r Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister



On 16th August, 1944, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) broadcast over the national network. Mr. Curtin said -

"People of the Commonwealth,

"I deeply regret that work, strain and illness have prevented me from visiting all the States in connexion with the vote you will give on Saturday. On that day you will have the opportunity of taking one more step in the march of Australian nationhood. Your vote will decide whether the Commonwealth Parliament, freely elected by you at least every three years, and, therefore, subject to your control whatever government may be in office, shall have no fetter placed upon it that would block the way to national progress.

"Your vote will decide whether the Commonwealth Parliament shall be able to guide this nation through the perilous transition period that will follow the end of the war. The period during which that guidance is needed is five years. Your State Premier and Leader of the Opposition agreed that that was the requisite period. It will be a period when Australia will have to make many decisions as a nation. They will be decisions no less important and no less vital to Australia as a nation and to her people's welfare than were the momentous decisions which had to be taken during the war. There has been no protesting voice since 1939 against the Commonwealth Parliament having the power to do the things to save the nation in war. Why, now, as the transition from war to peace comes closer with victory's rapid approach, should there be any demur against the Commonwealth Parliament being equally decisive in the peace?

"The truth is that sectional interests have cast suspicion and doubt upon the central issue; have thrown up murky smoke-screens and have done everything within their power by distortion, lying and vilification to deny to the Australian people the right in peace to enjoy the very things for which the national existence was staked in war. These interests had their precious skins saved by the unstinted toil and sacrifice of fighting men and working men and by the supreme devotion of splendid womanhood, and by a government whose politics they inherently oppose but to whom some of them gave a temporary support to save themselves from Japan. Now, devoid of all decency, these interests have stopped at nothing, whether it be riding on the backs of returned soldiers; reflecting on the judiciary - as one hitherto respectable newspaper has done - impugning the honesty and service of able and conscientious Australian public servants; dragging in bogies that belong to the era of Sir George Reid; pandering to the fears and prejudices of the unthinking.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the Prime Minister of this country, whoever he may be, is a man like unto yourselves. If you believe these lies then you discredit the high office to which any Australian may be called and you blacken the fair name of your own country in the eyes of the leaders of all governments of the United Nations. This is what the robots of reaction did in the days of Mr. Fisher, Mr. Scullin, and now to me. Your country deserves better. You, the people, have risen to great heights in the hours of tribulation and suffering. The name 'Australian' stands high wherever men of goodwill meet. Let it not be said of Australians that when an hour of decision came they were misled by cheapness, mendacity and the catch cries of vested interests in the exploitation of the people.

"It has been said that a reason for voting ‘No’ on Saturday is that a ‘Yes’ vote would mean a blank cheque to my government. It is also said, ironically enough, that you should vote 'No' because if you vote ‘Yes’ then my government will do all sorts of things. On the one hand it is said nobody knows what my government will do, on the other hand it is said everybody knows the terrible things that will be done. The fact is, of course, that when the war ends and if the Commonwealth Parliament has the additional powers now sought, my government may not even be in office. The government in office will be the one you have freely chosen.

"However, I repeat what I said when I first spoke to you three weeks ago -

"The powers now sought are not new. They are held by the States.

"The powers will operate only for five years from the end of the war. That means for five years after the Allied commanders have subdued the enemy. An armistice or a peace treaty does not come into it.

"The powers will be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament - your Parliament -not my government or whatever government is in office.

"The National Security Act will end six months after the war has ended and every regulation and every appointment made under that act ends. Parliament will then approve everything done and every appointment made under the powers.

"Parliament will pass the plans to carry Australia through the transition period from the end of the war. It will examine the state of a war-torn world; of Australia's situation in world rehabilitation; of the measures necessary to protect all Australians from the impact of world exhaustion in materials, supplies and all the physical things that contribute to national and international economy.

"Already a good deal of the preparatory work has been done, both within Australia and in concert with Allied countries. I have stated specifically what is intended in regard to Australian public and private industry; in regard to measuring the availability and distribution of supplies of goods and services throughout Australia so that justice and the national good will be served; in regard to the demobilization and re-establishment of servicemen and servicewomen in civil life; in regard to employment and the avoidance of the misery of unemployment experienced by so many from 1930 to 1933.

“I have not held back one single detail of any phase of the post-war plans as far as it has been possible to blue-print having regard to the complete uncertainty of world conditions when Germany and Japan are defeated. There has been no holding back. Everything is plainly stated for anybody to read and bears a remarkable contrast to the complete absence of anything constructive from any single spokesman asking you to vote ‘No’.

"For example, within a week from to-day, the National Works Council, established by my government with the State governments, will meet in Canberra to deal with plans for post-war works involving hundreds of millions of pounds. By contrast, the spokesmen for the 'No' case have produced merely hundreds of millions of words.

"The post-war plans are not made for my government. They are made for your Commonwealth Parliament. They are made for Australia as a nation and not for any party. My government may not be the government to deal with them. I give you my personal assurance that no matter what government you may choose, Australia needs to give her National Parliament the power to handle the plans for the vital post-war period. Given that power, the National Parliament can freely work with the existing State Government's administrative capacity and with the existing strength of private enterprise to ensure the fullest use of every available strength for every part of Australia. Given that power the representatives of the Government of the Commonwealth can negotiate with the Governments of the Allied agreements respecting industry, industrial conditions and expansion, social security, trade, agriculture and production to the effecting of our own good and the welfare of the world. Denied that power, Australian delegations will labour constantly under the uncertainty of the present powers or the inhibitions involved in speaking for seven discordant governments instead of the one government that should speak for the nation.

"My call to the people is for national co-operation, for the effective blending of all that Australia has into a united achievement that will truly advance Australia. I ask you to answer my call with your vote for ‘Yes’."