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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 1850

HRH THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH'S THIRD COMMONWEALTH STUDY CONFERENCE CANBERRA THEATRE, CANBERRA WELCOMING ADRESS BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HT, HON. J.G GORTON 16 MAY 1968

Photo of Gorton, John

Gorton, John

Period of Service: 10/01/1968 to 10/03/1971

More information about Gorton, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 16/05/1968

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 1850

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HRH THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH'S THIRD
COMMONWEALTH STUDY CONFERENCE.:
CANBERRA THEATRE, CANBERRA
Welcoming Address
by the Prime Minister, the lit, Hon, J. G. Gorton 16 MA I' 1968
I don't really think that-what I am proposing to do this morning
is to give a lecture. 7That I thought I was doing was to give
a welcome, and indeed, that is what I do with great warmth on
behalf of the Government of Australia and the people of Australa
to all of you who are gathered together here in what is our
National Capital.
We haven't had a national capital for very long. It is only,
I suppose 67, 68 years I'm not very good at precise
mathematics of that kind, but early in this century that what
were previously six completely separate and sovereign states
federated in this nation of Australia and chose Canberra as
the capital of the nation. I think it has probably only been
in the last fifteen years that the people of this country as
a whole, whether they come from Perth, or Darwin, or the north
of Queensland, or wherever it may be, have come to look upon
this city as a national symbol not as one which they would
like to see their tax money spent in, in preference to the
particular region from which they come, but es one in which they
would like to see tax money spent in preference to most other
regions from which they don't come. As a consequence, it has
grown, and grown in a planned way.
I think, Sir, that when you visited this city first it had some
28,000 people. It now has 100,000, and we expect that early
in the 1980' s it will be a quarter of a million. It was the
idea of a young man, that is to say, the planning of it was the
idea of a young man 34 years old at the time when he first
drew the circuits, the streets, the general way of getting
around Canberra which has resulted in almost every tourist who
comes here getting lost at least twice. Sut which, nevertheless,
has oiven a feeling of space, a feeling of ovnership, a feeling
of pride, I think, to most of those who live in the capital.
It is more than merely a capital city. It is the place in which
those leading members of the public service wvho, I understand,
are to speak to you at a later hour this day, live and work, and
for the most part, have their being. Of course, some of them
have still not yet been brought to The capital.
It is the seat of government at any rate of Commonwealth
Government which, in a Federal system as any of you who come
from federated countries know, is a government which bears all
the odium of anything vyhich has to be done in order to raise
taxation and gets none of the credit for any of the benefits
which flow from it. Nevertheless, it is here that , reat
government decisions are made, and it is on the advice of those
who will be speaking to you that those government decisions are
at any rate sometimes based. Niow that I will leave for them
to talk about. They will sa7y how it is that a government service

