Diary of a Labour Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister


"Half the period of five weeks allotted to the Third Liberty Loan of £100,000,000 has passed. Only half the amount sought is in hand and the subscribers number fewer than 35,000. Since the first £50,000,000, which has been barely reached, includes the large subscriptions of savings banks, assurance societies and other institutions and commercial houses, this is a most disappointing response by Australians to an imperative demand. Subscribers to the Third Liberty Loan so far compare with 130,000 at the same stage of the Austerity Loan, when two-thirds of the amount asked for had been subscribed.

"Many thousands in the past few days have cheered members of the Ninth Division who have fought valiantly for us overseas, and who have returned to carry on the fight at home. In appreciation of these men - of all our fighting men - to stop at cheering, flag-waving and lip service? The slow progress of the Third-Liberty Loan is an affront to our nationhood. It represents a triumph for selfishness and complacency over all obligations as citizens of a country in deadly peril. Surely such a shocking response is no true reflection of Australian sentiment? There is no middle course. Either we face up to whatever sacrifices are demanded of us to ensure our safety or we endure much worse at the hands of a savage enemy.

"What has this nation been called on to bear so far? There are shortages of beer and cigarettes. Coupons are required for clothes and sugar and tea. But does the nation go hungry or unclad? Has one of our cities known Stalingrad's agony or Coventry's ruin or Rotterdam's mass murder from the air? So far, Australia has been kept safe from the downward march of the Japanese. But that is not a circumstance which should encourage complacency or justify excuses to evade what cannot be evaded. It is a circumstance which should call for everything to go into a maximum effort to secure immunity from the horrors of war. That is the selfish side of it. I put it to the country that it would be nothing short of betrayal to fail to give those gallant men who have been put into the field everything that they must have to preserve their own lives and to defend us. Is the civil population at home suffering nothing, sacrificing little to take refuge in all manner of excuses for failing to measure up to the standard of Australianism which our fighting men have set?

"It is true that taxation has been increased. That is inescapable in a fight to preserve liberty. And if on top of that to subscribe to the loan makes people feel the pinch then what of it? This is the testing time. Sacrifice has been talked of enough. Here it is now in reality. It is of no use blinking the facts. All have to use less, buy less, spend less in every possible direction so that men and money and materials may work for the war. The person who can show that he or she has lived simply, has stripped himself or herself of everything except bare essentials and still cannot afford to subscribe to this loan is the only person who can justify absence from the list of subscribers.

"It is nonsense to talk of taxation as a reason for non-participation in the loan. While racecourses attract record crowds, while outside theatres queues wait for admittance, while money is still being wasted recklessly in the purchase of all kinds of things that could and should and must wait there can be no excuses such as that.

"The failure of the loan will represent not only an injury to ourselves as a nation. It will represent a severe blow at the cause of the United Nations. It will give the enemy valuable material for propaganda. It will give the enemy, poised now for attack, confidence in the outcome of such an attempt, for it will be reasoned that the hearts of Australian people are not in the fight.

"The answer to all that I have said is plain. Duty calls to every Australian. I invoke the Australian Parliament to give a lead to the nation. I ask that, during the two weeks remaining before the loan closes, that each member of the Parliament devotes all his available time to advancing the progress of the loan.

"If Australia cannot produce tangible evidence of the strength of its own purpose then this nation cannot, with justice, put a case to the leaders of the United Nations for assistance to hold out. There are two weeks within which Australia can regain national self-respect. I am confident that that fortnight will bring fruitful results.

"I have spoken plainly and deliberately. The paramount and overriding requirements of the war must be kept uppermost in the mind of every citizen. There is nothing that the leader of this country can ask of the people - when what is asked is far less than that which is required of those who are actually defending us - which should not be freely and even cheerfully given.

"Within a day or so the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) will leave this country on a very vital and important mission, but that mission, however important it is, will require no more from him than is required of the men who are actually fighting for us. He has asked me to emphasize that fact. He goes in pursuance of his duty, in order to ensure the freedom of this country, and to work for it. Those who stay behind have the same duty as have those who go into the fighting lines, or others who go outside Australia on important governmental missions. I pray for the success of our fighting forces. I pray not only that the Minister's mission will be attended with success, but also that he will have, under Divine Providence, a safe return.

"I beg the Australian people, many of whom to-day are idle when they could be working, and are dissipating resources which they ought to be husbanding, to bear in mind that what is being sought from them is being sought not only to preserve the freedom which they enjoy, but also so that their children in the years to come may be assured of the liberty which all of us have inherited and which we have a solemn trusteeship to preserve."