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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 1354


Photo of Holt, Harold

Holt, Harold

Period of Service: 26/01/1966 to 19/12/1967

More information about Holt, Harold on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 12/07/1966

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 1354

Sveech ariven by-the Prime Minister. ME, Haroldf Holt at
the -AV2! k iipttl Oa ile ocAc asion tw├▒ Austraxla C lub
Dinner in L~ 01C9Df 12thL July 1) 66
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Prime Minister and gentlemen, I have
always looked upon Lord Baillieu as a friend and, indeed, many
of his family are good friends of mine in Australia, and my
heart lifted when he sent his invitation to me to come to dinner
at the Australia Club in London. I'd been to one once before
when my distinguished predecessor was being honoured, as you are
honouring me tonight, and this became a forum in which Sir Robert
Menzies, one of the masters of exposition of our century, stated
so clearly for his country our views and our aspirations. it
is tough enough to have to follow after Bob Menzies but then
tonight our Chairman host brings along one of the most articulate
of Englishmen, who proposes the toast of Australia, and I feel
that this is a difficult path to follow, but fortunately the
salesman doesn't have always to rely upon the line of talk he's
developed. If the product is good enough he can succeed in
getting the product purchased. And tonight you do me the honour
of speaking of Australia, and what finer product can I refer to
in any part of the world? When I was coming across to this
country there were various newspapers which were handed to me to
lighten the burden of travelling across such a large distance of
the Atlantic and here were all sorts of speculations. I expected
to find myself lined up in a sort of confrontation with the Prime
Minister of Great Britain, I almost expected to meet him eyeball
to eyeball I think that's the phrase, but here we are, he
quoted some Australian poetry to me. I hope this practice
doesn't spread. I landed in Washington from Australia the
other day. I'd been given an advance copy of the notes thc
President was likely to employ, they ran over a page and a half.
But a few minutes before we were to speak together I was handed
another set of notes which ran over seven pages and these included
a poem about Australia, " I Love a Sunburnt Country" well I
couldn't draw on my very vast knowledge of poetry to any useful
extent other than to say by way of reply " Say not the struggle
naught avail us". Now perhaps that could apply with equal force
to my embattled colleague, and who carries more responsibilities
on their shoulders in the world today than the Prime Minister of
Great Britain and the President of the United States of America.
For an Australian to come to London in whatever capacity
is a stirring experience; no matter how many times we perform the
visit we find ourselves increasingly drawn and, moved by so many
eviclences of our commuon heritage of history, of democratic
tradition. Our own country, of course, is overwhelmingly a
British country. You've spoken, Prime Minister, of the migration
which has been such a feature of the post-war years. I must
say that while we are out to obtain as many suitable British
migrants as we can, I can't help feeling a sneaking gladness that
your own visit ended with a return to your own country. I say
that because another Prime Minister from Australia might be here
standing in my place this evening. But I can assure you, had
he remained in Australia, and secured the Prime Ministership of
my own country, you would be addressing this audience as a
member oi my own Party. .2

A very great Englishman who served Australia with great
distinction as a Governor-General and remains a memorable
soldier of your own past, Lord Slim, wrote to me about some
matter recently and the concluding sentence of his letter
ran " what a fascinating time to be Prime Minister of Australia"
and it is a fascinating time because a country to draw out the
finest qualities of its people needs a cause, a stirring cause,
and Australia is fortunate in that we don't have one cause which
stirs the pulse, we have several causes, and I propose to
mention just three oi them here tonight.
You referred to immigration, and that itself has been
for the Australian people a great challenge and a remarkable
accomplishment. It is and history will, I think, establish
this the most remarkable peacetime achievement in the history
of our nation because we have, since the end of the war, welcomed
two million migrants from various parts of the world. They've
become successfully integrated, most of them, in the community
life of our country.
They have contributed notably to its development, they
have improved the food and drink quite significantly ( laughtpr),
and just on half this total have been migrants from these islands,
and I'm glad to say that we continue to attract rather more than
per cent of the total of our migration from here, and this
helps us to sustain the British quality and character of our,
community life. It may interest you to know that of the youing
people in Australia today one in every four is either a migrant
or a child of a migrant, and so the influences which play on us
today are not merely the geographical matters to which you
referred, but the impact of so many different nationalities,.
people seeking to establish a new homeland for themselves, to
build a new life in their adopted country. And the result has
been the greatest era o. f progress in the history of our nation,
a progress which I'm glad to say continues quite briskly and,
on all the evidence, will continue and, indeed, accelerate, in
the years immediately ahead of us.
We have, it may interest you to know, a population
growth rate of just over 2 per cent per annum. The comparable
United Kingdom figure, I hope I quote this one accurately, is
.8 of 1 per cent. if you were required to build houses, say,
in this country, to say nothing of the hospitals, the schools,
and all the other amenities of a civilised community, for a
growth rate of that sort I think you would need to add about
180,000 homes a year to whatever total you are currently
constructing. And this does, of course, place great burdens
on a community of something under 12,000,000 people, particularly
when you bring into your accounting the fact that great
distances have to be traversed, the transportation costs
represent a very high proportion of production costs generally,
but we are absorbing the people and we are succeeding in making
the economic progress.
You mentioned, Prime minister, the position of sterling.
Australia doesn't have to talk about sterling, we act about
sterling, and what greater confidence could be shown in sterling
arnd the future of sterling than by retaining the overwhelming
proportion of our reserves in your own currency. I would
only hope that with so many possibilities opening up for us
which could build an export income capable of adding to those
reserves that, having been assisted so notably over the years
since the war by a substantial inflow of British capital we 3

