r Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister


“It is a very great honour that has been paid to my country to-day. As its servant, I cannot but feel a high sense of personal pride that I should be the human instrument whereby the City of London indicates to the people and the Commonwealth of Australia that what they have done and will continue to do has the respect of this august city.

Many men in the past have sought, and many are seeking now by violence, to get for themselves the City of London, but that they can never do. Conquest is not the title that aggressors can employ to achieve the great honour that has been freely given to the people of Australia to-day.
Not by war can freedom be attained; but by war all too often it has to be maintained. The struggle that we are now engaged in cannot end until those who have sought to destroy the world have been defeated and deprived of the strength that they now employ. Not until then can it be said that freedom can be maintained by us for ourselves and for the world at large. Nor can it be gained by those who have drawn the sword.

The crucial issue in the world to-day is that freedom is at stake. If the British nation, its Allies, and the freedom-loving peoples are defeated then freedom disappears from the entire world. It is because our own rights have been struck at and that our rights involve the rights of others equally with ourselves, that the people of this country - which is the very cradle of democratic liberty, where it has been nurtured and evolved and set the model for the world at large - have a keen perception of the innate nature of the struggle. That perception is as clearly realized by the men and women of the Dominions as it is realized here.

No blows were struck at Australia when Germany marched into Poland, but Australia knew that, in marching into Poland, Germany was marching into a strategic area which was part of a considered plan of world domination and that the attack on Poland was as much Australia's business as if the very port of Sydney itself had been bombarded by the Nazis. A pledge of honour had been given to Poland by Britain. That pledge was espoused and supported by the people of Australia. They had no material or territorial interest, it can be said, in what happened to Poland, but they had in their very souls a clear view of the spiritual consequences to them if the Nazis, by force, should take from Poland the security which Britain and France had guaranteed to Poland. And, therefore, in support of the word of Britain, Australia declared itself at war with Germany.

But the forces of evil are not singular. They attract, just as do the forces of good, and Germany, while apparently entering upon this struggle alone, had arrange for co-operators. There was an association, at least potentially, that was belligerent. This meant, of course, if Germany found it desirable to invoke her partners that the war which commenced by the German invasion of Poland would become actually a global struggle in which no part of the freedom-loving world could regard itself as immune. There was clear-sightedness, I believe, in all the Dominions as to the implications of the conflict.

Now some years have passed since it commenced. In all the theatres the struggle is still raging furiously. Nations have been subjugated, their institutions have been destroyed, their people reduced to the status of helots in the labour service of those who conquered them. What they can do in the way of production and service ministers to the strength that we and our Allies have yet to overcome. Therefore, it is demanded by the very nature of the struggle, not by the mere proclamations of Prime Ministers, but by the character of the war, that the complete resources of all the Allies and those who hope that they will succeed, are not too much to use so that victory may be assured, and, in any event, to make certain that the time when it will come shall not be indefinitely prolonged.

I have stated to you what I know and believe to be the conception that the people of Australia have of the nature and consequences of this war. We are to win or lose in all. There can be no half way to the termination of this struggle. This world cannot stand repetitions of these colossal calamities every 25 years or so and thus it is requisite that, having been given no alternative but to defend ourselves, we shall go on until such time as it will be impossible for malignant forces to re-incubate the conditions which will compel the world to resort to war.

The freedom of this city cannot but mean much to the mind of a man who you have already had described to you as indicating at least some part of the sort of man I have been. Yes, I was a printer's devil and I, of course, like many others of my fellow countrymen and countrywomen have had what has been described as ‘humble origins’. Yes, the poor have a stake in this struggle, the very, very poor equally with the very, very rich. The rich may have that which they now possess to maintain, but the poor will have all their hopes of betterment and of improvement. That is one of the crucial issues of this conflict, for the enemy commenced his campaign of world denial of liberty by destroying such institutions as he had in his own country which rested upon the same postulate of liberty. He denied the right of association to the workers. He burned the parliament so that the free people could not have representative spokesmen in the places where laws were made.

There was at once an indication of complete antagonism between the conception of life as held by the aggressor and the conception of life which is the very foundation upon which this great Empire has been evolved - the right of people to quarrel with their own government, to criticize it, to defeat it, to provide an alternative to it, one which would undertake, as it were, some legislation, after their own heart's desire. These things may not be related intimately to the material world, but they are inherently part of the true dignity of man. They have in themselves, at any rate, the ingredients upon which the very essentials of liberty find subsistence. "It is no new thing that in this city you should use the word ‘freedom’, for this place for 600 or 800 years has witnessed many struggles to increase the domain of liberty, to make it wider, to make it more real, and that which constitutes the heritage of this generation comes to it as a trusteeship for preservation.

I am reminded, as we look at the world now, on the eve of events which have been planned for the purpose of overcoming the aggressor, and which we believe will succeed in that purpose, that there are things which the enemy has forcibly taken, that he has taken from the people of certain countries every right that they had, that they possessed for themselves. He has left them unable to defend what they had. It was wantonly taken from them because they were weak. There are times in the history of man's episodical life in which only by being strong can he be certain that he can be preserved. It is no orderly evolution that man has undergone. There are occasions in which the exercise of the strongest authority is necessary to preserve the greatest liberty. This is such an occasion. It is not the first occasion, but we do hope that it will be the last. That is the prayer of the Dominions. But prayer alone is not sufficient, it has to be accompanied by work.

It has to be made clear to the enemy that in the unity of labour and the gallantry of the forces and the steadfastness in the factories, the workshops, and the places where the tools of war are being fabricated not one moment is being lost. There is full devotion to the task of providing the men of the forces, whether they be the land forces, the air forces, or the men on the sea, with all that is requisite, mechanically and materially, for the work and service that they render, so that they are given the greatest possible aid. This is a war of machines and engines. Flesh and blood of itself cannot stand against the terrific onslaught which the enemy can produce. We have to match gun with gun, bomb with bomb, plane with plane, torpedo with torpedo; and then we have to do better than that, to match two guns for one, two bombs for one, two ships for one. That is the task of the civilian in this land and in the lands of the Dominions.

In accepting the freedom of this city to-day, I say to the civilians, that they cannot preserve their own freedom unless that task is completely performed. I want to say to the fighting men a word of gratitude for their heroism and their devotion. I want to say a word of gratitude for the skill of their commanders. We know how we commenced the struggle - unready, ill prepared, believing that war was too dreadful a thing for civilized governments to attempt again. But it came and we were well behind the mark. We had first to overtake ill-equipment, unreadiness, and all the handicaps. Lives were lost as a consequence. I believe that the leeway has been made good. I believe that, as I have said, the conference of Prime Ministers knows sufficient now about the war, not only to be confident that the enemy cannot win, but also to feel confident that the cause of freedom will be victorious.

Just as, 140 years ago, some one in this city, the Prime Minister of that day, said that it was the exaltation of the people of Britain to have withstood everything that despotism and ambition could attempt, and it was their greater exaltation to hold out the prospect to subjugated peoples of an early liberation, so today we echo those words. We say that, having withstood for ourselves the attack which the enemy has made upon us, so we hold out the prospect of early liberation to the nations now ground under the oppressor's heel."