Diary of a Labour Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister


"I agree with every word that General MacArthur has so pregnantly said.* Ever since the Casablanca conference, in which there was made manifest a re-affirmation of Allied global strategy concentrating on the defeat of Hitler first, the Japanese have realized that time is with them in the Pacific. The concentrations of the United Nations on the European theatre mean that opportunity is synchronously provided to Japan to concentrate on the Pacific theatre. As things stand that means that, having complete control of the sea lanes in the Western Pacific and of the outer approaches to all Australia, this continent is confronted with a constant and deadly assault that calls for everything we have if we are to meet it.

"Upon our air strength and its collateral naval support depend the degree of strength that Japan can bring against our outer fringe of islands. Our air power must be of sufficient strength to have superiority. Otherwise our naval and land forces will be subjected to a test beyond their resources. The superior air power of the Japanese in Malaya and the Philippines enabled their invading forces to succeed. Up to date, they have not yet had sufficient air strength to give to their naval forces superiority in the battles that have been fought in this theatre. But it would be a little ridiculous for us to assume that the lessons of the past have not produced on the part of the Japanese a capacity to re-estimate what they now require and to prepare accordingly. Therefore, their strength to attack in the north can be expected to become larger and stronger than hitherto and that requires that our scale of resistance must be correspondingly increased.

"In view of the clear and explicit statements by General MacArthur and General Sir Thomas Blamey, within the past 48 hours, the people of Australia should now know their duty. For myself, I say that not only will the war in this theatre be longer than the war in Europe because global strategy so dictates but that the threat to Australia while longer in point of time must also become immediate because that is how Japan will take advantage of the continuance of the European war. The strain on our supplies, shipping, transport generally and man-power cannot be relaxed. It must be intensified. These are the considerations which come into the making of government policy in respect of every aspect of our national economy. Our total war effort

The Japanese, barring our submarine activities, which are not to be discounted, have complete control of the sea lanes In the western Pacific and of the outer approaches toward Australia. Control of such sea lanes no longer depends solely, or even perhaps primarily, upon naval power, but upon air power operating from land bases held by ground troops all supported by naval power. The first line of Australian defence is our bomber line. The range of our Air Force over surrounding waters marks the stretch of no-man's-sea, which is the measure of our safety. If we lose the air, naval forces cannot save us. Conversely, if the enemy wins control of the air, his naval units can at once bring forward convoys of ground forces to continue his attack to the southward to a limit imposed only by the effective range of his land-based air supports. A primary threat to Australia does not, therefore, require a great initial local concentration of naval striking power. It requires rather a sufficient concentration of land-based aviation. As a matter of fact, Japanese naval forces in great strength, although now beyond our bomber range, are within easy striking distance of Australia. The vital factors, therefore, in the South-West Pacific, with its littoral of countless island groups and innumerable archipelagic reaches, are the air forces to strike and the ground forces to conquer and hold. The Allied naval forces can be counted upon to play their own magnificent part, but the battle of the western Pacific will be won or lost by the proper application of the air-ground team must be at its maximum to hold the Japanese out. For now is the period when the task of keeping Japan out falls paramountly upon ourselves, with such support as the United States of America can give to us. That support is limited by the demands of other theatres and the strain on shipping and transport generally.

"I am confident that we can meet this situation, but it requires on the part of the people a wholehearted devotion to the purposes of war. Every civilian has but to keep at work and work as efficiently as he or she can knowing that the results of that work will go to keeping strong the forces that stand between the enemy and the homes that we can keep sacrosanct if only we work as hard as our forces fight."