PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 913


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: 06/04/1964

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 913

Srjech by the Prime Ministerj w) Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Men~ ies
Mr, President and Delegates
I have been reading with considerable pleasure
over the last few days the reports made to this meeting from
the Branches and I am most gratified by the references in themn
to myself. I am even more gratified by the references made to
my wife and on her behalf I want to thank you very sincerely for
them. ( Applause) You know, I w~ ant to take you back quite a few
years to the beginnings of our Party. In 194 when the Opposition
in the Federal Parliament had suffered one of the severest
drubbings in memory, we were in a state of some confusion and
I resolved then and there that somethiing had to be done. There
were splinter groups everywhere some 13 or 14 parties and I
got together with some of our stalwarts Bill Anderson ther'e
was one of them, associated with a particular group.. and. all the
letters calling -the groups together went out of my office on thie
Opposition side of the Parliament. We know what the result has
been and it was brought perhaps to its greatest climax in November
when we had our great victory. ( Applause
Now my contribution to that victory was to sot the
date of the election but it was the Party which rallied and in no
election have I led a Party which was more united and more
determined and more cohesive than was our Party last year.
( Applause) This indeed was the seventh successive election
success ( Applause) It is often said after a series of victories
such as we have had that in the normal course, the pendulum
principle, that we might expect to lose two or three elections
and to be out of office for some years. I hnve it in my ageing
bones that having won seven elections there is no reason
whatsoever why the Liberal Party should not win the next two or
three or four or even five more elections for we have been blessed
by an Opposition which has fallen from one confusion of mind to
another. This Federal Council Meeting is for all of us a
spirited occasion. We will hove differences in detail and applicati
on expressed but they will not mean differences in the
principles of our Party. In a Party of less virility than ours,
you might say that the reverses of 1961, coming after an
unprecedented twelve years of office, could have caused disintegration,
internal revolts and surrender to external pressures.
The opposite turned out to be true. We had, at
Canberra, two years of unsurpassed loyalty, steadfastness and,
in its literal sense, integrity. That was the principal reason
for our great victory on November 30-th, 1963.
But there was another reason, which is to be
remembered at all times. We rediscovered the profound appeal
of Liberalism to intelligent and eager youth.
It may be m~ ore than useful to elaborate this
proposition, and to analyse some of the reasons for it. In all
the great meetings I addressed, I found, for the first time for
some years, a great preponderance of listeners in the younger

age-groups. And they werc listeners, eager to hear and to understand,
plainly concerned about the problems, including the
international problems, of our country. It did both my heart
and my mind good to see them.
Labour speakers had no such experience, as their
leaders have reluctantly conceded.
What do the newer Australian generations want from
those of us who are actively engaged in the formulation and
execution of policy?
Do they just want " security" in the sense of that word
which connotes a powerful paternal government which accepts and
performs all duties% leaving it to the citizen to enjoy his
" rights". If so, the Australian Labour Party might suit them.
It does not understand democracy. A true democracy requires in
the citizen the acceptance of duties and the self-respecting
reception of rights,
A democratic country is an independent country because
it has independent proud and balanced citizens.
It is a trite saying ( though the Socialists don't
understand it) that independent nations are not made up of
dependent people; that the greatest privilege of democratic
citizenship is to serve a community in which he shares power and
responsibility. It was once the claim of our opponents that we were
reactionary, that we wanted to turn the clock back to
restore laissez-faire, to say " each for himself and the Devil
take the hindmost as the elephant said as he danced among the
chickens." ( Laughtor)
We have, over many years, demonstrated the falsity of
this charge. We have greatly aided social justice. We have not
just kept the ring and allowed vitory to go to the strong. We
have encouraged free enterprise, have recognised the making of
a people as one of the dynamic inducements to the taking of capital
risks in the development of the nation. But we have insisted upon
the performance of social and industrial obligations; we have
shown that industrial progress is not to be based upon the poverty
or despair of those who cannot compete.
After over fourteen consecutive years of political
office at the centre of the nation, we can point to a range of
achievements, in industrial justice and peace, in social services
in a growingly successful attack upon poverty, in widely distributed
rising standards of housing and of living generally, which can be
matched by very few countries in the world. ( Applause)
How has this been brought about? The answer is, to my
mind, clear enough,
We have been human, with a sense of human destiny and
human responsibility. As the etymology of our name " Liberal"
indicates, we have stood for freedom. We have realised that men
and women are not just cyphers in a calculation, but are individual
human beings whose individual welfare and development must be the
main concern of government. ( Applause)
We have no doctrinaire political philosophy. Where
government action or control has seemed to us to be the best
answer to a practical problon, we have adopted that answer at the
risk of being called Socialists. But our first impulse is always

