r Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister


"We are in the fifth year of war, that this is the first of the Victory Loans. Just let us think about that again. This is the fifth year of the war. Yet it has taken the years that have elapsed since 1939 before those who realize the real import of how the war is moving felt justified in describing the loan effort of the Australian people as indicative of the changes that have taken place to such an extent that, where we had asked the people to subscribe to liberty loans, we feel the time has now come when, as the result of the gallantry of fighting men in all parts of the world, we are entitled to say to the people of our own country we now need the money that you have for the first of the loans that leads to victory.

It has been a long and, at times, a precarious struggle to keep the enemy at bay. To him belonged the years of preparation, with him rested the first initiative, to him came the momentum of the original successes which his offensive enabled him to gain and which gave to him vast strategical advantages to thrust the Allied Nations on the defensive – a defensive for which they were ill-prepared and unready because they had believed that this century was one that had seen the last of war. But it was not to be and so, when the enemy struck in Europe, it was not long before countries with populations greater than our own were overwhelmed and the flag of the Nazis reigned where previously the flags of self-governing peoples had been aloft in the breezes of their native land. Practically the whole of Europe came under the domination of the aggressors; a domination dictated by despotism, accomplished by sheer wanton disregard of the rights of neutrals or the decencies of any kind of culture. As you know now, for a while Britain stood absolutely alone; the one citadel in Europe that stood against the aggressive march of a Power that had every reason then to believe that all the probabilities of the issue led to the success that Germany had planned to achieve and it was not until, flushed with success and, as it were, uneasily grasping such advantages as appeared to offer themselves, Germany thrust to the east and pushed into Russia. There, too, for a good while, you saw that in modern war the advantage inevitably comes, in the earliest stages at least, to the country that takes the initiative; that, without any respect for other peoples, wantonly marches through their country and reduces their people to subjection. I need not say how the course of events in Europe led to the other collaborators of the Axis, waiting for the day of opportunity to dawn for them. They thought that it had, for Italy had come in and then Japan struck at Britain's possessions in the Pacific and at the possessions of the United States in the Pacific, but also - and overwhelmingly - at liberty in the Pacific. Thus the war that Australia had entered upon for the preservation of liberty in the world against Germany and that had led the Government to despatch forces to distant theatres as our contribution to the cause of freedom in the world, became a war which marched with devastating rapidity towards our own shores. Just as Britain stood alone for a while in Europe so there was a period in the history of the Pacific war when Australia was the one remaining bastion from which the forces of liberty could be marshalled and despatched to the ultimate defeat of Japan.

We need not go over it. You were told that the liberty of Australia was at stake, and to the eternal credit of the men and women of this country, although their population was no greater than the city of Tokio itself, the resources of this country were placed at the disposal of the Government and the Government, through its commanders, allocated to the armed services the force that was then deemed requisite to meet the problem that confronted us. It was a force which, of itself, would not have been sufficient but which was imperative for our own security and also for security and freedom in the world. Just as we had made a contribution to the cause of liberty for Europe, so the Allied Powers had to make a mighty contribution to the cause of freedom in the Pacific. These contributions which we all make to each other are, in fact, made in accordance with the strategic needs of the time, and all are founded on the fundamental and indivisible unity of the organization which the Allied nations are pitting against Germany and Japan - for the Italian Government has ceased to govern.

“These two great Powers still remain enormously strong. The war in Europe cannot be ended until the German army has been overwhelmingly defeated; the war in the Pacific cannot end until the armed forces of Japan have been overwhelmingly defeated. Any other concept would mean not only that either Japan or Germany or both would achieve a great part of the purposes for which they went to war but would indubitably mean that, for as many decades as we can look ahead, the peace of the Allied nations would be under constant and uninterrupted menace. So much gallantry has been called on to pay the last supreme measure of devotion that there can be no stopping half way between now and complete victory for the Allies in all theatres. Anything short of a complete destruction of the Axis Powers to wage war would be to defeat completely the whole purpose of the peace and the freedom of civilization which are the basic purposes in the cause of the United Nations.

Now there are some things I would like to say to you quite candidly. They are these. No people in the world have so much to express gratitude for as the people of this Australia of ours. We have been spared a dreadful fate - the fate which overtook the Netherlands East Indies, Malaya, Indo-China, Greece, France, Norway, Czechoslovakia and Poland, Holland and Belgium. The populations of those countries were self-governing - the greater part of them at any rate. The men and women in those places loved liberty and hoped for a better standard of life as we do. They had not acted aggressively towards anybody. They were not war makers. They were not despoilers of the rights or properties of other people. Yet they were invaded and ravaged, the governments ousted and the people reduced to helots in the service of the productive forces, if not even fighting forces, which the Axis uses, now that it is cast upon the defensive role to hold what aggressiveness has gained.

These are the simple truths of the matter. The gallantry of Australian fighting men and American fighting men and strength in ships and aircraft and munitions which had been sent to us - which were supplementary to those which our own workmen and workwomen had produced - made possible an allocation to the fighting forces in other parts of the world. Australian resources have been allocated to other parts of the world but it is true that much that we needed most urgently and most vitally was outside our own capacity to provide for ourselves, however hard we worked. So the men and women of Australia owe a debt of gratitude not only to the fighting men of our own country and to the fighting men of our Allies but to the working populations of Allied countries. It is true that they owe something to us. Indeed we are all indebted to each other, for time and time again the tide of war has so flowed that it has been imperative for the Governments to effect readjustments and re-allocation so that emergency conditions could be met by a rapid concentration of strength at a given position.

