PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 999

SPEECH AT LIBERAL PARTY OF AUSTRALIA (N.S.W. DIVISION), DAVID JONES RESTAURANT, SYDNEY

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: 07/10/1964

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 999

Lineral PArty of Australia (NSW Division) 
DINNER IN HONOUR OF THE PRIME MINISTER, THE
RT. HON. SIR ROBERT MENZIES, KT, CH, QC, MP
at David Jones' Restaurant. Sydney.

7th October  1964.

There are in our community, aren't there,  people who are cynics and there are people who are sceptics. The two animals are quite different. I have a profound respect for a sceptic, for a man who says, " But wait a moment, wait a moment I want to be persuaded that that is true." That is a sceptic. And you and I, all of us, haven't we, been sceptics on a variety of matters. But the cynic, the man who doesn't want to be persuaded, but who believes that there is something to use the homely phiase " crook" about everybody, he is, I think, a common post.

The cynic sometimes says, in Australia7 " Well, it
doesn't matter very much which side wins, things are much
the same. Why should waste our time on politics?" Now
this is genuinely the cynic's point of view. " Well, you
know, nothing much happens. Why should I concern myself?
II'm so busy on other matters. Why should I worry myself
about politics?" Well, Sir, all I can say is that if many
of us had refused to " waste our time" on politics, then I
wonder whether cynics today would have been so comfortable.
( hear, hear) ( Applause) This is a perfectly fair question.

I have spoken to hundreds of men in my life, men of consequence, men of intelligence, men of training and experience and I have said, " You know, you might make a
great contribution to politics and all too frequently I
get the answer, " Oh, I'm much too busy," to which I have to
say, " Well, do you imagine that I went into politics because
I wanted a job? Do you imagine I went into politics because
I was unemployed?" This is too stupid for words. This is
the piece of nonsense that has unduly affected the history
of politics, particularly on our side in Australia. " Oh,
D no, well, I couldn't take up my time on it" and the answer
is that unless a lot of us are prepared to take up our time
on these matters, then the standard of politics the standard
of administration in Australia will fall and fall and fall.

Now, Sir, having said that, I would just like to say a word to you about the current politician. May I so describe him, being one of them myself? Nowadays, it is essential for
any responsible politician to know a good deal about various
matters. I don't mean by a responsible politician somebody
who can do the stuff in the local bazaars and all that kind
of thing; I mean the kind of man that you want to see in
Parliament, the kind of man that you want to discuss things
with some day with the great idea that he will understand
what you are talking about, 

And from that point of view any responsible politician tod-y ought to know a good deal, believe it or not, about applied economics. When I say " applied economics". I must say that I have been something of a student in my time. I am rather
better than half literate, and always in my library I had " The Pure Theory of Economics" by Keynes and " The Applied Theory of Economics" by Keynes, and I confess to you I hope Bill McMahon won't use it against me that I understood the
applied theory rather better than I understood the pure theory.
But at any rate, what we all need to know something about is
applied economics because you gentlemen of business though on
the whole you don't know much more about it than we do, do
you? you like to say, " Well, politicians, what do they know?"
and my answer is, well, we ought to know and it is our
business to know a good deal about applied economics. And,
indeed, you would be astonished to know how many people there
are in Parliament in Government and in Parliament who devote
an immense amount of time to this kind of problem. But any
responsible politician ought to know something about these
matters.

He ought to know something about public finance. Public finance is not one of those mysteries that financial editors write about when the Budget is produced. Public 
finance comes down to a series of basic ideas which we really
ought all of us who are aiming to be intelligent to know
something about. The politician in the Federal Parliament who
aims to be qualified ought to know something about central
banking and monetary policy. Now this is true, isn't it?
How could you ever suppose that people could sit or speak in
Parliament without knowing something about these matters which
are at the very heart of financial and monetary policy from
year to year, and, above all things, from your pointcf view,
a competent and responsible member of Parliament ought to know
something about the impact of banking and financial policies
on all apsects of business and industrial undertaking.

Now, I look across here and I see a distinguished friend of mine who is a businessman, a manufacturer. He would agree at once that he would get nowhere in discussions with
the Government unless he felt that he was talking to people
who knew something and preferably a good deal about the
impact of these policies on the activities of he business
world.

