PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 9702


Photo of Keating, Paul

Keating, Paul

Period of Service: 20/12/1991 to 11/03/1996

More information about Keating, Paul on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 14/08/1995

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 9702

Ambassador, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a pleasure and a privilege to be in Townsville to pay tribute to this brave city
on the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in the Pacific.
I have always had a feeling Townsvilles story is probably not as well known as it
should be.
Not all Australians are aware that the city was bombed on four occasions in July
1942; and not everyone appreciates the stress and hardship it endured during the
The Japanese airmen were not as accurate as they might have been with their
bombs, but the incidents do give us some idea of the pressure the people of
Townsville were under and the strategic importance of Townsville to the conduct
of the war.
In the darkest days when a Japanese invasion of the Australian mainland seemed
imminent a report by Sir John Lavarak recommended that 10,000 civilians be
evacuated south. The evacuation never happened, but between 1939 and 1942
about twenty five percent of Townsville's population left
This place was an entry point for refugees from South -east Asia after the fall of
Singapore, and a refuge for soldiers, sailors and airmen returning from battle in
New Guinea and the Pacific.
Townsville was also, of course, a major embarkation point for troops and
supplies, and it was the most important Allied airbase in Australia

This was the home of the " Kennedy' Regiment, 31 st Battalion which served in the
Middle East and at Kokoda, Buna and Gona; and, when linked with the 51 st
Battalion. at Lae and Ramu Valley, and at Balikpapan in Borneo.
Then, as now, Townsville was recognised as a vital link in the chain of Australia's
northern defence.
As Allied forces led by the United States first resisted and then began to drive
back the Japanese, Townsville's role became pivotal.
It was the home to the 5th American Air Force and I believe it still is, in the
sense that they have Freedom of Entry to the city.
Its presence involved thousands of civilians and military men and women, both
American and Australian, in the service of the US Army Air Force.
During the War Townsville was host, all told, to 90,000 troops the highest
soldierlcivilian ratio of any Australian city.
There were two RAAF squadrons No 7 Beaufort Bomber and No 80 Kittyhawk.
The No 1 Wireless Unit of the RAAF was located here at a top secret Central
Bureau of Intelligence base intercepting and decoding Japanese signals.
Among those engaged in Intelligence were members of the Women's Auxiliary
Australian Airforce and the Australian Women's Army Service.
The RAN worked out of Townsville of course, shipping Australian and American
troops to New Guinea and the Pacific Islands and providing escorts and patrols.
As the most important Allied Military and Air base in the north of Australia and the
Headquarters, for Naval Intelligence, no city in Australia no community in
Australia made a greater contribution to victory in the Pacific.
You can't turn a civilian town into a military base without putting strain on the
community. But Townsville clearly wthstood the strain. The civilian population
returned, the city grew and developed.
Today the city combines thetwin sads of tshstory as afrofer ownanda
grrison town. It has an important place In Australia's economic future and a
continuing strategic role In our defence.
Two thousand nine hundred soldiers of the Australian Army's Third Brigade are
here as part of the Ready Deployment Force. Among their many essential tasks
are conventional mil" tr operaitions; protected evacuations of Australian nationals,
and the provision of personnel and equipment for UN or multinational operations.

The Brigade has recently distinguished itself in operations in Somalia, Cambodia
and Bougainville and provided support to Australia's medical contingent In
Rwanda which arrives back in Townsville in about ten days.
The R. AAF took over Townsville Aerodromne in 1939 and it maintains a significant
presence, with 1,250 personnel providing support for air operations.
The Army's 5th Aviation Regiment, which is also based at RMAF Townsville, was
deployed to Cambodia to support UN sponsored elections, and more rcntly to
Buka in Bougainville as part of Operation Lagoon.
So the Townsville tradition continues. As I've said on other occasions, this is one.
of the outstanding cities of Australia.
It has the strength which comes from its place on the northern frontier. It has
withstood the ups and downs of droughts and depressions which afflict rural life.
And carried more than its share of the weight of the war and emerged stronger
than it began.
In 1995 there are signs in Townsville to remind us of the past in particular those
memorials to the great alliance with the United States the Coral Sea Memorial
and the memorial to the 5th American Air Force.
With Ed Perkins here today I want to py tribute to the American men and women
who fought and died so bravely in the war against Japan they fought for our
freedom as weli as America's, and you may be sure that this country will never
forget that
But, above all, today I want to pay tribute on behalf of the nation to the people of
Townsville, for all they did for Australia during the war and all they continue to do.
I mentioned the visible signs of Townsville's contribution to the war but I think
the real indication lies in all that has been done since, all that is being done now.
It lies in the spirit of the place and the people. I think that is what counted and
today It has been my privilege to join you here in tribute.

Transcript 9702