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Transcript - 24704

Address to the 70th Anniversary of Victory in the Pacific Dinner

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 15/08/2015

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 24704

Location: Brisbane

Your Excellency, distinguished guests, war veterans – especially war veterans – led tonight by my friend Admiral Guy Griffiths – it is a tremendous honour to be speaking to you.
 
As I begin – could I ask all of our Second World War veterans either to stand or to raise your hand so that we may salute you.
 
On behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia, I thank you for defending liberty, for opposing tyranny and above all for building a lasting peace.
 
For all our problems in these days and for all the perils that we face now, these are the best times in human history and that’s largely thanks to you.
 
For every one of us who is not of the wartime generation, it is an honour to be with every one of you who is.
 
You fought, you suffered, you won, you made history, and you shaped our world.
 
On this day, seventy years ago, our nation and our allies celebrated the greatest victory the world has ever seen.
 
Our country had emerged from six atrocious years with our alliances secure, our values upheld and our freedoms safe.
 
As Prime Minister, Ben Chifley declared on this day 70 years ago: “The war is over. Let us offer thanks to God…and remember those whose lives were given that we may enjoy this glorious moment and may look forward to a peace which they have won for us.”
 
So, on this anniversary, we remember the exhilaration of victory and we remember the grim struggle by which victory was won.
 
Australians had fought in the air and on the sea; in the jungle and in the desert.
 
Australians had suffered in prison camps.
 
Australians had kept families together while spouses, parents and siblings served far away.
 
Everyone who lived through those times was caught up in the struggle to defend our country and to preserve our freedom.
 
Almost a million Australians, men and women, served in the Second World War.
 
Almost 40,000 died.
 
To all of them, to all of you, we owe a debt of gratitude that can never fully be repaid.
 
So, today, tonight, we honour the volunteers of the Second Australian Imperial Force who pushed the Italians out of North Africa and the French out of Syria.
 
We honour the veterans of the Greek and Crete campaigns, including those who spent long years in captivity.
 
We honour the Ninth Division at El Alamein – one of the decisive units in the decisive battle where the tide of war turned.
 
We honour the men of the Royal Australian Navy for their part in the British victories in the Mediterranean and the US victories in the Pacific. 
 
We honour the Australians flying in our own squadrons and in the Royal Air Force who helped to win the Battle of Britain and who took the war to Germany.
 
On this anniversary of Victory in the Pacific, we honour the Australians who harried the Japanese down the Malayan peninsula, who defended Singapore, and who dealt the Japanese their first defeat on land at Milne Bay.
 
We look back in awe at the men who fought through the mud and blood of New Guinea and the other islands and we remember with pity those who starved and died on the Burma railway.
 
Here in Brisbane, we remember those aboard the Australian Hospital Ship Centaur, torpedoed off Stradbroke Island and we thank our American comrades in arms, to whom we turned in our dark hour.
 
We acknowledge all who served, all who suffered, all who died in the service of our country; and all those they left behind.
 
We thank them, we thank you, for the democratic and free Australia that is your true legacy, and we resolve always to strive to be worthy of this sacrifice.
 
On this day 70 years ago, addressing the people of the British Commonwealth and Empire, King George – the Queen’s father – had this to say:
 
“Great is our responsibility to make sure…that the peace gained amid measureless trials and suffering shall not be cast away…For great as are the deeds that you have done, there must be no falling off from this high endeavour. We have spent freely of all that we had. Now, we shall have to work hard to restore what has been lost and to establish peace on the unshakeable foundations, not alone of material strength but also of moral authority…If you carry on in the years to come as you have done so splendidly in the war, you and your children can look forward to the future, not with fear, but with high hopes of a surer happiness for all.”
 
The King concluded, “It is to this great task that I call you now and I know that I shall not call in vain.”
 
So let us for a moment consider what has been achieved in the post-war world: 70 years of peace in western Europe; 70 years of peace between China and Japan; a rules-based international order, guaranteed by the United States, that has fostered the greatest expansion of safety, of prosperity and of democracy that the world has ever seen; with many hundreds of millions of people, especially in Asia, moving from the Third World to the Middle Class in just two generations
 
Let us savour that.
 
Let us ponder the epic nature of this achievement no less than the achievement of victory 70 years ago.
 
Now, of course, there is always more to do; there is always injustice to be overcome; there is always the evil, alas, that lurks deep in the human heart and can never quite be banished; yet the world that the heroes of World War Two created has been golden beyond the imagining of any previous generation.
 
The wartime generation built a lasting peace because you never let the grim necessities of war harden your hearts or misshape your characters.
 
You rose to the challenge of war and you rose again to the challenge of peace and all of us are your beneficiaries.
 
Perhaps you were the first generation in human history to be as resolved to build a peace as you were to win a war.
 
Perhaps you took to heart Churchill’s dedication of his war memoirs: “in defeat defiance, and in war resolution; but in victory magnanimity, and in peace, goodwill.”
 
You certainly rose to the challenge King George posed and the faith he so beautifully expressed.
 
Men like Gunner Russell Savage of the Second/Tenth Field Artillery Regiment, in a prison camp in Northern Japan, when the war ended; asked by a liberating comrade: “Which of these bastards do you want shot?” he shrugged off the question.
 
“We were beyond caring about past atrocities,” he said, “and simply wanted to be away home.”
 
Men like my former constituent, Captain Norman White, a Japanese POW for more than three years, who eventually ran a friendship circle for Japanese business people in Sydney.
 
Whether it was your grace, or your humanity, or just your exhaustion, there was a substantial lack of the reprisals, the retribution and even the reparations that had marked every previous war won.
 
There was little “victors’ justice” but a rare and fragrant abundance of victor’s goodwill and magnanimity.
 
It’s this that allowed Germany and Japan to rise again in peace and freedom so swiftly; to become exemplary international citizens.
 
It was the grace of Russell Savage, the generosity of Norman White, the goodness of “Weary” Dunlop, and the decency of countless others of the wartime generation that paved the way for initiatives like the Colombo Plan and the Japanese trade treaty and all the other measures that, in the post war world, have turned strangers into friends and enemies into partners.
 
This is your world.
 
I hope that you are proud of it; for we could not be more proud of you.
 
You have set a standard of strength and decency – a gold standard to which every future generation should aspire.
 
I thank you.
 
[ends]
 

Transcript - 24704