 

Now, Sir, let's put it to you in this way. No Member of Parliament can offer to know something, however rudimentary, about these matters, except at the expenditure
of tremendous application and tremendous hard work. Now all
this? of course, is elementary to you; it is quite elementary,
but it has a bearing on what I want to say next.
Why have we got into the attitude of mind in
which we think Members of Parliament have a nice cushy job?
They go and open bazaars. Oh, if anybody thinks opening a
bazaar is a cushy job, I wish he'd do the next one for me.
( Laughter) But there is this rather cynical approach, isn't
there? " Oh, well, they just go around and kiss the babies and
open bazaars and all that kind of thing." Look, governments
ccne and governments go and governments change. Even a Prime
Minister who has been a Prime Minister for so relatively short
a period of time as I have been, has every now and then to
say, " I would like to bring A or B or C in. Do I bring A or
B or C in because he is ignorant or because he has this standard
of information about the problems of the country that I think
ought to be contributed to a Cabinet consideration?" In other
words, the vital thing about politics, and it is the historic
mission of our party to produce it, to perform it is to bring
into Parliament people who will be able to contribute on this
high level to the settling of the problems of the nation; not
ignoramuses or should it be ignorami but I don't mind but not people who are just having a stab at it, not people who are just amateurs at it, but people who have really, year by year,
devoted their attention to t, as I proudly profess I have myself.
( Hear, hear) ( Applause) Now this is it.

The superficial onlookers I name no names are rather given to saying, 110h, Members of the Federal Parliament, they sit X days a year, and if they are in the Senate like'
Alister McMullin they sit X-Y days a year" and then they work
out a pretty lithe sum and say: 11X days, so many hours, well
what a homely, hopeless proposition this is. These boys are
being I've read this more than once. They say,
" They are paid X ( some improbable sum of money) per hour." Now
if anybody supposes that a Member of the Federal Parliament worth
hraving I say nothing about the States which have immense
responsibility confines his labours to X days multiplied by so
many hours and that's it, then all I can say is that he has another
guess coming, because if I were a private Member of Parliament
( which many people would very proper~ y desire me to I dont
think I would be measuring my effort by so many days a week, so
many weeks a year or so many hours a day, I think I would be
wanting to get stuck into the problems of the nation with all
the Departments at my command or request so that every time I
rose and spuke, I might say something of value something that
was a positive contribution to the affairs of the nation,

I mention this to you, gontlemen, because if you willI allow me to say So, I think there is for some reason or other a rather grudging attitude on the part of our people
toworls the people they send into Parliament to conduct the
ultimate affairs which produce the ultimate judgments wihin
the long run determine the course of life of so many of us'.

You must not havo this grudging attitude, I said earlier, I don't suppose anyone thought I went into Parliament
because I wanted a job, but you are not to look at it from my point of view. I have seen so many men come into the Federal
Parliament of immense tclent and I am happy to say, Most Of them on our side of politics ( Applause) and I would like them to
feel that the more time they devoted to the problems of the nation the more would their labours be recognised by the people wh. o vote and the people who talk and the people who write,

It is  I think, a grudging thing for people to say to a man who goes into Parliament, who is prepared to cut himself adrift and believe me, on our side we must have more
and more of them cut himself adrift from the normal avcnues
of promotion, from the normal access to increased professional
fees-" But, of course yumust understand that we are all
sceptical about you. 1& are all cynical about you, and if you
want to be paid an emolument that will compensate you for
devoting one hundred per cent, of your time to the affairs of
the nation, then you must of course recognise that you will get
somewhat less than the salary of a branch manager in a chain
stores systemi." 

This is true. This is true, and the trouble is that in Australia we thave produced this cynical approach, Now I am not concerned personally about this. Nobody compelled me
to go into politics nobody compelled me to become a Prime
Minister, nobody sits over me with my own meagre firwncial
affairs. I don't give a damn about those things, but if we,
on our side of politics, arc going to produce, every time we
have an election, people who are calculated to be the statesmen
of the future, then we are not to say, in a rather cynic-. l way,
10h well, forget about it. Let him take the senior clerk's
salary," You cantt do that. You can't impose on people a
sort of involuntary sacrifice, because we are all different.
Some people have wives and some don't ( Laughter) and some have
wives and children and some wives but no children. All our
obligations are different, but speaking as the Loader of the
Liberal Party to a bunch of people who are, in all essence,
Liberal, I want to say to you that what we have to do is to
make it more and more feasible that people of quality and
character should go into Parliament on our side so that we may,
over a long period of years, present to the people a standard
of statesmanship, of quality, that this country and the world
will need.,

 

Now, Sir, there is one other thing that I want to say speaking as the Loader of the Liberal Party. If somebody sai to me, " What is the essential distinction between a socialist
and a Liberal" I think I would say that the socialists live
on a basis of dogra. They have a platform they have their
masters who say this is what you may do, this is what you may
not do, and the result is that whenever any great national issue
occurs, they are hog-tied by the dogma of their party, and after
all, the doctrinaire socialists are dogmatic.

