THE AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL SYSTEM: POST-WHITLAM, POST-FRASER
JOHN CURTIN MEMORIAL LECTURE-1981
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Let it never be said that Australia has no heroes. How
can that ever be truly said of a nation which produced John Curtin?
For he was an authentic hero, and a hero in a uniquely
His strength to make the terrible and lonely decisions
of war came from a deep inner strength of spirit.
His mastery over the tremendous and tumultuous events of
his time came from his mastery over himself.
His superb eloquence; his great political skills; his tolerance
and forbearance towards the more turbulent of his colleagues; his clear
grasp of fundamental Labor principles; his instinctive feel for the mood
of the Australian people and his ability to relate to and to give expression
to their higher aspirations-all these contributed to his tremendous achievements.
But the foundation of everything-the core and heart of
the public man and the private man-was character, that inner strength
of character which he had forged in the furnace of the hardest battle any
of us ever have to fight-the battle over self.
As with so many of our chief figures throughout our history,
there remains an essentially tragic element in John Curtin's life and career.
His was perhaps the most tragic-though nobly tragic-of
This was a man whose lifelong vision for his country was
based on the ideal of peace and the brotherhood of man; but when he came
to lead his country, it was in the middle of the most frightful conflict
and carnage in human history.
A lifelong opponent of conscription, he had to bear the
responsibility of introducing Australia's first conscription.
In the middle of the war, a Roosevelt could write to a
Churchill: "What fun to be in the same decade with you." But for
John Curtin, the time was out of joint, and a cursed spite had given him,
literally, the power of life and death over thousands of his fellow countrymen.
And in the end, it killed him-a casualty of war as certainly
as any who wore the Australian uniform.
Yet this essential tragedy-the tragedy of a man of peace
who had to make war-cannot diminish his great achievements in the cause
of Australian social and economic reform-the cause of social justice in
Indeed, those achievements shine with all the clearer lustre
precisely because of the overriding preoccupation of saving the nation and
winning the war.
Under the Curtin Government, the work of laying the foundations
for the postwar reconstruction which has shaped the whole course of modern
Australia right to the present day, went on side by side with the war effort.
In no area of change and reform was more crucial work done
during the war than the matter with which I wish to deal tonight-the future
of the Australian federal system.
Uniform Tax System
Curtin, with his mighty partner, Chifley, brought about
the most significant and enduring reform in the federal system ever undertaken
I refer, of course, to the system of uniform income taxation-the
system which underpins the fiscal and economic, and to a very large extent,
the social unity of modern Australia.
If Curtin saved Australia physically, he also united Australia
At a time when the uniform tax system and the federal system
itself is under unprecedented threat, it is, I trust, entirely appropriate
that I should use the occasion of the John Curtin Memorial Lecture to examine
the question of the future of Australian federalism; and not least, to defend
the system which John Curtin called into existence 40 years ago.
The legislative framework of the uniform taxation system
was established by three Bills introduced by Chifley as Curtin's Treasurer
on 15 May 1942. They were the Uniform Tax (Wartime Arrangements) Bill, the
States' Grants (Income Reimbursement) Bill, and the Income Tax Assessment
Sir Robert Menzies, in his book Central Power in The
Australian Commonwealth, summarises-not unfairly-the 1942 legislation
in this way:
The scheme of Acts did not say that the States were not to impose income tax, but said that the States should be deprived of the officials, offices and equipment by means of which they, at that time, assessed and collected income tax; that the Commonwealth would impose an income tax that would raise not only all that the Commonwealth needed but also an additional £34 million to meet the then requirements of the States; that any State that refrained from imposing income tax should receive the indicated financial assistance from the Commonwealth; that any State that imposed income tax would not receive this financial assistance; and that any State that persisted in imposing income tax should not collect any of it until the Commonwealth had been paid its tax in full.
It should be understood that the Bills did not and could
not take away the Constitutional power of the States to raise an income
Now, of course, the uniform tax system originated as an
urgent war measure. Singapore had fallen less than three months before.
As Curtin said when speaking to the Bills on 27 May 1942:
This measure is one of a group designed to enable the Commonwealth Government to take command of taxable capacity of Australia in order to obtain the economic and financial resources required for the war. That is the supreme purpose of the Bills.
