, we must be unrelaxing in our resolution and efforts. We must willingly accept the sacrifices which the Commonwealth's war effort will continue to demand from us. It is the price of victory and of a future free from fear and want.

"I submit with confidence to my fellow Australians the judgment of my leadership of the country at the time of its greatest peril. I was called to the post of Prime Minister by circumstances outside my initiative and control. I sincerely believe that I have discharged the great trust reposed in me, not infallibly, but conscientiously, successfully, and in accordance with the high traditions of the office, in which it has been my privilege to serve my fellow men for their security and welfare at a time of grave peril to the nation."