They start off, don't they, by saying, " Well now here's a problem. The State ought to run it," and we start off by saying " Not at all. This is not a matter for the State to run. Can t private people run this? Can't privato enterprise
run this?" and it is only when we come to the conclusion that
private enterprise cant run it that we begin to think of some
government action. But the doctrinaire socialist, he says, " Oh,
no. Start off with the government. We ought to nationa3ise
this. We ought to control this." This is a very vital distinction.
They are doctrinaire and we are not. We are practical,
we are pragmatic on these matters. There are hosts of examples
of this kind of thing in the history of Australia.

But our great danger is that in avoiding dogma, poitically, in avoiding the dogma of the socialists, we may begin to think that we ought to go to the other extreme, and have no faith whatever. But my contrast is between faith, a
depp-seated burning faith in how we handle the problems of the
country and a mere wooden dogma at the other end. This is really,
basically, the choice that people have in the modern world.

Now, Sir, it is because of these things that we reject what I have always said is the reactionary theory of socialism. Could I just develop that a bit? You know Sir
in the nineteenth century, Great Britain went through the first
industrial revolution. Mr. Stephenson and Mr. Watt, they
produced all these marvels and Great Britain became the leader
in the nineteenth century of the new world. This was the
industrial revolution, and this, of course, meant inevitably
that a great number of people became very rich and, no doubt, that
a great number of people becramo very poor.

This was it in the nineteenth century. Then we had all the social revolutions in Great Britain. We are their descendants. We might as well remember these things. We had Lord John Russell and we had all the things that went on,
industrially and politically, and it was towards the end of the
century, and perhaps not so much towards the end of the century,
that the socialists began.

All the people who hated inequality very rightly sdid, " Well, the only answer to this in this new bursting world is that we should make people equal" and I have never had any dif'ficulty myself' in understonding why in that century and
particularly in the second half' of' it, people were attracted
by the idea that if' you were to have social justice you must
have equality and if' you were to have equality you must have
the government running everything. This, as a heoreticJ.
exercise in history I've had no diff'iculty in understanding.
But I have never haa any temptation whitever to believe in it.
Never. Because the truth is that if' in the long run the best
thing is to be done f'or the most people then this is not just
a matter of' dividing up what exists, Mu a matter of' adding to what exists.

This is the matter of' developing the resources of' the nation, and if' you are to develop the resources of' the nation, then you must encourage priv: ate citizens to get out and gpt
busy and have them hove some reward f'or what they do, It is
the fundamental dif'ference between the socialists of' today and
the Liberal and Country Party people of' today, VIe believe in
developing resources, we believe in stabilising the currency
of' the country, but we believe that we con do all of' this by
giving to every person the incentive of' reward, or even if' I
may mention that nlmost indecent word prof'it upon what he
is doing. Whereas our opponents, they go beck, they are very
reactionary. You must always remember that. They cre very
reactionary, they go back and say, " O0h, no, no. You mustn't
do that. The government must run this particular thing."