It is unlikely that the States would have ever accepted
the practical loss of their income tax power except for the gravity of the
war situation; and indeed Victoria, which had a relatively low level of
State income tax, did unsuccessfully appeal to the High Court against the
validity of the legislation.
But it is clear that Curtin and Chifley looked beyond the
war and sought to establish a permanent system. As Curtin said: "We
must look at this matter not only in the light of immediate requirements
but also in the light of the evolution of the federal system."
And the two principles underlying the legislation were
equality and unity-equality of sacrifice and the indivisibility of the Australian
nation. As Curtin put it:
The Bills provide for total mobilisation so that we may use everything we have to the best advantage and in the most equitable way. Whatever be the character of the Australian political structure-a structure which consists of a Federal Government and six State Governments-the fact is that all these instrumentalities are the agencies of the one people.
And now for 40 years these two fundamental principles-equality
and unity-have operated to sustain a system which was initially designed
to meet the exigencies of total war.
In 1946, further legislation was enacted to give the system
permanency in peacetime. It rested its constitutionality not under the defence
powers, as the 1942 legislation had mainly done, but under Section 96 by
which the Commonwealth may make grants to the States on such conditions
as it thinks fit.
The validity of the 1946 legislation was finally established
by the High Court when it rejected an appeal by Victoria in 1957.
From then on, until the advent of the present Federal Government,
the uniform tax system was the dominant and unchallenged feature of the
Australian federal financial system.
It is no coincidence that the first serious attempt by
any Federal Government for 40 years to weaken, if not to scrap altogether,
the uniform tax system, has been accompanied by the most turbulent and divisive
period in the history of Federal-State relations since Federation-a crisis
of confidence which the Premier of Western Australia, Sir Charles Court,
has described as "threatening the very existence of the Federation
My first proposition is that any reform of the federal
system and the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States
must be based on the maintenance of the uniform tax system, in its complete
As far as I am concerned-and I speak here for the Labor
Government of New South Wales and the Australian Labor Party-that principle
is not negotiable. It should be made very clear that there is nothing parochial
in this stand. On the contrary, it reflects completely the national aspirations
of the Australian Labor Party.
Indeed, in sheer financial terms, an argument can be made
that New South Wales would actually be advantaged by the dismantling of
the uniform tax system and a return to the prewar tax jungle.
It is the people of Western Australia who would be among
the worst losers.
Let me briefly put the statistical case.
In 1981/82 New South Wales and Victoria will receive General
Revenue Assistance Grants from the Commonwealth Government equal to $384
The four smaller States (Queensland, South Australia, Western
Australia and Tasmania) will receive grants equalling $581 per head-$197
per head more than New South Wales and Victoria.
Looking at it another way, taxpayers in New South Wales
contribute 37% of Commonwealth income tax receipts while the State Government
receives only 29% of tax reimbursement grants.
It is because I give overriding priority to the principles
of equality and unity that I am determined to resist the dilution or the
destruction of the uniform tax system-not as Premier of New South Wales
but as an Australian.
I pointed out previously that the Constitutional validity
of the uniform tax system rests chiefly on Section 96 which states:
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
Section 96 was inserted in the Constitution to cover contingencies
which the framers of the Constitution believed might occur in the early
days of the Federation, but in fact, it lay dormant until 1942.
It is an interesting example of the evolution of the Constitution
and its interpretation that a contingency and provisional clause should
have become the basis for a permanent revolution in the relations between
the Commonwealth and the States.
But it was not until the Whitlam era that the use of Section
96, as an instrument for extending federal responsibility and for achieving
better and more equal services within the States and between the States,
reached its full flower.
It was part of the genius of Edward Gough Whitlam that
he, first and foremost among us, saw that, just as the High Court interpretation
of Section 92 had been used as an instrument of conservatism to prevent
or retard social and economic reform, so Section 96 could be used constructively
as a great weapon for reform, progress and equality.
It was in his Curtin Memorial Lecture here in 1961 that
he first developed this theme of the use of Section 96, in the fields of
transport, housing, education, health services and government and joint
enterprises, which was to become the basis of his Government's program more
than ten years later.
And he concluded that lecture with a statement which is
as relevant to Australia and its role in the world today as it was 20 years
ago. We of the Labor party, Whitlam said:
...are now more concerned with the creation of opportunities than the imposition of restraints. Within our own nation we do not have to ration scarcity, but plan abundance. There is now a greater obligation to ensure a fair distribution of goods between all nations than there ever was to ensure a fair distribution of goods within our own nation.