“The lives that have been lost; the ships that have been sunk; the planes that have been destroyed; and that irreparable debt that the living now owe to the unforgettable dead; those are things for us to ponder about, we who still walk erect and free in the 3,000,000 square miles that constitute the land area of this great continent in the southern seas.

In Europe, pitiful Europe, storm-tossed and down-trodden Europe, for nearly five years hope has not even appeared distantly on the horizon to the peoples there; nothing but black and gaunt despair staring them dully in the face. To them the Allied commanders now hold out the prospect of ultimate deliverance, just as to-day the Japanese know that no longer does the initiative rest with them. It is true they marched down the Malaya peninsula and took Singapore and they locked up there, or in some other part of the territories that they have now acquired, thousands of Australian soldiers. I know I speak for the Australian people; I know I outline the policy of the Australian Government; I know that the Parliament, whatever may be the divisions that mark it upon certain questions, is at one with me in this declaration: That the war will not end in the Pacific until Australian prisoners of war are released by the men of their own country. It is to effect their liberty that the course of war must now be dictated because the effecting of their liberation will mean simultaneously the destruction of Japan's capacity to wage war - they are one and the same thing. When you are asked to subscribe to this £150,000,000 First Victory Loan, remember what. it means. It means a contribution of your resources to the earlier emancipation of your brothers who are held to-night in Japanese hands. It means, too, the earlier termination of the struggle in Europe. As I said on 27th March, 1944, we do not say this is the year of victory, but we do say that we are now at the stage when we have passed from resistance, from that kind of military and naval and air organization that is resting upon defence. We are mounting the strength to attack the enemy, to overwhelm the possessions in which he has established himself, to take hold of the strategic points which mean strength to him, so that they will become weaknesses to him and so convert that which is an advantage to his type of war into an advantage to the Allied Powers in their prosecution of the war. That cannot be done in a day, nor in a week nor in a month. No man can say how long it will take. But this at least is clear, the stronger you move towards it, the more devotedly you work for it, the more undeterringly you concentrate upon it, the earlier will the requisite strength be marshalled in all the places where the strength, when marshalled, will tell. War is a grim and grisly business and there are two sides. We have not got it all our own way in determining where battles shall be fought, or where assaults shall be made, or where blows shall be struck, for the enemy is formidable and terrifically strong. It is true that he is now reeling beneath the blows that are being dealt him, that he is finding, steadily and increasingly, difficulty in meeting the growing attrition which the Allies are imposing upon him. Yet there is no sign of his crumbling.

The war has to be won by fighting men. It cannot be won here on the home front, but it could be lost upon the home front. Every man who stays at home, every woman who is sheltered in her home, all we civilians, every one of us - whatever our politics, our religion, our status in life - each of us owes everything and every hope for a better to-morrow, to those men in the uniforms of the respective countries fighting for liberty to-day. Standing where they do - and bear in mind, it is thousands of miles away where that line now stands - they stand in gallantry between us and the enemy. It is not so long ago at Parliament House in Canberra that I, in speaking on the second anniversary of General MacArthur's arrival in Australia, said that it was no military secret that when he arrived in this country his head-quarters were in a southern capital but now his head-quarters were thousands of miles north of it. I say ‘thousands’ because that is a true description. For the head-quarters from whence strategy is dictated have moved thousands of miles closer to the enemy than he ever expected at this stage of the development of the war.

Australians have subscribed magnificently to every loan that has gone before. It is true that the last was a record loan, but this one goes one better. This is to be £150,000,000, and I am positive that the people of Australia will provide the money, The chairman has made reference to certain consultations which it is my duty to engage in. The representatives of the other countries will not need to be told by me that Australia is seeing the struggle through with the maximum of determination because what you do from day to day is recorded. It is unnecessary for Prime Ministers to say their people are doing all that they can do. The facts indicate that. The question as to whether the loan is raised or not is your business. You alone can make the loan successful. Speech-making will not do it. You can be exhorted to give, as I now exhort you to give, to the first of the Victory Loans, to unlock the prisons in Malaya, to drive the enemy out of the Netherlands East Indies, to see that in Europe the forces are given the requisite allocations of food and munitions and man-power and fighting strength to bring redemption to France, to Belgium and Holland. Every Allied soldier who is to-day a prisoner in an enemy camp is there and will stay there unless the victorious armies of the Allies release him. The Nazis will not release them. The Japanese will not release them. Only the fighting power of the Allies can release them, and it is for that purpose that this money is required, not only to wage war but to ensure it is waged victoriously. I promise you that victory will come because of the great strength that can be marshalled; because of the skill of the commanders; because of the heroism and self-sacrifice which is a characteristic of our fighting men. But I say to you, and I may not possibly speak in Melbourne again for some little while at least, that the thought which will go with me wherever I go will be that the men who have fought for this country and who have died for it, the men who have fought for it and who are in enemy hands, must be not forgotten for one single moment by the head of a government wherever he may go. They must not be forgotten by the people whom he will leave behind!”