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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 745


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: 20/05/1963

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 745

MAYf 1963
S'Peech by the Prime Ministers the Rt. Hon. Sir Robert-Menzies
Mr. Mayor Parliamentary Colleagues Mr. President and
Ladies and Gentlemen and Boys and Girls
I don't mind starting by telling you that this
is the biggest Civic Reception I ever had in my life, ( Laughter)
( Applause) It is not peculiar simply for that reason because
when I looked at my programme this morning, I found " Civic
Reception. Four gentlemen would speak and the Prime Minister
wil~ l make a brief reply." ( Laughter) Although I have had a
long experience, I was silly enough to believe it ( Laughter)
until I was put on warning, as you have just heard, by the
previous speakers, In fact I might tell you that at all sorts of
civic receptions I am an old hand. You have heard a reference
to my longevity in my present office. I don't like hearing
these references to how long I've been Prime Minister benause
I remember vividly that eighteen years ago I was walking along
a street in Perth and a few bright boys were trundling along
in a car and they saw me walking along the street and you know
what they said to me? " Cheer up, grandpa" ( Laughter) And that
was eighteen years ago. Now, in Melbourne, if they have a
civic reception, you have a hundred carefully-chosen people;
you go into a room, you stand on a little dais and speeches
are made, I regret to say. In Sydney, in my experience, if
they give you a civic reception, you stand near the door with
the Lord Mayor and you shake hands with everybody and there
are no speeches. This, I regard as the most civilised form of
civic reception that I have so far encountered.
One other little preliminary remark I would like
to make and that is that the Mayor was kind enough to produce
a brochure " Message from the Mayor of Casino" I did get
this in Canberra and I studied it and when I had finished
reading it, Mr, Mayor, I wondered what I had done to deserve
the honour of visiting such a remarkable place, ( Laughter)
( Applause) " The Hub of the North" " The Crossroads of the
North" I've been acquiring the language and high time
too as somebody said, because although I have flown over
Casino and I have passed through Casino by train in those
happy days when we were allowed to travel by train, I have
never~ in fact, beon inside the town before, and I have been
delighed with what I have seen.
You know, I think ladies and gentlemen, I c-tight
to tell you so that there will be no misunderstanding, that I
wasn't always a city slicker, I was born in the bush myself,
in the wheat country up in the north-west of Victoria, and I
grew up there and I know a little at first hand of the problems
of the man who is on the land growing wheat. I dontt profess
to have anything else but acquired information and knowledge
about other rural industries, But I would like to say this to
you Here I come into a country town, a sizable town what,
8,000 something of that order, in the town itself. It has a
great district around it. It's the centre of four or five
remarkably important primary industries. And yet it, as a townm,
/ 2