Let it be noted that that was 20 years before his successor
as Prime Minister of Australia discovered the North/South dialogue!
For Whitlam, if Section 92 was the charter of free enterprise,
Section 96 was to become the charter for public enterprise and for greater
federal responsibility for the quality and equality of basic community services.
He wished to extend the application of Section 96, as it
had already been developed through the uniform tax system, to the widest
possible range of Government activity and responsibility throughout Australia.
It is a fallacy to describe Whitlam as a simple centralist
or a singleminded unificationist. His great concern was to achieve high
quality and greater equality of services within the States and between the
To achieve this, he had to use both the Constitution and
the political and financial realities of the Australian federal system as
he found them; and Section 96 was the one great practical instrument available.
It is true that he was highly critical of the performance
of the States in the provision of basic services-and who will say that he
was not right to be so?
He correctly pointed out that the States themselves, within
their own borders, tended to be highly centralist; and his own thinking
and programs were more regionalist than centralist.
It is also worth noting that for most of the period that
he was developing his program for a future Labor Government, the Australian
Labor Party was in a position of unprecedented political weakness in the
States. Around the time he assumed the leadership in 1967, Labor held no
State Government anywhere in Australia-not even Tasmania. During his Prime
Ministership, Labor held office only in South Australia and Tasmania and,
for a few months at the beginning, in Western Australia.
The political reality of Labor's power-or lack of it-its
performance-or lack of it-and prospects-or lack of them-in the States at
that time clearly influenced the development of his program.
But the core of his approach to the finances and functions
of the States and the Commonwealth was the recognition of the fact that,
while the Commonwealth held the commanding heights of the finances, the
States had the major responsibility for the provision of the most essential
and the most costly functions.
The Whitlam Government
And the whole thrust of Whitlamism was to secure a fairer,
more equal distribution of responsibility, for both the finances and the
functions, between the Commonwealth and the States.
He saw that, because the Commonwealth had the monopoly
of the really big sources of revenue-the income tax and company tax-by virtue
of the uniform tax system; and Customs and Excise by virtue of the Constitution
itself-then the Commonwealth must accept greater responsibility for the
provision of the most expensive of the essential services-in health, in
education, in cities, in transport.
"If an essential service," he said, "is
to be financed exclusively by the States, it will be either unfairly financed,
inadequately financed, or not financed at all."
And the result of the application of his approach between
1972 and 1975 was the greatest advance in the quality and equality of Government
services in health, education, community welfare and municipal services
Australia has ever known; and the States received-at the hands of this so-called
centralist-the best deal they've ever had since Federation.
Whitlam was never afraid to bring his grand design to the
most mundane of matters. Some commentators and editorialists could scarcely
conceal their mirth when he pronounced in 1968: "Sewerage is a national
issue." But in fact the national sewerage program, now abandoned, achieved
something that State and local governments in the capitals and cities had
failed for a century to do.
When the Whitlam Government came to office, 83% of outer
metropolitan Sydney-a great modern city-was unsewered. The situation has
It was said of Caesar Augustus that he found Rome a city
of brick and left it a city of marble. Not the least appropriate of Whitlam's
epitaphs might be: "He found Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth
unsewered, and left them fully flushed." He would not, I think, reject
Yet this significant point must be noted-for all the excitement
and drama of the Whitlam years, and for all the political resistance and
obstruction from the States, particularly the then Governments of New South
Wales and Queensland, and for all the great new initiatives and advances
in health, education and welfare, there was a fundamental continuity in
the evolution of the federal principle from Curtin, Chifley, to Menzies,
through to Whitlam.
Under Whitlam, there was in fact no sudden change of direction,
but rather a rapid advance along a continuing and consistent course of development
under both Labor and Liberal Governments during the previous three decades.
And the foundation of that consistent course was adherence to the principle
of the uniform tax system, by Menzies as much as Chifley or Curtin.
Even in the extension of the use of Section 96, Whitlam
built on Menzies.
In the establishment of the Schools Commission he followed,
in precise terms, Menzies in establishing the Universities Commission. In
accepting greater federal responsibility for the funding of primary, secondary
and technical education, for Government and non-Government schools alike,
he followed the principle Menzies had applied to universities. And in the
general matter of Commonwealth/State financial relations, he continued and
improved the approach firmly established during the Menzies years.