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in Australia operates. They will explain, better than I could
explain, the duties and responsibilities which lie upon them
and they will, no doubt, very carefully point out that while
they are responsible for advice, they are not responsible for
policy, and indeed, they are responsible for carrying out
policies decided by governments, governments being elected by
the people of Australia because vie are, as I think you have
been told, a country which is wedded to democracyj
The theme of the conference is, as I understand it, how to make
a machine work for the good of man, rather than to have men
existing to serve machines, hov,,' to harness the industrial development
and invention which takes place so that that industrial
development and invention, causing as it nearly always does,
disruption initially, will never~ theless eventually provide a
better life than was possible before the invention took place.
This question is one which has bedevilled man for far back in
history. In Great Britain, the country from which my father
came, I remember reading of Luddite riots which took place when,
for the first time, the cottage industries '-, hich had employed
people in weaving and other methods of making their living were
threatened by the incipient factories which at that time were
brought in because it was found that things could be made cheaper,
and in many cases better. But although things could be made
cheaper, and in many cases better, nevertheless a pattern of
life was disrupted and a pattern of home employment was put in
jeopardy, and so there were riots.
Yet, the eventual results of the invention, of course, advanced
immensely the m6terial standard of living of those in that
country. In the case of the industrial revolution which swept
the world I suppose, if I may oversimplify beginning with
the invention of steam, in that time also we had the same problem
repeated, with great industrial capacity created, with infinitely
more efficiency brought to bear on t-he production of the needs
of individual people, but with individual people indiscriminately
being herded into those " dark Satanic mills", about which words
were written at the time.
' Well, we have moved from those days, We have moved to understand,
as this conference will discuss, how we can use the new inventions
which come pouring in upon us, which must in many cases disrupt
existing patterns of employment how we can use them so that we
avoid human distress, so that we avoid human displacement, so
that we achieve the benefits that the new inventions will bring
to us.
In order to do this, we need more than a mere understanding of
the inventions themselves, than a mere understanding of the
application of new principles, important though this may be,
for these new scientific achievements, these new technological
achievements are bringing to us as human beings a capacity for
good which I think has not been know,, n in the world before to the
extent to which it is, and a capacity for evil, which I think
has not been known in the world before to the extent to which
it is. Just as the invention of fire was the invention of
something which could be used on the hearth of a home to warm

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a family during a winter's night, or to provide a meal which
was not raw and half-burnt, so the invention of fire could be
used, and has been used, to destroy cities and irreplaceable
libraries4 Just as the understanding of the atom has enabled
immense advantage in medical techniques and in industrial
techniques, and I think and hope for the future, provided a
chance for dry continents such as our own to take water from
the sea and turn that water into the fresh water that we need,
so the understanding of the atom has also given an opportunity
for cities and regions to be laid waste,
Therefore, it is more than merely understanding the scientific
changes, more than merely understanding the technological changes
which are required. It is an understanding of human hearts.
It is a call to educate human beings to see that these great
powers now being released are used for good and are not used for
evil. Beyond that, and I think below that, but nevertheless of immense
importance, is this requirement to understand what human needs
are. I know they vary; of course they must from individual
to individual. But there probably must be, I think, some
common human requirement if an individual is to feel himself
fulfilled, if he is to feel that he is living a not merely
materially successful, but a satisfactory life.
These things, I think, we do not yet knowi, but because one of
the by-producats of the scientific revolution is that there is
going to be more and more leisure, more and more capacity for an
individual to move away from the hourly requirement to earn and
leave him more time to develop I did not say " enjoy", but to
develop oneself must be regarded as enjoyment we need to know
more about what it is that people wish to do in this way, and to
provide that along with the harnessing of the scientific and
technical advances made.
That I think, Your Royal Highness, is one of the basic ideas
underlying the whole of this conference, and indeed, the other
conferences you have held. Because these are problems which
are not confined to one country but problems which in varying
degrees already encompass the countries of the world and will
in the future encompass in greater degree more countries, it
is time and more than time that people gathered, as you have
gathered, to discuss these matters. And it may be that if
from your discussions come some ideas which, as ideas are
inclined to do, filter slowly, but filter through a community
and then to a government, then it may be that you will be
providing for your children or your grandchildren a world in
which the great advances which have been made will be understood,
will be used in a proper way in the world, and which
I think we all seek more than anything else the individua~ l
can feel he is contributing to the community in which he lives,
can get satisfaction from that, can feel that whatever it is
inside him which is able to be developed, whether it be musical
talent, artistic talent, literary talent, or any other talent,
is being given full opportunity to burgeon and develop. if
this happens, then a great service will have been done to
mankind.

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And so I wish you well in your deliberations. I have great
pleasure in welcoming you again, if I may, to the National
Capital, and I hope when you disperse to the cities of this
Commonwealth that you will see for yourselves the problems
still remaining and perhaps suggest some solution. If in
your discussions you disagree as to the precise solutions or
even as to the precise problems, well, Sir, that will be not
at all surprising because it is not unknown for us to disagree
amongst ourselves.
I thank you.

Transcript 1850