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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 907


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: 14/03/1964

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 907

12th MARCH ,1964+
Speech by the Prime Minister, the Rt, Hon. Sir Robert Menzies
Mr. Mayor, Mr. w4entworth and Ladies and Gentlemen
I wouldn't want to describe this as a big moment because
it is a rather truncated moment. I was given a programme this
morning and I metaphorically have an eye on the clock. Now,
might I Just begin by thanking you and referring to one of the
last observations made by Bill Wentworth, He described me rather
rashly as the " 1P. PM, 1" ( permanent Prime Minister). I would like
to have you know that the wife of a former Governor-General of
Australia, Lady Gowrie, always in writing a letter to my wife,
addresses her as " Dear not PPM. but P. MM. which means
" Prime Minister's Missus" ( Laughter) but then later on as it
became more and more clear that I wasnrt entirely my own master
on these things, I think, Pat, she began to address you as
too. ( Laughter) Now, Sir, today and I must mention this before I
forget it we have had three rather splendid events and some of
them may not have been observed, One is that when we arrived
over the road we had the pipes. Now, I have a good deal of
Scottish blooA, my wife has a most diabolical mixture of Scottish
and Irish blood but whichever way it goes, it is always a great
thrill to hear Lhe 11pipes and to hear them played so well and I
would like to say " thank you" to those who attended us in that
way* And there is a second thing about my clan, the Mingies
clan if you care to address me properly. The clan colours are
red and white and we have both been delighted to find that you
have given us that complimont in the table decorations along here.
The slogan, if I remember correctly, is' Geal ' us Dearg a suas"
which is my approximation to Gaelic and it means, " Up with the
white and red" ( Laughter). In Melbourne they have always thought
that that made me an absolute certainty to be a supporter of
South Melbourne in the football ( Laughter) but I never have been.
Then when we walked in down below, we had all these rather
dwarfed, anaemic-looking characters ( Laughter) representing
lifesaving clubs and that was a great compliment and a great
pleasure. As a matter of fact, I didn't realise until I was
coming across here this morning from the airport that surfing, to
put it no wider than that, is an extremely modern art. I thought
that it went back to time immremorial in this greatest of all
surfing States, but oh no, one of my Secretaries was able to tell
me, as an old Sydrieian, that it is within living memory that some
lawless citizen, he thought a bank manager, plunged into the
surf and was prosecuted ( Laughter) because it was a breach of
the law. Very interesting that this thing one always associates
with Manly should have been of such modern growth.
He also told me, Sir and you have repeated itthat
this was once known as " The Village". Certainly, of all cities
of this kind, it has a unique character and I was wondering with
him as to why it had this unique character until I realised, as
an ignorant man from Melbourne might be forgiven for not knowing,
that it is within the memory of men of middle years that if you
wanted to come by water you came by the ferry so that this was
a relatively isolated community, though I am bound to say that the
e./ 2

first time I ever came here as an ordinary respectable citizen
many years ago, and got off the ferry and went along the Corso
and went over on to the beach and gazed on the people, I didn't
observe as perhaps I should have this simple, unsophisticated,
unworldly character which I now gather the citizens of Manly
possess. ( Laughter) Still even then, allowing for all that, it
was great fun. As for the quarantine station, I must mention
this. I don't know very much about the quarantine station.
I don't remember that in my current incumbency we have had any
case put to us about the quarantine station. I don't recall it.
You check up on it. You will get the same answer no doubt
( Laughter) but any rate I remember years ago and not so many
years ago at that -if f were in Sydney, I oucasionally went out
Li a yacht with a very well-known Sydney man and we found our way
around the harbour and I studied the first rudiments of keeping
the boat half a point off the wind with great skill -I have
always been indebted to him for teaching me that because, by
Jove, I've been keeping it half a point off the wind for a long
time now politically ( Laughter) ( Applause) Well, wo always
arrivei. at lunch time and dropped anchor just near the quarantine
station and even then I used to look at it and admire the utter
solitude of the place, not a human being to be seen and, as far
as I can tell, not a germ to be seen ( Laughter) We ate our rood
and had a drink of something or other, then we up-3nchored and
went back to tae other side of the harbour. A& nd so, Sir, I was
surprised to hear you say there is still a quarantine station.
Has it been used of late? ( Voice in background Well,
think of the advantage. There you have a lovely bit or parkland
with a few harmless old buildings on it and if you had your way,
you would have all thi. s thrown open and you would cover it with
red-tiled roofs, wouldn't you? ( Voice in background " No")
Oh, that's out. ( Laughter) When you bring that next deputation,
make a point of that, will you? ( Laughter)
But, really, ladies and gentlemen, all ' I want to say
to you on behalf of my wife and myself is that we are very
grateful to you and we are very glad that in an official capacity
we are able to come to this famous city. You know, one of the
things that has been going on in the world which attracts the
attention, I think, of a great number of thoughtful people, is
that in the modern world, let me make it more narrow still in
the world since the war, since these great movements of national
independence have been occurring right through Asia and through
Africa and elsewhere in this world there is a great disposition,
which I think is a wrong disposition, to create self-government
from the top. The disposition is to say to a country -it may
be Ghana, it may be Kenya, it may be some other country -" You
are now given independence", so we in effect pass an act of
Parliament and we say, " There you are, now you create a Parliament
and you are self-governing independent and all other things will
be added to you," There is a great disposition to say this, a
great disposition to do it in many international bodies, to start
at the top and say " Create a National Assembly in this country"
and then you have lone the lot. It can work the future out as it
1ike, It is worthwhile reflecting Mr. Mayor, that that hasn't
been our historic process, either in 4reat Britain or in Australia
and if there are any people n the world who ought to understand
Parliamentary self-government it is the British because tafter
all, our ancestors invented it. But they didn't invent Itfrom
the top. They invented it from lower down in this tructure of
organisation, from the old shire moot, from the old " hundred"
moots in England from the little organisations of local government
spreading out into some sort of county organisation and ultimately to./ 3