For over 20 years under Menzies, Holt, Gorton, McMahon
and Whitlam, the general purpose recurrent payments to the States were based
on a formula which increased each year's funds predictably, according to
the increase in average weekly earnings and the population increase in each
State; plus a betterment factor to allow for improvements in the level of
the services in each State, over and above the rise in costs or population.
Under Whitlam, this betterment factor reached 3% a year.
The Whitlam formula provided each State with a guaranteed 3% real increase
in funds each year-a modest enough increase in a growing country like Australia;
but nonetheless a real increase, and above all a predictable
increase which allowed State Governments to plan confidently ahead on the
basis of their own priorities.
I repeat-the turbulence of relations between Canberra and
the State capitals-or some of them-during the Whitlam era was essentially
political. The essence of Commonwealth-State relations in that period, in
its genuine financial and economic aspects, was the attempt to achieve continuity,
consistency and predictability along lines already established over two
decades or more.
Crisis in Commonwealth-State
This brings me to the central point I want to make in regard
to present day Commonwealth-State relations, and the central problem of
the federal system, as operated by the present Prime Minister and the present
We have to ask ourselves why there is such extraordinary
unanimity amongst the Premiers, of all political persuasions, that Commonwealth-State
relations have now reached their nadir.
The traditional, perhaps ritual, complaints of the Premiers
after each Premiers' Conference, whichever Prime Minister happened to be
in the chair, have taken on a new dimension. This unanimity of dissatisfaction
and concern for the future of federalism goes far beyond the old, more or
less routine, complaints about federal parsimony.
The new, divisive element which has entered the Federal-State
financial relations, the new element which Sir Charles Court has said threatens
the very Federation itself, is the element of unprecedented unpredictability.
It is this unpredictability which is at the root of the current concern
Let me give these examples.
Every year since 1976 has been marked by erratic and almost
inexplicable changes in the level of federal payments to the States. The
changes in the level of payments have related neither to the rate of inflation,
the rise in wages, nor the needs and responsibilities of the States.
Indeed, the only consistent pattern in federal payments
since 1976 I can find is that they tend to rise more in election years than
non-election years. In 1977-78-an election year-total federal payments to
the States increased by 12%-roughly the rate of inflation that year. The
next, non-election year, 1978-79, they were up only 6%-far less than the
rate of inflation. In 1979-80, again a non-election year, up 8%. In the
election year of 1980-81, up 12%. This non-election year, back to 8%.
To compound the difficulties caused for the States by the
pattern of unpredictability, the Federal Government has announced major
changes in the formula for payments to the States only within weeks of the
beginning of the financial year. For instance, only in May this year did
the Federal Government announce that the tax-sharing formula would be abolished
and that the States would get a flat 9% increase in general purpose recurrent
It is easy to understand how the erratic nature of these
changes, the suddenness and arbitrariness with which they are presented
to the States, compound the budgetary difficulties of the States and make
proper forward planning almost impossible.
Secondly, the changes in federal policy on the loan program
and infrastructure borrowing have been just as erratic and unpredictable
as the changes in the general grants formula.
For example, on 6 November 1979, Prime Minister Fraser
wrote to the State Premiers urging them to accelerate the construction of
electric power stations. He specifically referred to New South Wales, saying
that more generating capacity should be built to take advantage of the world
energy shortage. At the same time, Mr Fraser publicly asserted that New
South Wales had lost valuable new investment and a smelting project because
of an alleged shortage of power generating capacity in our State.
Accordingly, New South Wales has speeded up construction
of power stations. We should have done so anyway-but the fact remains that
Mr Fraser did specifically press us to do so, and presumably, committed
the Federal Government to support such a course.
Yet now the Federal Government has refused to approve the
additional borrowings for the accelerated program of construction of power
stations we have undertaken. In addition, it has cut back on approvals previously
Thus, at the two critical levels of the States' finances-the
general grants and the loan program-the States have had to cope, not only
with reduced allocations in real terms, but with an unpredictability of
federal policy which has made property forward planning and the rational
allocation of our resources difficult to the point of impossibility.
And whatever the differences between Sir Charles Court
and me may be-and we have been known to have our differences-we share absolutely
common ground that it is this unpredictability-to the point of irresponsibility-which
has created the greatest crisis in Federal-State relations since Federation.