I see an old friend of' mine sitting over there saying to himself', " Now I wionder how the government would get on running the steelworks....?" Now that's right isn't it Cecil? You know this is it. It is a f'atal belief' that the
government shoulA be the master and that the government servants
can do better because they are not excited by the prospects of'
reward, than ordinary people who if' not excited by the prospects
of' reward, at least hope to get 1hem in due course. Now this,
Sir, is the basic problem; it is one of' the fundamental
differences between ourselves and those to whom we are opposed.
And I repeat that we don't live on a dogma, we live on a f'aith.
We believe in the individual, we believe in encouraging the
individual, we believe that in the long run the growth of' our
country will depend on what individuals do.
Now, Sir, there is one other thing that I would like
to say to you. On our side of' politics we must never become
the advocates of' special interests or of' pressure groups, This
is something that needs to be said. Our function is a wide and
human function. W1e are not here, we are not in politics to
be the advocates of special groups, of' special interests, of'
pressure groups. lie nre indeed prof'oundly concerned with
justice and not with subservience to any group of' people.
Now I just want to remind some of' you how these principles apply to
some of' the great current problems.
WJhere I sit in Canberra we have deputations I see
quite a f'ew people here tonight who come f'rom time to time to
tell us their view and I am delighted to see them and to hear
them But underneath it all, I never f'orget that there are
two things f'or which a government on our side of' politics must
stand. One of' them is that there should be as f'ar as possibla,
stability in the currency. Now this, genhemen, is prof'oundly
true. I don't menn that we are to be pedantic about this
matter, but everybody here will realise that if' we permitted
a series of' policies which meant that the value of' the currency
was jumping up and jumping down so that you had the consumer
price index bouncing up and down, then this would be no great
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help to us, either internally or externally. I believe that
it is quite clear that we ought to aim at stability of thie
currency and the moment we say that, somebody says, " OK, yes,
well that means that you don't want growth." Growth is not
inconsistent with the stability of the currency. On the contrary,
I would venture to say that of all these hundreds and hundreds
of million. s that have come into this country in the last eight
or ten years from other countries, only a fraction would have
come if we were in the middle of an inflationary boom, with the
value of currency going out through the roof. This is true.
And therefore, stability in the currency, pursued within proper
limits, and investment from overseas, investment internally and
the growth of the economy are both on the same side, There is
a great temptation to think that they have some classic s'ort of
opposition to each other,
I will just give you one simple example. I
apologise for giving it. You know, there is a great disposition
among the economists, or some economists, to divide investment
in Australia between investment in the public sector and in the
private sector? the assumption being that investment in the
public sector is in some way inconsistent with or hostile to
investment in the private sector. This, I venture t~ o say, is
utter tosh. How much investment in the public sector is
there that doesn't come in aid of private industrial and
economic development? Now I ask you. I look around here and
I see a few famous...... tyceons is that the right word?
and they say, " Yes, but we want to concentrate on industrial
development. We want to build a new factory. We wrant to do
this." But bless my soul and body, what do the governments do,
particularly the State Governments? If you want to have this,
you must have roads, you mrust have bridges, you must have
schools, you must have footpaths, you must have water supply.
You know, we live in a world of false dichotomy,
One of the many reasons why I am a Liberal is that I am a great
believer in the practical truth of what goes on, not in some
theoretical division, The truth of the matter is that without
a lot of public expenditure in the public sector perhaps ninety
p~ cent. of it it would be impossible for industries to
expand, to employ people, to have them housed, to have them
transported, to have them supplied with water and light and
power. This is so simple, isn't it? Perfectly simple. And
what you must always remember is that it is because we understand
those things that we are to be distinguished from the rather
dogmatic people who make artificial distinctions between one
and the other. Now this is, I think, tremendously important.
Nowi I won't talk to you any more about our
internal affairs Mu I wonder if I have enough time to say
something about our external affairs because although it used to
be said, not without truth, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago, that
Australians weren't interested in foreign affairs, I don't think
that's true any longer, I don't think there are too many people
in Australia who believe that we can just go on looking down in
the back garden and saying how the pumpkins are growing and
forget that there is something over the road which may prevent
the pumpkins from ever being harvested. Political affairs,
externally, have become in our time, and since the last war
particularly, of tremendous importance to Australia, e a

