PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 322


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: 17/05/1961

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 322

Speech by the PrimeMinister, , the Rt. Hon. R. G. Menzies
Sir, Mr. ( Norman) Robertson, Your Excellencies, Gentlemen:
When I was beguiled, as I was, into coming here
tonight, quite a long time ago so long that I've forgotten I
thought that this would be a very, very pleasant non-political
affair. Of course to me that's wonderful rare but wonderful.
Then your distinguished Director, against whom otherwise I have
nothing, sent me a printed document and it began by the most
concentrated blast against the Government that I lead ( Laughter)
that I have read for a long time. And although I am a quiet'and
uncontroversial fellowwhon I sat down to prepare myself for
tonight I naturally directed myself to the opening paragraph. I
made a lot of notes. Life has been intolerable for my Cabinet
colleagues for days because they have all understood that I was
getting ready for tonight.
Having made some notes, and having had them typed by a
typiste who, oddly enough, undarstood my handwriting, I showed
them to my friend, the Treasurer. I had no idea that he was
the patron saint of this appeal ( Laughter) well I don't dwell
on this matter and when he read the first page of my rather
abbreviated notes, he said: " I don't think I would say that;
never start an argument unless you can finish it". ( Applause)
Which shows that under ray careful tuition over many years he has
learned a great deal. ( Laughter) So I tore up the first page of
the notes which will deprive you of some of my more pungent
paragraphs. But I think he was right.
Because the truth is that we are here tonight I and
John Mc?, Von, who is going to address you from the point of view
of, whatever it is John, and Arthur Calwoll~ who will collect a
few crumbs that fall from the capitalists' table ( Laughter)
all of us, to say something to you, but it will all, I suppose,
theoretically, be non-political.
In a broad sense it is, because this is a great
campaign. This is really, as somebody said, an historic event.
I have never myself understood why m,-anufacturers in Australia
should think that thoy were under attack, because I don't think
they are. But if there are, in Australia, a few thousand people
or, for all I know, a million or two of people, who still retain
some prejudice against what Australia producos, then this
campaign will fix them. ( Applause) For if there is one thing
about which we can all agree it is, with our characteristic
modesty, that whatever any other country does, we can do better.
( Applause) Sir, it is because of that that I believe that nobody
who takes a balanced view of Australia's present economy or
future prospects, can possibly be, intelligeontly a possimist.
I'm no pessimist ( about today I'm ' the most glorious optimist
about tomorrow. Because if anybody can look around the world
and find a country so young, so rapidly developing, which has
achieved so much in two or three generations, then I would like
to hear about it. And the fact is that this has been achieved
in a few generations not b-cause of all-wise Governments, or
pertinacious Oppositions and I can speak on behalf of both of
thema in may time but by imagination and effort and skill on the
part of our own people.

0 2.
Now, Sir, of course it is quite true lot no admit
this, or perhaps not adnit it, but claim it, and get it over
anti-inflationary policies are occasionally necessary. I hope
everybody understands that. They were necessary to deal with
the great inflationary boon of last year. I don't think that
anybody would seriously deny that. And yet, Sir, all antiinflationary
measures nust be unpopular with nany and, let us
confess it, are occasionally hostile to the material interests
of some. In Australia we have, and we have had for a long tine,
more than people realise, more than perhaps exists in other
countries, efficient tariff machinery, now supplemented by
emergency tariff provisions, about which ny colleague, the
Minister for Trade, has had so much to do, and to say. With
that protection Austalian nanufactur. ing has increased
enormously, and I would like to say that the best proof of our
capacity for the future is what has been done in the past. With
respect, I remind you, that in these last 10 or 11 years I
speak not in party torms, but only of the particular period
concerning which I have had some special reason to know what
goes on the developnent of Australian manufacturing has been
phenomenal. The gross value of production in Australian
factories has grown in that period by 252%. The raw materials
used have grown by 240%. And that, at a time when the number
of employees grew by 27% and the nurber of factories by 41%.
I mention those figures, not because I expect you to
carry them quite comfortably in your minds, but because I want
to remind myself and you, that this country of ours is one in
which skill and energy and imagination have produced results far
beyond the percentage increase in our population. If that has
happened it is very largely due to the fact that in Australia
where the manufacturer was a curio at the turn of the century,
manufacturing industry has proved itself to be the most flexible
instrument of development. That has been a wonderful thing
for Australia. Somebody has said we couldn't have absorbed annually
100, 120, 130 thousand migrants, as we have done, first
beginning under the imaginative prograrme sponsored by my
opponent, my present opponent, the Leader of the Opposition
( Applause) and since carried on, unless, in Australia, we
possessed the genius, the energy, the imagination to produce in
our factories the things that our people needed.
And so, Sir, I am all for this campaign. I don't
understand why anybody should need to be persuaded that Australia
today has, in an industrial sense grown up. We are one of the
industrial countries of the world. Ule are among the first ten
trading nations of the world in actual absolute terms. And we
have demonstrated that in our own country we can produce what
our people need; and that more, and more, and more, we will
produce what our people need. If any prejudice or snobbery
stands in the way, then I hope the people of Australia will
sweep it aside. There is nothing that others can do, I say
modestly, that we can't do bettor.
But, Sir, we have had our troubles. Indeed, I've
gathered from my friends sitting to the left and right of me,
who, with all the aiability in the world tell me what's wrJng
with me, among other people that we have had, and are having
our troubles. Because the truth is and let's face up to it
that with all our expansion, with full employment, with much
overtine, with large and growing production, we have not been
able to satisfy the purchasing demand of our people without vast
recourse to overseas supplies. Now, there is nothing