shall be able to continue to strengthen your reserves by the
capital necessary to develop our projects. The other matter
which I'd like to mention in this connection is that the economy
as a result of these processes, new employment given to the
migrants, arnd this largely has to be done not on the farmlands,
because they absorb a much smaller proportion of our work force
today than they did a decade ago. They're down, I think now,
to about 9 per cent of work force. But in our manufacturing
industries and in our services the bulk of the addition to the
work force has to be absorbed. But overall we have developed a
highly diversified economy and this was revealed very strikingly
in the last year when we experienced the worst drought our
country has known for just on twenty years. The figures reveal
the extent of it. Over the total sheep population of Australia
we lost just on 8 per cent of our flocks. in New South wales
we lost 25 per cent of our cattle. So that a few years ago,
had this occurred, we would have had a disastrous economic
recession, but, as you've mentioned, we came through the year
with a balanced budget, wie added something to our external
reserves, and the experience demonstrated that Australia today
has so diversified and strengthened the base of its economy
that we can stand up to these hazards which formerly would have
meant major economic setbacks for us. Now we're going to
greatly improve that position in the years which are coming up
because the mineral projects are expected by 1975 to be producing
an export income for us in excess of that which we would secure
from our staple export item, wool.
There are just on 50 major mineral projects either
under way, proposed, or in course of expansion, and we have here
tonight, I notice, Sir George Fisher, who, if he were being
very helpful to you, would tell you what his company proposes
to do with the enormous deposits of lead and zinc that they've
discovered in the MaCarthur River in Queensland. But all
around Australia these days we seem to have opened up a sort
of Pandora's box of mineral wealth, almost every month that
passes by some great now discovery is found and we So ahead
with the process of trying to add an export income from this.
You made reference to our iron ore deposits. Its a few years
ago that we maintained an embargo on the sale of iron ore from
Australia because the disclosed reserves seemed hardly adequate
for our own domestic steel industry, and then they began discovering
iron ore of a grade of 60 or over by the mountainful, and in
Western Australia alone there are now known to be reserves
estimated to be 15,000 and 18,000 million tons of high grade
iron ore. Wa have vast contracts with the Japanese for the
sale of this which will greatly improve our export earnings and,
as you've said, we might even reach to the markets of Europe
arid, indeed, of Great Britain in the course of the next few
years. As to bauxite, our situation is even more impressive
when it comes to resources. We have the world's largest
bauxite deposit at Weipa in North Queensland. You've only
got to XUick the ground with your foot and there it is, and we
do hold, I understand, about half the free world's reserves of
this commodity which is basic, of course, to the ali~. inium
industry. Manganese Broken Hill has got a great deposit
at Groote Island in the North of Australia, nickel has just
been found in Western Australia, apparently in very good
quantity, and that great deficiency that we have had for so
many years, oil, is now being discovered in increasing quantities 4

and, with this encouragement, we would certainly hope that the
explorers will go on until we become self-sufficient. AS
Barrow Island is added to the existing fields it is estimated
that 9 per cent of our consumption will be home-produced and
we would hope to add to that particular figure quite quickly.
Natural gas, the first attempt made to find natural gas off
the coast of Victoria produced a commercial field, and it should
not be long before the people of my home city are literally
co~ ting with gas but at a very much lower price than the rather
deficient substitute, or at least so-called commodity which
reaches us at this time. That is not libellous, I hope, of
the Melbourne Gas Supply, or slanderous.
The other thing which gives us cause for the stirring
of the pulse is that over recent years for the first time,
significantly I think in our history, we have become very
conscious of the place we occupy in Asia. In my own boyhood,
countries to our north produced a rather picturesque set of
pos~ tage stamps, but we know very little about them other than
that. But in these days we are directly involved in a variety
of ways. We are involved for ffence purposes, we see a rapidly
growing trade with them. We ourselves contribute to aid
programmes in the area, indeed, we can claim to have pioneered
the Colombo Plan which has been expanded so greatly since the
massive contributions made by the United States and the large
contributions which your own country has made. But to us the
future of Australia is going to be very considerably affected
by what goes on in Asia, and because of this we have naturally
given very close study to the developments there.
You have mentioned, Prime Minister, these hopeful
developments in which a greater measure of teamwork is now
being evidenced by the countries around the periphery of Asia,
perhaps brought together by a Common concern, lest they, at one
point, become the target for commiunist aggression, but arising
from this building up of teamwork and a collaboration for
purposes of trade and of mutual interest which I believe
produce some of the most hopeful signs to be found in Asia today.
Now remember when we speak of countries east of Suez we are
talking about half of ma. nkind a billion and a half people,
whose population is increasing rapidly, both from their natural
fecundity and improved public health measures keeping many
more of them alive for a much longer space of time. This
creates, of course, problems for them and for us, but it also
creates opportunities for us all, and whereas in Africa, to
which so much attention is given from Europe, and from the
United Kingdom in particular, there you have, I think, about
270 million people. Well, in Asia, we have about a billion
and a half and they may have doubled by the end of this
century, and many of the countries, countries of long and
ancient civiliation, some of their people, many of them have
quite a high degree of education, their take-off point is much
closer to us than is to be found in many of' the countries of
Africa, and we're finding that there are meetings such as we
had recently at Aspac in Seoul, where nine countries including
N~ ew Zealand and Australia as tho-only two non-Asian countries
were able to come together in friendship and start building
together for a brighter future in that area of: the world. 0

