Diary of a Labour Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister


"To-night it is my duty and it is also my pleasure, and I think, when we all understand the position, we will accept it as a common privilege, to share in the launching of the Fourth Liberty Loan - to back the attack with the money and the resources of Australia.

"That phrase `back the attack' seems to be the whole strategical situation of the United Nations in all the theatres of war; no longer on the defensive, but backing the attack on those who brought misery and devastation to the world.

"A year ago the people of Australia about this time were asked to subscribe to a loan. It was not the first loan that this war had made necessary, but it was a subscription sought in order to maintain the fighting forces in a posture of resistance. For, at that period of the war, the enemies of civilization, advantaged by the enormous preparations they had made while the rest of us were sleeping, had made such onslaughts on the defensive positions of the Allies as to have forced new positions to be established. We were, in fact, still on the retreat, going back to find some place at which we could so mobilize and dispose our strength as to match at least, at that point, however backwards it may have been, any fighting forces which the enemy had marshalled. That was true even of the Battle of the Atlantic, it is, to a great extent, true of the Battle for Britain, it was true, too, of the Battle of the Middle East, the highway of the Mediterranean and all that was dependent upon the military situation in North Africa and it was true of the war in the Pacific. You were asked, in a situation of that general character in which there was particular aspects of dire menace to ourselves, to subscribe to a loan. Every loan that the Government has sought to raise has been filled because I feel certain that the people here, like the people of the other United Nations, had a full realization of all that was dependent upon their giving and of all that was at stake upon the issue of the struggle.

"Strength has been gathered throughout all the United Countries. In ever every theatre, the initiative no longer rests with the enemy. It has passed into the hands of those who have the responsibility of shaping the strategical dispositions of these gigantic forces which to-day are carrying the war increasingly away from Moscow and increasingly nearer to Berlin, which are clearing the seven seas of the destroying forces that the enemy has hitherto been able to employ, which, from Britain and from Africa, day in and day out and night in and night out are taking into the very arsenals of Germany the forces which are steadily weakening the capacity for war which the Nazis had generated. Here in the Pacific - this theatre in which our own liberties were crucially at stake and where for a long while they were in dire peril of destruction - here too, as in the other theatres, the war which the Japanese brought increasingly near to our own shores and to our own people is being taken backwards to Tokyo. The places that the enemy had captured to use as bases front which to launch bolts of destruction against us are being taken from him steadily. His supremacy of the air and of the sea which he had developed - developed to a point of dire danger - is no longer as supreme as it was. The places from which he sought to launch attacks are now places in which the forces of the United Nations will establish themselves. They have become places which our forces occupied, soon to launch increasingly attacks against the enemy. Therefore, the purpose of this loan is to back the attack against the forces which have brought civilization to the stage in which the struggle must be waged to a complete, final and unequivocal victory.

"Mr. Harold Williams has just sting the song of `The Toreador'. The toreador went forth and was assured that `a fond heart waited'. In all the places where the war is being actually fought the men, and the women too, of the united forces grappling with the enemy are blood of our blood and bone of our bone, they are our brothers, our sons, our daughters and our sisters. It is not sufficient to tell them that a fond heart awaits when victory has beep won by them. It is necessary that we shall say to them that while they fight the very maximum of strength we can provide is within their capacity to excel - that here upon the home front there shall be a concentration of resources upon our part that will have some likeness to the unsurpassed devotion they exhibit upon the field of battle.

"I speak to you quietly, I invoke no rhetoric, I come to the plane of commonsense, to look at this matter with you for just a few brief moments. I said `back the attack'. You do not back the attack of men who are fighting and dying by incessant pleas for holidays, you do not back the attack of those who are dependent upon what is to come to them unless you are willing to do without.

"If you feel that, now the enemy is on the defensive, the ordeal of endeavour is no longer imposed upon you, then I say that ordeal persists. It rest more heavily now than ever before, because the resources spent in war have caused deficiencies in all the countries and, indeed, in most of the industries. The capital equipment with which we commenced this war does not exist now to the extent that it did.

The great part of it has been exhausted by the attrition of the conflict. There is nothing in the way of stocks to fall back upon. From current production must now come whatever is available, either for those who fight or for those whose circumstances or whose duty enables them to stay at home. Out of one pool comes that which they require and that which you require. It is the business of the Government to apportion it. I say to you determinedly and inflexibly that in that apportionment the deficiencies which are inevitable must not be deficiencies involving greater casualties upon the battlefront than would otherwise be the case.

