PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 1207


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: 03/12/1965

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 1207

Speech by the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies
Thank you very much. I have great pleasure in
accepting these papers, of which we have a token here, on
behalf of the National Library.
I don't quite understand how you accumulate
papers. Mine, such as I have, are always in a state of chronic
disorder, but every time I see ir. ', hite, the Librarian, he
looks at me with a gleam in the eye and refrains, just, from
saying to me, " Who will get your papers when you are gone?" and
I always disappoint him by saying I have none" for then I
don't compare myself with Alfred ieakin. I am betraying n4
secret. I have said it almost time after time that in my opinion
Alfred Deakin was the greatest Prime Minister this country ever
had and if we ever have one as good in the future, we will be
doing very well. It's a very curious thing looking back on his
work, to realise how frequently immense talents can be obscured
by the possession of one, and he had a great talent for speech
and this to many people obscured his other talents. There is
a rather cbmmon disposition to believe that a man who could speak
as he could, who had the touch of eloquence that he had must
have nothing else, as if it were vox et praeterea nihil. This
is a common error. Whereas, of course the truth was that in
constructive thinking, in fundamental thinking, he did things
for Australia, of which most people today are unconscious,
which still affect every day of our lives. All the foundational
policies, not only in the fiscal field in the defence field
in the industrial field, the pattern of national policy which
we have come to accept so much in Australia was laid down by
this remarkable man. And of course, as one of the fathers of
the Constitution, he has his monument all around him, particularly
in this city. I heard him speak only once and that was when I
was a boy, a schoolboy in Ballarat. I don't remember anything
about it except that I did hear him speak. It wasn't a very
intellectual phase of my life. I was about thirteen, I think,
but he was the Member for Ballarat and I wa6 at school in Ballarat.
But ever since I came to man's estate, I've been fascinated by
him, by his personality and by his work, and for years I felt
there was something missing in Australia beoause we had not had
beyond ,' alter Murdoch's monograph a definitive life, some
substantive volume about Deakin, based on all the information
that has accumulated about him.
I am glad this error has now been repaired. In
fact this is a sort of heyday because not only has Professor
La Nauze enriched us with his two tall volumes but Rohan has
written a fascinating book, Mrs. Bookes, on your most distinguished
husband and therefore this is, in a sense, a vintage Deakin
year. And I am very glad that after this great interval of
time it should be happening, but I suppose it is part of ordinary
fate that men of great note should fade away for a period in the
memory of people; should be critcised, should be denigrated
in many ways. / 2

I remember one night in England saying to
Winston Churchill, " You know, by the time you have been
dead for ten years, an event which I hope will be long
postponed clever young men at Oxford and Cambridge will
write books about you explaining that never once in the
whole of your life were you right." He said, " Do you think
so?" And I said, " I'm sure of it but don't worry about
it because twenty years after that, they will all be
forgotten and you will still be up there in the history of
the nation." This is occurring in the case of Alfred Deakin.
These events all help to recreate hi. m in the public imagination
and in the minds of readers and thinkers in years to come,
and thinking as I do about that I am delighted I think
it is a wonderful stroke of luck to be here as Prime
Minister at a time when these papers are being handed over
and to be able to say something from my heart in the presence
of his family.

Transcript 1207