We know that the United States is determined to help
build a stronger and more prosperous Asia, there has already
been brought into being an Asian Development Bank with a capital
of a billion dollars, much of it subscribed in the area, with
Japan contributing 200 million and Australia 85 million, the
United States 200 million and so on, and in these ways, with the
development of the Mekong Valley, the Indus Waters, a whole
variety of projects which, if time permitted, I could mention,
we are seeing the emergence of an Asia which we had never expected
to find within our own visible distance, and so when we find that
major areas of opinion in this country seem to be turning inward,
away from that area of the world, naturally we have a degree of
concern. You have greatly encouraged us by what you've told us
of the intentions of your own Government. The arrangements which
were made earlier in the year with your Defence Minister seem
to us adequate and satisfactory. Wie appreciated the response
you gave to the views we put in respect of your continued maintenance
of a presence in the area to our north and for our part we have
been working closely with your own service people on proposals
which would meet the sort of contingencies which might arise should
you find yourself unable to continue to maintain a presence in
that area. But it is not so much a military presence that we
are thinking of. I don't know whether there is a full
appreciation in this country of what British influence, British
character, British leadership still mean to the rest of the world,
and for Australia it would be quite a damaging setback to our own
hopes and, we believe, to the aspirations of the people in this
area of the world if, for some reason or other, these qualities
of British character and leadership were somehow to depart from
the area. I know you don't view it that way and I sincerely
hope that while there seems to be an increasing disposition to
look inwards to Europe, the great possibilities, the great
opportunities, would seem to us to be opening up in this part
of the world, will not be overlooked.
Now as a concluding note, may I just emphasise something
which I think is expected by everybody in this room, and that
is that fundamental to the world's hopes for a peaceful and
better order is the continuing collaboration between those two
great English-speaking countries, Great Britain and the United
States of America. My own country has the satisfaction of
enjoying a close friendship with both, my own journey to this
part of the world was a direct consequence of invitations given
to me quite separately by yourself and by the President of the
United States. You both quite independently of each other
when I succeeded my predecessor asked me to continue the same
close and intimate communiction which had developed between you.
This has been greatly valued by me and has been valued by the
colleagues in my own Government, and I feel that Australia would
be responsivo and touched by the confidence and friendship shown
to us in these practical ways. I want to assure you, Prime
Minister, that the objective of keeping warm and close the
friendship between your two great countries is one of the great
objectives of policy of my own Government. There may be
practical ways in which we can help to a better understanding
one of the other, or at times in our own area of the world which
seems so remote to the rest ofL you, prove ourselves capable of
carrying out purposes Which further the joint objective which
our three countries hold together. 6

Well, it is for Australia a bright, interesting,
exciting, quite dangerous but at the same time challenging
world which faces us down under, and it is perhaps regrettable
that more of the possibilities, more detail of these
developments, cannot be clearly seen by those of the Western
hemisphere. The reporting day by day of what is going on in
Viet H~ am, as I discovered by my own visit, is quite misleading.
We get very little indication that great, constructive
projects of a developmental kind, are going on there, but
its not just a grim war of death and disaster, that each of
th~ e military forces of all the countries represented there
have their own constructive programmes to carry out, and they
are carrying them out. Now its through the stability which
can be brought to that area by whatever process of peaceful
negotiation and by constructive andcavars hereafter that we
feel an Asian society can be built which will be a strength
to the world and not a point of danger and weakness.
Well, Prime minister and Mr. Chairman, I don't wish
to abuse the great privilege which has been given to me tonight
of addressing you all. This is one cfthe great forums for
anybody in London. I compliment our Chairman who through so
many years has by force of his own leadership and the regard
held for him in this city helped to create for Australia a
gathering, perhaps as representative as any that will ever be
asjsembled in the city of London. And so we say thank you,
Clive. I close by saying that I'll be prepared to sing, if
he insists on it, with Harold Wilson, " Along the Road to
Gundagai" but perhaps we could take as our slogan for the night
" Hark the Harold Angels Sing" t

Transcript 1354