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image icon Campaign speech by John Curtin, 1937

Campaign speech by John Curtin, 1937
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library


This is a 1937 federal election campaign speech by John Curtin, then Leader of the Opposition in the Australian Parliament. Curtin sets out his vision for Australia under a Labor government, promising a government that will tackle the 'twin evils' of poverty and war. The speech lasts about ten minutes.

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Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • This asset is an example of Australian Labor Party advertising in the 1930s - as the leader of the ALP from 1935, John Curtin provided a summary of the key policies that a Labor government would promote, promising a Labor government of 'work not talk'.
  • This asset reveals the policies of the Labor Party in the 1930s - the ALP focused on expanding social services and health services, improving the nation's defence capability and making changes to monetary and banking policy to increase employment and fight the causes of poverty and war.
  • This asset reveals that Labor held no seats in the Senate in the period just before the 1937 election - the outcome of the election was that the Lyons government (United Australia Party) was returned comfortably to power, although Labor did make gains in the Senate.
  • This asset illustrates how voting in the House of Representatives and the Senate was done in 1937 - Curtin speaks of how the ballot papers need to be filled in to ensure that votes are not informal.
  • This asset is a speech that would have been broadcast to Australian homes on the radio - in the years before television, radio broadcasts provided a key way of reaching large audiences.
  • This asset illustrates John Curtin's style of speech and measured approach to persuading the Australian people to vote for his party and its policies.
  • This asset provides information about Australian society at the time of the 1937 elections - Australia was still recovering from the Great Depression years and many social services taken for granted today were not available; when he became prime minister in 1941, Curtin implemented Labor programs in the areas of economic reform, social services and immigration, education, public broadcasting and foreign policy, many of which were foreshadowed in this 1937 speech.