0 3.
intrinsically wrong with that. If we are to sell to the rest of
the world, if our great staple industries are to maintain
themselves, we must be prepared to buy as well as to sell. But
the interesting thing to me is that with all these expansions
our demand for imports has grown and grown beyond the capacity
of Australian industry to supply. That is why we are here tonignt
engaging in the beginnings of an enterprise which is designed to
increase the capacity of Australian industry to supply to match
the demand by Australian people for what Australian industry can
supply. But, Sir, apart from these passing phases and
believe me about these things I am no miserable pessimist, not
at all; I've been through a few fluctuations in my own political
lifetime and I'm not dead yet what we must try to do, and this
is of the essence of what we are here to consider tonight is to
reduce the incidence and the frequency of short term problems by
aiming at long-term policies. I'll explain that somewhat
cryptic remark. We must, for example, increase the supply of locally
produced goods so that there is not so great an unsatisfied
demand to spill over into imports. Sir, even under the present
policies dealing with relaxation of import restrictions which I
know you, and for all I know others here tonight, have
criticised, let me remind you that 82% of the additional
imports since the " no licensing" decision of February of last
year have been in rospect of plant, of material for manufacturers
and for transport. To put it in concrete terms: of the œ 231
million of extra imports which came in under that fateful
decision no less than œ 190 million were, and I repeat, on account
of plant and materials for manufacturers, and for transport. So,
we are not to assume that all imports are fiercely competitive;
or indeed that the great part of them will be fircely competitive.
Now, the history of 10 years that I have referred to
gives us the greatest possible cause to believe in our capacity
for expansion in manufacture. But the real point that I am
leading up to is this. ' Je will have periodical problems of
balance of payments: they'll come and go and come and go so long
as our exports are almost entirely those of primary products.
This is something that we must get all our people to understand.
But if we continue to have the vast percentage of our exports in
wool and wheat, and meat, and the primary products of this
country, great as they are, vital as they have been, and are, to
Australia's economy, then of course, inevitably, if there is a
drought our wheat exports will fall; if there are bad seasons in
the cattle country of Australia our beef exports will fall; if
the world is beguiled for some reason or another into lessening
its demand for wool, then the price of wool will fall. We may
find our export income fluctuating, not by a few millions, but
by a hundred millions, by two hundred millions, by three hundred
millions, in the course of 12 months. Many of the countries
with whom we negotiate are unaware of this fact. It is the vital
fact in Australia. It is the fact which distinguishes our
country from almost any other country of magnitude that I know in
the world. I can look back, as many of you can, to a time when we
were almost entirely dependent on primary exports, almost
entirely dependent on primary production. Then, when a world
depression hit us we were almost defenceless. We had a
percentage of unemployment in Australia which was, as we look at
it now, and as we looked at it then, horrifying 25 to 30% of
people in the great trade unions unemployed. That was because,
economically, we stood on one foot: we were a primary producing
country; we met the whole blast of the world's fall in prices.

