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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 286


Photo of Menzies, Robert

Menzies, Robert

Period of Service: 19/12/1949 to 26/01/1966

More information about Menzies, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 21/03/1961

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 286

61/ 010
: JT: JT 1-7111
Dated: 20th March, 1961
Rec'd: 21st March, 1961.
FROM: Australian High Commission,
LONDON. Excerpts of Prime Minister's speech to Australia'
Club dinner, Savoy Hotel tonight.
The Prime Minister said " The master of the Rolls
( Lord Evershed who proposed the toast of Australia) towards the
end of his speech made some reference to the Commonwealth. I
think it might be regarded as a little odd if I didn't say
something myself about the events of the last week or ten days.
I think cne should say a little about some of the events of
the last ten days and of some of the dangers, as I see them,
of the results of the lost ten days, because I believe that
last week we had some of the most dramatic events in Commonwealth
history. And if we don't think they are dramatic then
we have lost all interest in the Coinmonwc alth and what happens
t-o it. What happened last week was that a foundation
member of the British Commonwealth, to wit, South Africa, was
in effect told to leave. I use those words; I will justify
them in due course. And South Africa hs: s left.
Now this is not something to be tossed off lightly
as a mere incident, this is a foundation member of the Commonwealth
a country which b carnc a member of the Commonwealth
after bitter war, bitter disputes, and after a superb act of
statesmanship by the United Kingdom which created the Union.
We have had in the newsapers, speculation propaganda, and,
if you will allow me to say, so not a little falsehood, about
the events of the last tcn days. Therefore I want to say some-
' thin~ fthat is called apnrt~ h. id(', which means, as I under' 5tand it,
separate development, Searate develop3;-ent hao been, rightly
or wrongly, the policy of the Government of South Africa. AnQ
indeed I would like to remind you this has been the policy
of South Africa since it was first crected by J. C. Smuts. He
found himself confronted by choice which every power finds itself
confronted by the choice between having a policy cf integration,
when you have people0 of different races, or a policy of separate
development. This is a problem of statesmanship.
In the old Colonial days it was apartheid. You
had the European colonising power running the country, building
people up, all very properly a process which has led to the
creation of nation after nation in this world. Or you have
some other view. And so South Africa decided that it would have
Y abcut these events as I sawv them and in which, as in an obscure
capacity, I had some part. All this argument has arisen about../ 2
s omet hing/

this policy of separate development. Now, for reasons that I
am going to give to you, I don't agree with this policy. Btt
the great problem that we have had to confront is whether
because you disagree with the policy of a country, a member of
the Commonwealth, you push it out of the Commonwealth. And
those are two questions that ought to bo kept completely distinct.
The whole problem is not one of moralising, of being superior,
or passionate; the whole problem is one of statesmanship. I
say particularly to my Australian fellow countrymen I am the
only Prime Minister who, until this conferenc2, had never
publicly offered an opinion on South African policy. And I
stand by that. I think that was right, because I am a believer
in the Commonwealth. I am a believer in the members of the
Commonwealth meeting together, not arguing with each other, not
lecturing each other, not sitting in judgment on each other, but
seeking to discover between themselves what points of agreement
they have, how far they may assemble their moral force in the
world. And therefore in my own Parliament, and I daresay not
much to my own advantage, I said South Africa runs its
own affairs. We run our own affairs, Canada runs its own
affairs. Who are we to be sitting here in judgment one on the
other? But all this is old hat now, because everybody
has a go Wtit and I would not be saying anything about it
tonight if it were not for the fact tha-t in the conference Dr.
Vorwoerd himself, acceded to the idea that we ought to have a
chance between us all to thrash this matter out.
The whole genius of the British Commonwealth and
I believe in the British Commornmealth with a faith in my gutshas
been that we are tolerant; we agree to disagree, we seek
to understand, we look for points of agreement but we don't
stand up and lecture each other in the face of the world.
Never, until. this year, have we sat in judgment on each other.
These are things worth remembering. Now I, never having before
offered a public word about South African policy, am now called
on to do so, not by my wish. I am old fashioned enough to
believe in tolerance and in living and letting live and in the
virtues of Christian faith, hope and charity. I believe in these
things, but if this is out of date and I am to be misunderstood
about these matters then I simply say this to you: here is a
time of passion and rhetoric, broad sweeping statements, the
kind of things you expect to have in the United Nations Assembly
but not in the British Commonwealth.
I don't moralise about South African policy because
I think moralising is a pretty cheap thing. All I say is that I
don't think apartheid will work. You see this is the pragmatic
British approach. Nothing was more impressive to all of us in
this conference than the way in which Dr. Verwoerd with obvious
honesty, with great courtesy, with great lucidity explained his
policy but I don't think it will work in this day and
generation. The more his policy succeeds, the more he brings
the Bantu up in matters of health and living standards and education,
the more intolerable will they find it to be second class citizens..
This is a purely pragmatic approach, not sentimental, but
practical, and I have said to him time after time in private
" I know you believe this is right.