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Now I am not here to provoke an argument about
whether somebody ought to do this, or this, or this, because
this gets down to detail, but I do want to say this to you:
Where my Government stands is perfectly clear. We don't
believe that Australia can be an isolationist country. Neither
do you. We don't believe that we can sustain our future security
without having well-chosen alliances, and my owm Government
has made them, not with very much approval from some other people.
We have made the SEATO alliance. Before that we
made the ANZUS alliance. Is it oln. iys realised in Australia that
if we hasn't entered into this Treaty with America and New
Zealand and thereby evolved the ANZUS pact, that we might tcday
be in no position whatever to say to the United States, " Well,
it would be very nice if you could help us" whereas today We are
in a position to say that under the terms of that treaty, if our
troops are attacked in the Pacific that is the business of the
United States and if the United Sates troops are attacked in
the Pacific, thatts our business. This cuts both ways.
( Applause) I venture to say that the ANZUS pact will one of
these days be looked back on as the most remarkable treaty that
any foreign conntry ever made with the United States, and from
out point of view, it is of vital importance.
Well, then, take the other thing. We have SEATO
the South-East Asian Treaty Organisation. We are members of
that and so is the United States and So is Great Britain, so * s
France, though the French are not frightfully keen on it, you
know. ( Laughter) No, I think that's fair enough to say. And
so are many Asian countries. It means something, doesn't it,
when you are able to say there is a treaty between six or seven
nations under which they all jointly and severally agree to come
to the aid of the other in the event of an attack. This, I think,
is tremendously important. And both ANZUS and SEATO have never
had one word of warm-hearted praise by our opponents.
And then the latest thing is Malaysia. Now I must
tell you about Malaysia. This is really almost incredible.
Now Malaya was there, Malaya a non-aligned country, if I may
use that current expression, with the Tunku. He's a grand man.
They decided they would like to establish a Federation. Oddly
enough, that is what we did in 1899 and 1900, when New South
Wales and Victoria were almost as foreign to each other as
Singapore and Malaya, because you in New South Wales now rich
in manufacturers, were a free trade State. Remember? Of course
you don't9 you're too young, but they were. But here the
Tunku himself promotes a new Federal system Malaya, Singapore
and Borneo States, and this is adopted, and it is recognised
by the Prime Ministers' Conference the previous one that we
had. We say, " Yesq right, Malaysia is in." It is recognised
by the United Nations, because when the Tunku arrived on behalf
of Malaysia, Malaysia was admitted to the United Nations, as
Malaysia, not as Malaya or Singapore or something else, but as
Malaysia. Then when the ineffable Dr. Soekarno said this
was not right, people didn't approve of it? the Secretary-
General of the United Nations sent out a mission and they
reported that this was in accordance with the will of the people
in the Borneo States. So if ever there was a country that was
ultimately torn and christened as an independent State it was
Malaysia. Now, what is our position in Australia and this
is almost the vital question in the next two or three years?
Do we look on indifferently? Do we say, " Well, we approve of
the concept of Malaysia?" It is almost like saying that you
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approve of the birth of your neighbourls child, the concept
of Malaysia. This is hopeless.
We, being what we are, came out and said, " IJe
believe in Malaysia, we think Malaysia has as much right to
its independent existence as any other country in the world,
and if Molaysia is attacked and Great Britain which has a
special defence treaty s ays and Malaysia says to us, " We would
like your help", we will give it." ( Applause)
Sir, this seems to me to be all elementary. I am
not underestimating the problems that we have. Not at all.
There are problems of defence and of equipment all these
things, but that this country should reneg on Its obligation to
help Malaysia be independent is to be so unthinkable that I
couldn't be the head of a government that contemplated it.
( Hear, hear) ( Applause)
Well, all this is quite clear. We have forces in
Malaysia, we have all sorts of obligations and they are
constantly being changed and added to, but when you look on
to the other side of the House ( there is always a choice, never
forget that) what do we find? Well it is only the other
night that one of the spokesmen of the Left ing of the Labour
Party said, " Oh, yes, we approve of the concept of Malaysia,
but there ought to be no Australian troops in Malaysia," so
you see this is a noble, or ignoble, contradiction, according
as you look at it. " There ought to be no Australian
troops and his Deputy Leader denounced him or
repudiated him on this matter, and then the Loader of the
Opposition said, " Well, on the whole, he thought the man who
spoke first was a very good man, a very good Labour spokesman."
Gentlemen, this is not good enough. With a little
bit of luck, with a little bit of wisdom, this man Soekarno
may decide to play it quietly and may decide to give up his
confrontation policy. I don't know and you don't know, but
suppose he doesn't, Suppose he builds up his attack on
Malaysia to a point where there must be retaliation unless a
little war is to be lost, what side are we on? This is one of
the great problems that we have to look at. I have no doubt
myself as to what the answer is on that matter, but these are
tremendously difficult matters, and because they are difficult
matters, because it is essential that within an hour or two,
questions should be put and answered, then it is vital that you
should have people in a position to receive the questions and to
make the answers who have no doubt or hesitation as to where
they stand. Now, I am not sabre-rattling on this matter. I don't
think there is any future in that, but I don't think there is
any future in appeasement. ( Applause)
I don't think there is any future in allowing aggressive
people to go on on the assumption that they won't be resisted
and that they can go so far, so far, so far, and nothing will
happen. This is really, in our part of the world, the greatest
and most acute problem we've ever had. In previous wars, people
have said, " Well, what do you say about Belgium? ! Jhat do you
say about Czechoslovakia?" These are a long way away. But
in this matter, we are dealing with what happens next door to
us. And I happen to believe most firmly that so be it that we
stand firm and clear and have no ambiguities and do what needs to
be done on these occasions. We are not going to produce a world
war. We are going to produce a signal defeat for aggressive so@

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dictators who have been chtncing their arm. ( Hear, hear)
( Applause) Sir, it is not for me to be labouring this matter
because everyone of you has given thought to it, but I come
back to where I began: Why are we on our side of politics?
Are we cynics? Do we just say UIt doesn't matter who is in
or who is out"? I will just test it by the last example I
gave you. Does it matter who is in or out? Do you want to
have people in who are the victims of complere ambiguity and
internal dispute as to where they stand on these matters?
Or do you want to have people who, whatever their defects may
be abd I am constantly reminded of mine know exactly where
they stand and are prepared to give a clear, hones and, I
hope, brave lead to our own country in dealing with them.

Transcript 999