Since then something has happened which should prevept
anybody in Australia fron becoming a gloomy pessimist. W'e have
developed an industrial structure, a manufacturing structure, in
Australia which means that today we stand on both feds What
happened in 1929-30, could not happen in Australia today; and it
could not happen because we are not uneasily balanced on one
foot, but have two feet to stand on and if one gives a little,
at any rate we have the other one to rest our weight upon.
Now Sir, that is our domestic position. But our
domestic position will suffer from all the fluctuations that are
involved in variations in our overseas balances, in variations
in our overseas reserves, if our exports remain predominantly the
exports of our farms and our fields. They are the items which,
through no fault of their own, with all the industry with all
the skill in the world, suffer from these world fluctuations,
and from ses-: onl fluctuaL-ions at home. Therefore what I want
to say to you suns itself up in this: That what we must aim at
in Australia is not only to have a balanced domestic econoiy,
as I believe we now have, hut to have a balanced economy in our
export markets. If some day, and I am sure it will come, and
cone more quickly as our population rises and as our pride and
our skills grow, if some day half of the exports of Australia to
the world are manufactured goods then to that extent we will not
be subject to the wind and weather of a drought at hone, or of
falling markets abroad. We will have produced in our international
economy a sense of balance which we now have, and enjoy,
at hone in our own country.
Sir, we can't isolate ourselves from world affairs.
If we seek so to isolate ourselves then we will forget all
about the importance of costs, the importance of those basic
conditions on which we can do business with the rest of the
world. Therefore I believe that it is of the first order of
national importance that manufacturing in Australia should
become international in its product so that it sells to the
rest of the world, and in particular sells to all those growing
hundreds of millions of people, near to us in the world, nearer
to us than to any other modern country remember that, nearer
to us than any other modern industrial country. iJe must sell
more, and more. That is why we do our best to raise their
standards of living. That is the whole basis of the Colombo
Plan, that is the whole basis of technical aid. We are not
being kind we are engaging in an intelligent operation in
international relations.
Somebody put the figures in front of me the other day:
in 1950 2,500 million people in the world. Subject to the wind
and weather plague and pestilence, and war and disaster how
many in 2000 A. D youFll be happy to know it will be after my
time 6,000 million. In half a century 3,500 million more
people in the world, all to be fod, all to be clothed, all to be
housed, all to Le helped to reach a higher standard of living.
What's wrong with us in Australia if we, placed as we are, can't
undertake to supply to this groat area of the world and to these
teeming millions of people in the world, something of what they
require? Do we lack skill? I don't believe it. Do we lack
courage? I don't believe it. Do we lack enterprise? I don't
believe it. But if we are going to become a great exporting
industrial nation then I'n quite certain, and you are quite
certain, that we must realise that the essential foundation for
a great industrial exporter is a great, faithful home market.
( Applause) Sir, that's really what I wanted to say to you I'm
forgetting about the rest of the notes that's what I really
wanted to say to you.

Here we are, 10-million people. I have no tine for
the pessimists. I think that people who talk depression without
reason serve only to create deprossion in fact. I pay no
attention to these people, though of course I have my responsibilities
and so have my colleagues. But I look back to just
before the second world war when the wisest statisticians that
we could find, not only in this country, but from overseas, for
we gathered then in, said that the population of Australia would,
by 1975, be 71 millions and that thereafter it would begin to
decline. Well gentlemen I permitted myself to say, at the time
I wasn't Prine Minister and therefore I could speak quite
freely ( Laughter) even to my colleagues " How do you know what
the birth rate is going to be in future?" a very homely, and I
think proper and human question. But anyhow there. it was, 71
million by 1970, or 1975. And here we are, in 1961, with
millions. Who is there so niserable in his mind, so circumscribed
in his imaginative horizon as not to believe that by the turn of
the century we will be 25 million people in '. ustralia? Who is
there so timid about his Australian quality as to believe that
with this growing population we won't develop, not only our
skill, and our capacity for production, but our market at home
to an extent which will enable us, on the basis of that market,
to meet in the markets of the east, to say nothing of any other
country, all the challenges of older cuntries, whether they be
in America or in Europe. This is no time for pessimism; this
is no time for sitting in the Club arm-chair and moaning about
these stupid politicians. Because we always were stupid, from
the beginning of tine. I can't remember a time when we weren't
stupid. ,/ nd when I retire, either voluntarily, or involuntarily
Arthur ( Laughter), I have no doubt that I will sit in the Club
arm-chair and say, " Oh, they're so tiresome, these politicians".
rAnd that will make me very popular with some people who don't
like me very much. now.
But, really, I say this to you as the Prime Minister
of this wonderful country, this country that has grown so much,
and has prospered so nuch, and has counted for so much, and has
served the world so much, let's look forward to a tine, and it
is not far distant when, with the support of our own people, a
support, Sir, that you are going out to get in this campaign,
there will be such an expansion of production in Australia, as
will provide a foundation for an expansion into the world's
markets which will in due course render Australia, if not
iniune to, at least unshakeable by the economic incidents of the
world. This is a very wonderful problem that we are considering;
this is a superb conception that you have. And the reason that
I came here was that I just wanted to say to you that however
much I might challenge what I hear and read occasionally, from
time to time, I have lived long enough to believe that first
things ought to be put And the first thing that we have
to do in . ustrclia is thing that I am talking about. Let
us get the backing of our own country, and of our own people, for
what is producc-l in Austr-lia and the day will come when one of
ny successors in office w.. ll be able to say, with pride, and
with justice, that ! ustr-iia's economy not only domestically,
but internationally, is as sound as any in the world.
Sir, I wish you the greatest of good luck in this

Transcript 322