[Underlined:] COPY JF.
[Heading:] Extract from:- Speech by Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin made in the House.
16th. December, 1941.
[Illegible stamp in black ink, with handwritten reference number '43/554/2/1-4' and handwritten signature in blue ink.]
[Underlined heading:] "NEVER SHALL AN ENEMY".
"The third thing is that more than 150 years this country has stood. Never shall an enemy set foot upon the soil of this country without having at once arrayed against it the whole of the manhood of this nation with such strength and quality that this nation will remain for ever the home of sons of Britishers who came here in peace in order to establish in the South Seas an outpost of the British race. Our laws have proclaimed the standard of a White Australia [underlined]. We did not intend that to be and it never was an affront to other races. It was devised for economic and sound humane reasons. It was not challenged for 40 years. We intend to keep it, because we know it to be desirable. If we were to depart from it we should do so only as the result of free consent, not because it was sought to be taken from us by armed aggression."
About this record
This is a typed extract from the transcript of a speech by Australian Prime Minister John Curtin to the House of Representatives on 16 December 1941, in which he declares that Australia will resist any Japanese invasion. Curtin states that Australia had been established for more than 150 years by British people with 'White Australia' (underlined in the extract) as its standard. Curtin says that the White Australia standard will be kept and that any departure from it will be made by the free consent of Australians, not forced on them by foreign aggression.
- The major thrust of the determined speech John Curtin (1885–1945) gave to the House of Representatives, when it was recalled to discuss the declaration of war on Japan eight days earlier, is summarised in the title of this extract: 'Never shall an enemy'. Curtin confirmed that Australia faced its gravest hour and stated that he could not predict what lay ahead, but that any invader would find 'the whole of the manhood of this nation' arrayed against it.
- In this part of his speech Curtin established a theme he would often return to throughout the rest of World War II – with the advance of the Japanese, Australia was one of the last bastions of British civilisation, and of the white race, remaining in the Asia-Pacific region. This was in tune with the opinion of most non-Indigenous Australians of the time, who viewed themselves as British stock living in an 'outpost' of the British Empire.
- Curtin knew that White Australia, a policy brought in at the time of federation in 1901 to exclude non-European immigrants, was deeply unpopular in Asia. China, one of Australia's allies, had campaigned against it for decades and before the outbreak of war Japanese newspapers had described Australia as a huge area potentially rich in resources that could benefit all Asians, but held by a small population who selfishly excluded all non-British immigrants.
- This extract was included in a file on Australia's migration policy in 1943 and 1944 and established the Curtin government's basic policy stance on migration, but as World War II progressed it became increasingly evident that a strictly British White Australia was unlikely to be sustained. Britain would not be able to provide all the migrants Australia would need post-war, nor would it be able to protect Australia from widespread international opposition to such a race-based policy.
- The speech from which this extract was taken was given in support of a motion for the House of Representatives to approve the government's action to declare war on Japan and to pledge to do everything necessary to win the war. As well as emphasising the need to defend White Australia, Curtin also highlighted the necessity for collaboration and joint action with Australia's allies and close cooperation between the federal and state governments.
Learning resource text © Education Services Australia Limited and the National Archives of Australia 2010.
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