by slow and painful degrees, over the course of centuries, into
a Parliament which was the apex of this structure of selfgovernment.
But it is an apex which could not be sustained
without the sub-structure, so that I don't believe that any
State Parliament could be effective or even survive without
a sub-structure of municipal government and I certainly don't
believe that a national parliament and government could survive
without a sub-structure. The whole thing about local government
is not only that it attends to local affairs much more
effectively than far-removed people could, but that it gives
people experience in the art of self'-government it gives people
the opportunity to be elected, not to some great office of
profit but to an office of service, to an office in which
they are responsible to people for a variety of matters and
in which the people look to them and in which they look to the
people and they come and they go and they may be voted out,
they may be voted in, but this is part of our genius in the
business of government. We take it ' for granted, but it has
been completely ignored many many times in the last twenty
years, You take our responsibilities in New Guinea and Papua
not so remote from us, from you. There are plenty of people
in this world wh~ o think that the one thing you have to do* in
Papua and New Guinea is to set up a parliament and then walk
out and say, " Well, now, it is !, ll yours. You are completely
self-governing, you are independent. We leave you to it."
That is not our tradition. For years now, we ave been helping
to create in thos3 territories local governments, the equivalent
of our municipalities, with a lot of the indige-nous inhabitants
getting experience., first in a irimitive way and then in a more
advanced way, in tae government of a particular area for
particular purposes, and the longer this goes on, the more
completely do they come to understand local government, the
more fit will they be to engage in general self-government
through a parliamunt when that day comes. Now, Sir, I don't
want to be tedious about this matter,, This nappens to be a
proposition that I have uttered not only here but in many other
parts of the world. I think there is a great lesson in it and
that means that every time an Australian like myself ha s the
opportunity of going into a municipality, of touching even
lightly and casually the sytem of local municipal self-government,
one is reminded that this is not only historically but
functionally one of the great things in a democratic world.
Therefore, Sir, I use no mere form of words when I say
that I am de-lighted to be here and I am honoured to be received
by the Mayor,* This is, of course, to us an elementary truth,
but to many people it is completely unknown.
I wonder Si r, if I might just before I conclude say
this to you: thait there are people who are so young as not to
remember a time when I wasn't Prime Minister. I can remember
it very well, ( Laughter) The first contact I ever had with
what we are pleased to call politics was when I was a small boy
in the bush living in a country shire in Victoria and my father
was one of the shire councillors, and on shire council meeting
day which was perhaps once a fortnight it may have been once
a month in those days down a rather rough track from the town
twenty miles further north came a horse and buggy, the wheels
rattling over the gravel or the unbitumenised miacadalm, as the
case might be. Anyhow, it came rattling and groaning, and my
old man, having addressed my mother and the rest of us powerfully
on the burning issue of the day in the Dimboola Shire Council
about which our own heat was less than his, would mount up into
the buggy with this other mian and they disappeared into the night
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for another twenty-four miles down the road to a town called
Dimboola. and there they met and conducted their high mysteries.
And a couple of days later, they came back and shed each other.
Now this was my first introduction to the business of government
and when I look back on it and I think how primitive everything
was, how rough and crude the roads were how utterly limited
were the facilities and I look back on Lhose men who devoted a
good deal of their time and no small fraction of their energy
to going down, considering these fellows, arguing with the shire
engineer, being instructed as every sensible councillor is by
the shire clerk ( Laughter) when I think of that, I think that
wasn't a bad introduction Lo the art of government, It preserved
one from having delusions, it made one understand that matters
of less magnitude than may be engaged in by a parliament are
still matters of great importance and that they are not to be
neglected and it is on that foundation, vividly remembered by
me that I think my earliest interest in political affaizrs arose.
I admit there was one other factor ari. that was that
my father who ultimately went into the State Parliament of
Victoria was, unlike me, greatly given to argument. ( Laughter)
He was willing to argue with anybody about anything and in those
early days if you lived in the country, you were a free trader
automatically. The old man wasntt. Having ascertained thiat
all the people in the district were free traders, he became the
highest protectionist my family : ias ever known. ( Laughter)
That was good experience too, wasnt t it, because there is very
frequently great virtue in being different.
tto ankNow, Sir, we must go elsewhere as you know. I want
ttoa nkyou very much for what you have said and if I may say
so to you, on behalf of both of us, it is clear that as was
written in old times, the prayers of a righteous man avail much,
( Laughter) because yours were in reality both well answered.

Transcript 907