3 1.7111
I believe that the more it succeeds in the first instance the
more it will fail in the long run because the more you succeed
in building up the Bantu the more you succeed in giving them
proper standards, educational stpndards, and give thiem
universities, the more will you develop that proper pride in
people which will make them say I en not to be pushed on one side".
If it goes on that way you may find that the ultimate
conflict will be bloody and devastating. I offer this for what
it is worth. He is familiar with my view on this matter. But
if he goes back to his own country and says, I e* m unmoved by
that, then I want to t1ll you that I stand for the right of any
Commonwealth country to run its affairs in its own way.
May I remind you that in May of last year we had a
Prime Ministers' Conference and this was the first matter to
come up. And after we had had a discussion we issued a cormuniqUe
which said the Commonwealth is an association of independent
sovereign states each responsible for its own policies. Those,
I venture to say, were fine wirds and true words. I emphasise
them because if somebody in a Prime Ministers' Conference wants
to tell me what the policies of Australia ought to be, I will
tell them to go and jump in the Serpentine.
The United Nations and that is a body with which I
don't invariably agree concedes the point. It says " Nothing
contained in the present Charter shall authorise the United
Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within
the domestic jurisdiction of any state". Mr. Menzies continued
" Any suggestion for the expulsion of South Africa from the
Commonwealth misconceives the nature of our association. We
don't deal with the domestic political policies of any one of
us, for we know that political policies come or go with
Governments and that we are not concerned with Governments and
their policies so much as we are with nations and their peoples.
If we over thought of expelling a member of the
Commonwealth it would, I hope, be because we believed that, in
the general interests of the Cormonwealth, a nation, as a nation,
was not fit to be our associote. The Prime Ministers' Conference,
I said in my Smuts Lecture at Cambridge, would break up in
disorder if we affected to discuss and decide what we thought
to be the proper measure of democracy in our various countries.
Whether particular groups should or should not have the vote,
that is a fascinating inquiry, whether oppositions should be
respected, whether a Parliament should control the Executive;
on all such matters autonomous or independent nations must
have the right to manage their own affirs in their own way.
Every Government, every member of the Commonwealth has achieved
self government a right of complete independence. Do I want to
go around end say to anyone of them " This is how you ought to
govern yourself"? of course not, its too stupid for words.
You will have a high degree of authoritarian Government in one
country, you will have anu advanced stage of Parliamentary
Government in another. But when you look bak on these things
and you remermber that from first to last, fromthe Balfour
Declaration onwards, we have emphasised that we are autonomous
Governmehts, -aasters of our own fate, masters of our own
problems, don't you think th. t it is a monstrous thing for us
to be sitting in judgment one on the other. I would not have
said a word about South African policy, which I think is doomod
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4 1,7111
to disaster, except that I am the only man yet among the Prime
Ministers who has not said soriething about it. i'md its all
been exposed to the public eye and there no one can be
misrepresented. Ncxt time it might be Australia. How do I
know? We have things in our policy which are our policy and
our business, which somebody may disagree with, I would not
toler'a te having these things discussed by other people. I
would not tolerate being lectured by other people on what we
ought to do. Today it is the fashion to talk about racialism.
It is still the fashion to talk about colonialism so long as
you don't talk about Communist colonialism which is the greatest
and most aggressive colonialism in the world.
But who talks about the rule of Parliament, the rule
of Law? I could very well have a word or two to say about some
of these things like imprisonment without trial, if the drill is
that in the Comonwealth this is to be changed so that we're
sitting in judgment, Then I am bound to tell you I will have
something to say about that, and by the time I have said it, by
the time the answers have been made, there won't be any
Commonwealth, because we will all have expelled each other.
I dbn't mind if 99 nations at New York go on making
speeches asting two and a half hours each, and going into
Committee, and doing all these things this is highly
experimental. It may produce some good results, but what hurts
me is that this great Comnonwoaltl is being dragged into this
area of thought which s no relation to it. Nothing will ever
persuade me that you can identify the exquisite personal
relations of the Commonwealth with the debating society that
goes on in New York..... We have had a special family relationship
and if anybody wants to do something which converts the
Commonwealth with all its warmth and its intimacy, its capacity
for hostility within friendship, which is the great thing about
any family relationship, so that all this is gone then all I
can say is that, with great devotion to Her M1ajesty, it is a
sorry day for the Commonwealth Why can't we disagree with
the South African policy without pushing South Africa out, and
believe, me it was pushed out.
Harold Macmillan, the distinguished Pritie IJinister of
this country, with his colleagues and with myself, we worked like
horses to develop a communique which rould expose the criticisms
by other members of the Cormonwealth and the answer of the Prime
Minister of South A frica and, having exposed them, would then
make it possible for South Africa to remain within the Commonwealth
as a Republic as eery other Republic had. But I must tell you in
view of all this propa-ganda that goes on, that while I was saying
tc myself " Well I think this fixes it", one, two, three four,
five people got up and made it completely clear that they
wouldn't have this. They didn't want South iArica in, and every
convenient opportunity or inconvenient opportunity would be taken
to attack her. Well I eam not Dr. Verwoerd and I an not the
apostle of apartheid, though I have my own Ir. migration policy.
I an bound to say that in his placeI would have ] dt, certainly
not later than he did.
So don't let's ha-ve humbug, which I rather think is
one of the more serious offences in the world. The fact is that
in all these circumstances South Africa is out. Wlhat I am saying
to you is " don't let us -jump on the latest band wagon, let ; us

4 1.7111
think of this Commonwealth of ours. What does it mean in
tolereacop,... iunderstanding, in points of contact, for us who
are Australians in a superb allegiance to the Throne? What
does it mean, if we think it means nothing, then it doesn't
matter... -Let it all go to the United Nations, but if wo think
it moans something, then I bog all of you to look back on these
events saying: Did we go wrong? Has what has happened strengthened
the Commonwealth? The answer to that question will depend on
whether you think our marvellous association depends upon
tolerance and kindness and understanding and the long view, or
upon the popular passion for denunciation. I don't need to tell
you that I don't feel good about this. But since my earliest days
in politics I have had a groat vision of what the Commonwealth
should stand for. I hate to think that it is blurred".
S* 21st March, 1961,

Transcript 286