"This loan asks for £125,000,000 of money. It is here in Australia. I ask you to subscribe it for the costs of this war, in the resources which it consumes, have never been approached in the history of man-kind. I say to you that if there is to be a contest for those resources between the money which you have in your pocket and which you would like to spend and the Government which has to acquire those resources for the purposes of war, then the competition is one which is the very antithesis of that fond heart that waits for the conqueror to return. We cannot have that competition. The money which this nation pours out for war does, as a fact, go into the resources of the individual citizens of this country. It goes in wages, in salaries, in allowances, in payments of all kinds. It must pour back to the nation that gave it to the citizen. He ought to use just so much of it as will provide him with what is a reasonable subsistence, while he does the work which the nation asks him to do, and the balance should be stored to his credit. He can lend it to the nation to be repaid, as it will be, when the war is over, so that the nation will have the purchasing capacity for the goods which can be purchased for peace-time needs but which to-day we cannot get labour-power to produce. All the labour-power available is bring used on defence production.

"Let me give you just a few cold facts. The working population of this country comprises 3,369,000 men and women. They provide everything. Of that total, 1,750,000 are either fighting or doing war work, so that everything is not available for the peace-time needs of the nation or the consumable requirements of those who stay at home. Yet the nation's income, because of the expenditure on war, has steadily increased and last year it was £1,223,000,000, out of which £562,000,000 was expended on the war. At the current rate of expenditure upon the war, Australia will spend in the next six months as much as was spent during the four years and three months of the first world war. In a nutshell, the war has to-day cost this nation £1,194,000,000 - that is an average of £166 a head of the population and is in fact an average expenditure of £819,000 for each day of hostilities. For each day that the war continues £1,526,000 has to be found.

"Money is the least of the contributions the nation is asked to make for the preservation of its liberties. The gallant men and the gallant women in the land forces, on the ships, whether of the navy or the merchant marine, the airmen and all the services which these three services need have stood between the people of this land and attacks upon our cities which, if they had come here and they would have come but for the fighting resistance of our forces, could have made some of our capital cities another Rotterdam, could have made certain of our great sites of munitions production another Coventry, could have laid waste our great sugar industry, could have involved the abandonment of great acreages of this land now and, I believe forever, usable by its for the purpose of food production.

All the people who stayed at home are doubly blessed in this land; blessed in that they can pursue vocations which are vocations they would have practised if there had been no war. There has been a certain amount of overtime; there has been a great deal of fatigue; there most certainly has been on the part of a great number, indeed a great mass, a willingness to serve to the utmost of their capacity. But all that has been without the presence of an enemy pursuing them from the sky or hurling bolts at them from the ocean. You can go to sleep at night knowing that no enemy can interrupt the continuity of your slumbers and that fact alone, if there were no others, has marked you out as indeed a blessed and a fortunate people. So there need not be, and there is not on the part of the Government, a duty or obligation to justify such sacrifices as have been asked from you and made by you. For in any war of this character, the balance of sacrifice is reserved entirely for the men in uniform in this country. Therefore, in asking that this Fourth Liberty Loan be filled and oversubscribed, I am asking it, not only as the duty of Australia, but, I believe, because we owe it to our fighting men and women to do it; we owe it to our Allies to do it; we owe it, even at this stage of the war, as a thanksgiving for the blessings that so far have been vouchsafed us. The £125,000,000, because you will not have it to spend, will enable the Departments of Supply, Munitions, Aircraft Production and other departments responsible for the general provisioning of the services, to rely upon the greater part of the production capacity of this country to be reserved to them for purposes of war to back the attack.

"I said that the enemy is being driven backwards, that the dangers which confronted this country have been greatly minimized, but final victory and upon final victory depends the real peace of man for generations to come. No treaty, no convention, no compromise, no terms of armistice will be in the future anything like as stable a foundation for permanent peace as a complete destruction of the enemies' capacity to wage war.

"That postulates that future peace has yet to be established. We have still a struggle to see through. The test of stamina is upon us. Our capacity for endurance is about to be measured by events. Endurance upon the part of whom? On the part of the general public, for there can be no doubting the capacity for endurance of the stamina of the men and women in the services. For, when far too little came too late all through the early stages of the war, they pitted their heroic bodies against the overwhelming strength of the enemy. The casualties suffered, the lives sacrificed are greater than would have been the case if the nations for whom those gallant men have fought had been able to give to them in the place of actual battle equality of armament with the enemy. But we started from behind scratch and all the handicaps were handicaps carried by the men and women doing the fighting in the places where the fighting was being done.

"It is no good now being strong in Sydney; it is no good having munitions in Melbourne, it is no good having ships in the port, It is the minimum of time that those ships spend in harbour that measures the strength of the fighting in New Guinea.

"So I ask for £125,000,000 not only in the name of Australia but in the name of the United Nations. I ask for the materials it represents; I ask for the devotion it will symbolize; I ask it because it will be a revealer of the steadfastness of this nation; because it will carry conviction not only to our men on the fighting fronts but to the governments responsible for waging the war against the peace of man.

"We owe it to our valorous sons to back the attack; we owe it to those who have destroyed man's peace to prove to him we are backing the attack. I declare the 4th Liberty Loan campaign open."