to seek the private onteriuriso answrr to help the individual to
help himself, to create a climate, economic, social, industrial,
favourable -to his activity arnd growtii.,
Our opponents have an exactly opposite point of
approach. Their first instinct is the * Socialist one-. " The
right way to deal with this matter is for the Government to
run it!" Private enterprise and effort are the alternatives
to which they reluctantly turn only when the Socialist plan proves
to be constitutionally incompetent or in practice unworkable.
The validity of this brief analysis is, I think seen
with increasing clarity by a younger and, on the whole better
educated generation, who want the opportunity to make Zheir own
way and place in the world, and reject the feeble notion that the
chief end of man, from the cradle to -the grave, is to be ordered
aroundcbyt and live dependent upon, " the Government". But this
utter con rast of approach between Liberal and Labour is still,
in the minds of too many people, obscured by two things.
One of them is -that the Socialists, especially alk
election times pt their Socialist objectives and principles
under cover. ' hpy appeal to the " profit motive", that diabolical
thing, by offering to the electorts both rewards and fairies, In
appropriate electorates, they are, for all practical purposes,
Liberals, but with more money to spend. 1 It is not long since
their leader promised that, if elected, he would so to speak
suspend the Socialist objective for the life of Lhe ParliamenL
What his outside masters would have done about it we will,
fortunately, never know,
These are, of course, pretty shoddy manoeuvres, and
have lacked success with the general body of electors for a
long time. But they have deceived far too many people who ought
to be our supporters, It is for us, in this organisation, to
make clear the grc1-at basic conflict of principle and method to
which I have referred,
The other factor which tends to obscure the true nature
of the conflict, is the allegation that the Liberals themselves
" are Socialists when it suits them." Witness the Post Office,
the telephone service the railways, the groat Snowy Mountains
Scheme, not one of which, of course, could have been either
created or sustained by private investors. To say these things
is merely to prove what I said earlier. We are not doctrinaire.
We have no instinctive passion for government control or operation
for its own sake.
Our first question is not whether the Government could
do this thing, but whether private citize-, ns could. If the answer
is that they could, our answer is that they should. We deal withach
case on its merits9 without dogma or prejudice.
Sometimes a middle course must be followed, I will
take two examples. The first is, broadcastin and television. Labour,
the Socialist party, wanted and wants Government stations only.
We have stood for a dual system with commercial stations competing.
We have much reason to be thanklul that such a system exists.
The second is Civil Aviation. Our internal flying
services were pioneered by private enterprise. A Labour Government
established T. A. A. the Australian Airlines Commission and
tried to give it a monopoly. The Act was successfully challenged
on constitutional grounds, and private enterprise continued,

a When we came back in-to office, we did not seek to destroy the
Government airline, which was well rwinaged and efficient. But
we wanted competition. We thus evolved our " two major airlines"
policy one government, one private. In the result, the public
interest has been magnificently served. Here we have the contrast
between doctrinaire socialism and the practical approach of a
Liberal and enterprise-encourziging administration.
As I have many times said, Socialism is both
reactionary and out-dated. I can understand how it attracted
the support of radical thinkers after the industrial revolution
in Great Britain and later at the turn of the century, when
industrial power was in a limited number of hands, when the
rights of employed people were imperfectly recognised, when
trades unions were too commonly regareed as subversive bodies,
when the economic doctrines of laisse ' z-faire held sway, when
social services were almost non-existent, there grew up in many
minds a belief an egalitorian belief in the virtues of
uniformity. There was, and is, no uniformity among personalities,
or talents or energy. We have learned that the right answer
is to set Zhe individual free, to aim at equality of opportunity,
to protect the individual against oppression to create a society
in which rigiats and duties are recognised ana made effective.
In this free society, the tyrannical notion of an all-powerful
Stata is rejected and dogmatic Socialism with it. In its
place, we have puZ opportunity without any class privilege,
social and economic justice, and the civilised democratic
conception that governments are not the masters of the people,
but their servants. I have stated, I venture to believe, our Liberal
creed. We must believe in it, preach it and practise it9
fcjr its success and survival are essential to the future of
our nation.

Transcript 913