In less than six years the Fraser Government has unilaterally
changed the revenue-sharing formula four times.
In 1976 it introduced tax-sharing arrangements under which
the States were to receive a share of personal income tax. However, for
the first four years of tax-sharing, the States were guaranteed that they
were not to receive less than the Whitlam formula would have given. The
Whitlam formula, you will remember, contained and continued the three basic
elements of the arrangements of the previous 20 years:
The financial year 1980-81 was the first year in which
all States actually received their share of personal income taxes. But then,
for 1981-82, personal income tax-sharing was abolished and instead the States
were given a flat 9% increase in general revenue funds.
The Fraser Government have now promised that the States
will receive a share of all Commonwealth tax revenue. However, this
system can be changed by the Federal Government at any time, as they have
changed the formula so frequently-and unilaterally-in the past.
The fact is that not one State Premier believes that the
new system of reimbursing the States from a fixed proportion of all Federal
taxes will be applied consistently or fairly.
We all believe-and the record can only confirm our worst
fears-that the new formula will be changed unilaterally, whenever it suits
the Federal Government.
And I repeat, it is this unpredictability, as much as the
unfairness of the arrangements, which lies at the root of our current problems.
What then is required?
First, the States require a formula which allows the increase
in total federal reimbursements to be predicted with reasonable accuracy
well in advance of the preparation of the State budget.
Secondly, the formula should eliminate year-to-year fluctuations
in total federal reimbursements.
And thirdly, the formula should allow for State improvements
in State Government services-the services like health and education which
are so costly but so inescapable a part of the States' responsibility to
In a word, the unpredictability and instability which is
causing so much confusion, bitterness and resentment, must come to an end.
Beyond the need to devise a new predictable and equitable
formula, there is another urgent and basic requirement on the part of the
present Federal Government.
And that is, that the Prime Minister should once and for
all abandon the attempt to force the States to impose a second income tax.
Nothing would clear the air so quickly, nothing would end
the confusion so promptly, nothing would provide a better basis for cooperation
between the States and the Commonwealth in devising a new, predictable and
equitable financial arrangement, than a firm commitment by the present Prime
Minister personally and the present Federal Government as a whole, to the
preservation of the principle of uniform taxation.
I said before that the uniform taxation system-the system
established by Curtin, broadened by Chifley, polished by Menzies and enhanced
by Whitlam-rests on two fundamental principles: the principle of national
equality and the principle of national unity.
What principle is Mr Fraser to set against these two great
The rationale for his determination to dismantle the uniform
tax system is that it would make the States more financially responsible-that
is, that all governments should accept as much responsibility for the money
they raise as for the money they spend.
All that can be said about this, is that it is an assertion
which mistakes utterly both the nature of State responsibilities and the
nature of the Australian federal system itself.
It is an assertion which implies that State Governments
have been irresponsible in their financial management and prodigal in their
spending. Not the slightest evidence has ever been produced to back such
It is an assertion which implies that the income tax revenue
collected by the Commonwealth belongs as a constitutional and legal right
to the Federal Treasury.
This is an assertion which finds support neither in the
Constitution nor the uniform tax laws.
It is an assertion which mistakes utterly the inescapable
responsibilities and unavoidable commitments which the States must make,
to provide the basic services for their communities.
The overwhelming proportion of State expenditure is committed
to the provision of services and the fulfilment of functions in health,
hospitals, transport, police and municipal services, in which the States
have virtually no discretion as to the level or distribution of funds.
The areas in which the States can reorder their spending
priorities, according to the preferences, policies or philosophy of the
government of the day, are severely limited.
And of course the policy of the Fraser Government of handing
back to the States a wide range of functions which the Whitlam Government
agreed the Commonwealth should accept, while at the same time massively
reducing the Commonwealth contribution to health care, hospitals, schools
and urban programs, has further drastically reduced that area of State discretion.
Further, it is an assertion which denies the reality of
Federal and State Government budgets in 1981. The Federal Government insists
that there is a need for restraint in all government expenditure.
All States have accepted the need for restraint.
Yet in the current federal budget the only evidence of
restraint shown is in one area-in payments to the States. The federal budget
papers show that payments from the Federal Government to the States will
rise by 8% in the current year. Yet all other Federal Government outlays
will rise by over 15%.
Where then is the sense of responsibility? Where is the
exercise of restraint?