and its people as its citizens are producing services for
the man on the land, marketing facilities for the man on the
land, a meatworks, a butter factory, all this kind of thing.
You know, this is worth thinking about. It's commonplace no
doubt, to you, but it is a very important commonplace. it
demonstrates the complete interdependence of the people who
live in cities and towns and the people who carry on their
productive labours on the land itself. Interdependence.
I remember when I was a small boy in the part of
the country in Victoria that I have mentioned, I used to hear
arguments because people will argue wherever they are
and the first political arguments I ever heard about were
between protection and free trade. This would be relatitvely
early in the first decade of this century. If you were a
protectionist you were the enemy of the man on the land and if
you were a free trader you were the enemy of the man in ~ h
city. The arguments went on with immense ferocity and as I
subsequently came to understand, with singularly little
intelligence, I have lived long enough to find how well
understood it is by all the people in the Commonwealth
Parliament and many hundreds of thousands of people outside
of it, how well tnderstood it is that there is an interdependence
between manufacturing industries tertiary industries primary
industries, because unless we all manage to hang together,_ we
will, in the famous words of Lord Melbourne, hang separately.
Let me illustrate this a little. One of the great
problems of government I am not going to make a political
speech, I don't think this is the occasion for it but one
of the great problems that any government in Australia has,
or will have, is to reconcile the vital interests of the
country with the need to expand the population by a large
stream of migration and further, with the development of
secondary industries, to employ an increasing population. Now
this sounds very easy. It is, in fact, the most complex
problem in the world. No government in the world anywhere can
profess to have solved the problem completely. Shortly I
shall find myself talking with the President of the United
States. He wontt have the complete answer to this matte".
I will be talking to the new Prime Minister of Canada, W." o1
is an old friend of mine. He won't have the complete answer
to this matter. This is infinitely ditfi-cult) and above all,
when governments approach these problems, they must not Just
settle down to a dogma in their own mind; they must have
flexible minds, they must be willing to make changes fromi time
to time, so that they may preserve the balance of considerations
that I have referred to.
Now let me pursue that a little further, even though
I am stealing my thunder for tonight. We have, in Australia
and it is common to both parties a policy of large migration
into Australia which this year will mean a total of something
over 125,000 migrants. Add that to our natural increase of
population, and for years and years now the population of our
country has been increasing rather more rapidly than the
population of Japan, It is worth thinking about that, This
has been a tremendous accretion of numbers. You can't bring
people to Australia and dump them down and say, " Well, now,
heaven help you." t The state of the country must be such as
to enable them to engage in gainful employment, in gainful
occupation and establish themselves as citizens in our
community and, for the overwhelming most part, they are very
* a ass

willing to do that and have been very industrious and contributing
people. But YOU can't employ more than a mere fraction
of them on the land because in the great primary industries,
the development of whose production has been I think, quite
outstanding, there has developed particularly in som~ e of the
industries, an increasing mechanisation. The increased outputt
whether it is in beef' or mutton or lamb or whatever it may be,
has not been accompanied by a corresponding increase in the
number of people working on the farms. You all know this to
be true, and therefore if we are going to hbave employment for
many thousands of migrants each year then we must encourage
the development of secondary industries and service and
transport industries which can provide expanding opportunities
for employment. Nobody really quarrels about that.
One point then arises. I must say to you, quite
frankly, I never permit myself to lose sight of it We are not
to do thse things irresponsibly so that we push up costs and
prices because the man who suffers from increased costs and
prices is the farmer himself and he can't pass them on.,
Somebody else may in a city, somebody else may running a
service of some kind, but the man on the land, controlled as
he is directly or indirectly by the world's markets, must at
all el'fort prevent his costs from rising; have those costs
prevented l'rom rising, where possible, by government action.
Now it is a source of some satisfaction to all of us that in
the last two or three years the costs have not risen I am
taking the broad state of affairs in Australia. But unless
governments continue to be careful, astute to watch this
element, we could easily see costs rising, and rising against
the man on the land. This is one matter which my distinguished
colleague, John McEwen, the Minister for Trade, is discussing
at this very moment in Geneva in the important trade talks
that he has been having.
. Can we by all the efforts in the world persuade
the great industrial countries in the world Great Britain,
the United States Germany and so on can we persuade them
that it is essential from their point of view that the countries
which are large exporters of primary products should have stable
and payable prices for the things they produce? This is not
easy. Great Britain herself has had a policy of cheap food.
One can understand it for she is overwhelmingly an exporter
of manufactured goods. The United States has had extremely
high tariffs, even against wool, as we know in Australia. The
President of the United States, I think has a fresh mind on
this matter. He wants to negotiate with the world and he
has now been given power to do it by his Congress to make
flexible arrangements, to enter into commodity agreements with
the rest of the world. This is what we are fighting for.
Let us have a true sound, international commodity agreement
in relation to mneat or wheat or butter or whatever it may be
sugar, as we go further north and this would do more to
stabilise the costs and profitability of primary industry than
anything else that I can think of. Well, it is a hard job.
My colleague is as capable as any man I know in the world in
arguing that case ( Applause) but I will lay odds that when he
gets back in a fortnight's time, he will be looking pretty drawn
because this is a tough assignment.
I mentioned that to you to illustrate the point
that I was making. It is a good thing to be in a town like
this and to be reminded of the fact that we all depend on each
other, that not one of us in the town or out of it can live
without the other. This is tremendously important and when
you get an illustration of that in some country centre, it is
vivid because it is close to you, 0 0

