Curtin as Prime Minister
Tom Fitzgerald Fitzgerald explored a multitude of events and identities in Curtin’s life and collated the resulting information under the various themes of the proposed biography. .
Extract from: Notes re the Churchill versus Australia clash, 1939-1940
In the abstract, a logical programme/system of co-operation for maximum mutual advantage by the United Kingdom and Australia would have been as follows: Australia would send (volunteer) forces and aid freely and would without constraint to Britain while Britain was in peril, on the understanding that, if the balance of comparative danger moved against Australia, then she would receive at least the equivalent of support from Britain.
But in practice, first, the unexpected deepening of Britain’s danger (when France suddenly collapsed and Italy entered the war) was of a degree that, for a period, made it very difficult to fulfil the undertaking to secure Singapore. Britain alone determined what it could spare from the Atlantic and Mediteranean naval requirements, and it decided the answer was virtually nothing, and told Australia so as early as May-June 1940. (Hint from Chamberlaine – March, 1939)
Meanwhile, Australia had allowed considerable forces to be committed to the Middle East, and to Greece and Crete, where losses led to demands for reinforcements, and where Australia itself now had commitments that needed to be defended by naval forces.
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Tom Fitzgerald. Notes re the Churchill versus Australia clash, 1939-1940. JCPML00653/520/21.
Extract from: Notes re Curtin and MacArthur, 1942.
Some basis for a hypothesis that Curtin’s decision to put far more trust in MacArthur than in any other non-Australian source of advice, and hence to see Australia as being particularly dependant on MacArthur’s efforts and his goodwill, was greatly formed at the time of Curtin’s exchange of messages with Evatt, when Evatt was in London (and in US) in May 1942. In this, Curtin would have been indirectly but strongly influenced by messages he was receiving from Bruce concerning Churchill. See full context of Curtin’s inference from a careful study of material sent by Evatt that “MacArthur was right (ie endorsed by UK Chiefs of Staff themselves) in stating that he lacked the forces necessary to carry out a single part of his directive. (from Roosevelt)..” (Documents on Australian Foreign Policy volume 5, p. 808 – and see annotations around this page and at back of volume 5)...
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Tom Fitzgerald. Notes re Curtin and MacArthur, 1942. JCPML00653/518/10
Extract from: Periods John Curtin was in hospital or ill during his Prime Ministership, 1941-1945
17th-20th February 1942. Admitted to St Vincent’s hospital, Sydney late on Tuesday, 17th February after giving Liberty Loan speech in Martin Place. Diagnosis – gastric upset. Discharged very early Friday 20th, and returned by car to Canberra that day. Details SMH 19/2/42 and details of discharge and photo “Sydney Sun” 20/2/42.
11th November 1942. Melbourne “Herald” – “Prime Minister to rest after arduous journey” Suffering from a chill and neuritis, saw a doctor in Adelaide and advised not to travel – had no sleeper on train to Melbourne.
27th and 28th April, 1944. Ill in Washington with Neuritis and slightly high blood pressure – hospitalised for one day for tests, and rested next day....
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Tom Fitzgerald. Periods John Curtin was in hospital or ill during his Prime Ministership, 1941-1945. JCPML00653/28/35
Extract from: Notes re Curtin meeting with Roosevelt, 1944.
Note MacArthur says (‘Reminiscences’, p. 185) that Curtin saw Roosevelt (i.e. for a second time) “just before he flew back to Australia from Washington” (i.e. early June 1944)
Neither Lloyd Ross nor any other book (except MacArthur’s) known to me refers to such a second meeting.
But the ‘Argus’ printed index has an entry under Curtin, 1944: To discuss manpower with President Roosevelt. Confers with Army Chiefs..... June 5- 12 [page 12]”
What else was said at second meeting. Does Shedden record?
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Tom Fitzgerald. Notes re Curtin meeting with Roosevelt, 1944. JCPML00653/210/6
Extract from: Speech by Mr Curtin at formation of Committee of Gowrie Scholarship Trust Fund, 8 March 1944.
... We cannot measure the cost of this terrible war in money and material
It is not all sadness, that, I think. Most certainly the soil into which
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Tom
Fitzgerald. Speech by Mr Curtin at formation of Committee of Gowrie Scholarship
Trust Fund, 8 March 1944. JCPML00653/220/4
Extract from: Notes re perfectibility, the human element in wartime crisis, 1942.
Curtin in September 1942, launching “ a season of austerity”:
“Austerity means a new way of life; a new spirit of action to do the things the nation needs and ….I am convinced that the aspect of our national life which gives it greatest scope for the further development of our war effort is the human element. Improvement in the personal quality of our manpower automatically reacts on the whole war organization…. Every citizen of this great Commonwealth must bring into subjection self-interest, ill-will between employer and employee, suspicion and the baser things which are destructive of national life and then give full scope to the development of goodwill, selflessness, honesty, sacrifice, courage, … By so doing we will be a nation which is morally and spiritually rearmed and be adequate not only to meet the tasks of war but also the tasks of peace.”...
This is, as the leader in a national crisis, the Curtin who had observed and promoted discussion of the question of human perfectibility (from early Socialist days to Westralian Worker on) Saw that crisis as the basis of a permanent raising of standards of thought and conduct, perhaps even transcending the class struggle (“ill-will between employer and employee”).
BUT – Curtin’s experience in testing the hypothesis? – was he disillusioned?
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Tom Fitzgerald. Notes re perfectibility, the human element in wartime crisis, 1942. JCPML00653/518/7