The fact is that Mr Fraser's purported offer to return
income taxing power to the States is a mockery.
It would require the States to increase prevailing
levels of income tax if they were to get any additional revenue-increase
income tax at the very time that the Federal Government claims that its
basic policy is to reduce income tax.
Yet it would still leave the States even more beholden
to arbitrary decisions by the Commonwealth for the greater part of their
In short, it would perpetuate and accentuate the divorcement
of responsibilities between who raises the money and who spends the money.
So on the very ground which is supposed to be the justification
for tampering with the uniform tax system, the proposal fails utterly.
The end result of Mr Fraser's proposal could only be to
increase the total amount of income tax raised in Australia. It would certainly
allow the Federal Treasury to reduce its own level of income tax-and that
of course is the real politics of this proposal. But the income tax burden
borne by the Australian taxpayers as a whole would increase.
And because of the differences between the States, in terms
of their population and resources-both their natural resources and their
taxable resources-the result would be vast inequalities between the taxpayers
of the various States.
And as I said before, it would not be the taxpayers of
New South Wales but the taxpayers of Western Australia who would stand to
suffer most, if the uniform tax system, the system which has served Australia
well for 40 years, were to be dismantled.
There is no ground of equity, there is no ground of national
unity, there is no ground of financial responsibility, on which Mr Fraser's
obsessive determination to force the States to impose a second income tax,
can be sustained.
Yet as long as this proposal hangs over us as a threat,
it will continue to destabilise Federal-State relations.
One word from Mr Fraser, one word that he will at last
abandon this obsession, would be the beginning of a new effort to restore
cooperation-not to say common civility-in Federal-State relations.
I have no more desire to be at constant loggerheads with
Canberra on this issue-or on the whole matter of Federal-State relations-than
I imagine Sir Charles Court has.
But for three elections now, central to my appeal to the
people of New South Wales for their support, has been to seek from them
a declaration that Australia's most populous State will not have a bar of
a second income tax; and wishes to maintain the integrity of the uniform
And three times they have done so; and twice they have
done so overwhelmingly.
If the people of a State which could conceivably profit,
at least in the short term, from the destruction of the uniform tax system,
have so often and so convincingly declared their support for it, is it not
clear that there is no mandate from the people of Australia as a whole for
Mr Fraser to continue his efforts to force the States to impose a second
What all the Premiers want, but much more important, what
I know the people of New South Wales want, and I believe the people of Western
Australia want, and the people of all Australia want, is a system which
will restore rationality, common sense and predictability to Federal-State
And above all, what the people of Australia want is a system
which will re-establish the great principles of national unity and national
equality-the great principles for which John Curtin fought and for which
in a very real sense, he died.
The proposal to dismantle the system of uniform tax which
Curtin created is only one aspect of the divisiveness which has crept into
Australian life in recent years.
I have dwelt on it at some length, not because it is necessarily
the most important manifestation of the new divisiveness, but because it
is certainly the most needless and avoidable, the most futile and the most
To seek radically to alter a system which, in its fundamental
elements, has served the Australian nation and the Australian people well
for nearly half a century; a system which great Australian Prime Ministers
as diverse as Curtin, Chifley, Menzies and Whitlam, have all found valuable
for the achievement of their purposes and ideals; and to change it for no
great national purpose or indeed for any rational purpose whatsoever, is
not an act of statesmanship; it is an act of political vandalism.
This proposal to dismantle the uniform tax system is not
a reform; it is a reactionary proposal designed to return Australia to the
inequities and inequalities of the 30s.
Sure, that is radicalism of a sort; but if that is so,
in defence of the principles of the unity of the Australian nation, the
indivisibility of the Australian nation and equality for the Australian
nation, then I am an unrepentant conservative.
More than any other Australian to his time, John Curtin
taught us what it is to be an Australian and how to think and act, first
and last, as Australians.
The great monument he left when he died at his post in
1945 was a united Australia which had met and overcome the greatest peril
in its history.
What John Curtin did so much to unite and protect, let
no man put asunder.
Let it never be said of our generation that, from within,
we undermined that national unity which John Curtin did so much to make
and mould; and against which no foreign enemy could ever prevail and, I
believe, will ever prevail, as long as we preserve those basic principles
of national unity and national equality, for which John Curtin fought all
his life and for which, in his noble end, he died.