PM John Curtin broadcasting to Australia on arrival in England, 30 April 1944. JCPML00409/14. John Curtin greeting Eleanor Roosevelt September 1943. JCPML00376/83  

Responding to John Curtin's charge in October 1938 that 'the Government had no policy on foreign affairs', Attorney General Robert Menzies decisively stated there was no possibility for such a development:

Let me say something ... about this matter of an Australian foreign policy ... Does that mean that we as a dominion government ought to formulate our foreign policy independently of what may be the foreign policy of Great Britain ... and that having formulated it, we should then announce it to the world, caring nothing ... as to whether it happens to be in line with the policy of Great Britain ... ? I say that to adopt such a line of conduct would be suicidal ... I say without any hesitation that I should regard such a thing as folly ... [CPD vol. 157 p.429 ]

According to Kim E Beazley, Fremantle MP (1945-1978) when Curtin came to power three years later, 'It would be fair to say that Curtin revolutionised the foreign policy, defence policy, financial and banking policy of Australia ...' [Beazley, Kim E, John Curtin - an atypical Australian Labor leader, ANU John Curtin Memorial Lecture, 13 September 1971]

Under Curtin's skilled and pragmatic leadership, Australia's refusal to see itself as a colonial outpost serving only British interests created the possibility of a new direction in foreign policy. Curtin believed that 'the best service which Australia can render to the British Empire is to attend to its own business, to make certain that we manage Australia effectively ...' [CPD vol. 157 p.395]

The Art of the Possible explores Australia's growing independence in the realm of foreign policy from 1935 to 1950.


Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, KT,PC,CH (1894-1978) Prime Minister 1939-1941, 1949-1966. JCPML00036/11      
Labor Leaders - Prime Minister John Curtin with J.B. (Ben) Chifley (his Treasurer and successor as PM), n.d. JCPML00376/132   'No offence, mum, but I'm shifting to these here apron strings - at least for twenty-four hours' cartoon by John Frith. The Bulletin 31 December 1941.  
  Franklin D Roosevelt. Inscribed "For The Rt Hon John Curtin, Prime Minister of Australia From his friend Franklin D Roosevelt", n.d. JCPML00376/123