You know, ladies and gentlemen, it is a very
interesting thing in the history of Australia, to notice how
many people who have been significant in our public affairs
have come, either from the country itself or country towns,
from areas outside the great metropolis of whatever State it
may be, If I could talk to everybody in Casino and talk to
all the youngsters in Casino, Itd say, ' Dontt be in too much
of a hurry to think that there are hardships in living in a
place like this." l You may ask " Wouldn't it be wonderful to
live in Sydney?" or " Wouldn't It be wonderful to live in
Melbourne?" Forget about it, Some of the men whose names
are household names to us were born in smaller places than
this and lived in smaller places than this, but because they
had fresh minds and imagination and close experience, they
became significant people. I could refer to a dozen people
of moment who came from quite small centres of population.
There is a great privilege in living in a place like this.
A wonderful privilege and I hope that nobody here, particularly
tiue very young, will cease to understand that.
Now, Sir, you have been extraordinarily good to
me. All sorts of very generous remarks have been made I've
even been tempted by you, Mr. Mayor to say something about
New Guinea, Well, if you don't mina, I do an awful lot of
work at the weekends. I have to because I don't get much
chance to do it when the House is sitting. But one job 1was
doing during this weekend was to prepare myself a statement on
the review of Australian defence policy. In the course of
that I will perhaps say a few things that will be of interest
to you. Well, I won't say it until I get up in the House and
deliver it I dontt know when perhaps tomorrow. Depends
on what time I get hack tonight, or Wednesday, or conceivably
Thursday. Nor, Sir, I want to thank all of you who have come
here this afternoon, As I tell you quite seriously, I have
never had a civic reception like this before and if some of
my critics are right in what they say, I'll never have one
again. ( Applause) At any rate, I have had the advantage of
really a quite human audience of men women women have the
divine faculty of not being hostile io you, except at a
political meeting ( Laughter) and children. I hope your
prayers will be with me tonight when I have to address myself
to the meatworks authorities of the State of New South Wales
hardbitten men who will be looking at me expecting a message
and seeking to convert me, if they need Lo. ( Laughter)
I11l conclude by saying this. Flying up today from
Canberra, we came low over Kempsey and circled low 500 or
600 feet ( that mustntt be used against us) over Grafton,
I realise that I did not see these floods at their worst because
it was clear, looking down, from the watermarks and so on that
the floods had subsided perceptibly. But there have been
disastrous floods and they have the habit of occurring with
almost dreadful regularity,
There is no doubt about it that a lot of heads will
have to be put together, not just to consider this matter as
an occasional exercise of some relief of distress, accept the
flood as inevitable; we have to put our heads together to see
how this can be prevented or mitigated on a permanent basis.
( Applause) I won't say any more about that. It is a matter
0 D

that engages the sympathy of all of us, but I know that the
local authorities in assembling their views I understand
that they are going to put it to the State administration
which of course has the primary responsibility on such work,
and if experience counts for anything and I have had a good
deal now I anticipate that at some stage the State will say
something to the Commonwealth. So I will wait until then.
All I say at this time is that this is one of the problems in
Australia which really ought not to be dealt with on a shinplaster
basis, In fact when they tell me to get up and be excited
because another rocket is going around the world or a capsule
or something and that it costs a couple of hundred million
pounds to put it up, I find myself saying in a dull and
unimaginative fashion to myself, " A mere fraction of that
year by year and I can solve most of the developmental problems
of my own country." ( Hear, hear, applause)

Transcript 745