Transcript

No carefree rejoicing, 1945

Leader of the Opposition, RG Menzies, and Leader of the Country Party, AW Fadden, on the announcement of the end of the war in Europe, 8 May 1945. (Duration 14:12)

NAA: C102, PO(L)29


Speaker of the House: The Right Honourable R G Menzies

Robert Gordon Menzies: Mr Speaker, on behalf of the opposition I support what has been said by The Honourable, the Acting Prime Minister. Before we came into this house tonight sir we had listened to a broadcast from London and we had heard two voices not for the first time. The first of them was the voice of Big Ben.

Unknown voices from the chamber: here here

Robert Menzies: Big Ben sounding victory tonight as he has sounded defiance for years past.

Unknown voices from the chamber: here here

Robert Menzies: The second was the voice of Winston Churchill announcing as perhaps no other man alive has the right to announce 'Victory' with the true gruel of the English lion in his voice.

Unknown voices from the chamber: here here

Robert Menzies: Announcing victory tonight as he has announced even disaster in the past with undefeated courage.

Sir on September the 3rd 1939, it was my solemn responsibility as the then Prime Minister of this country to announce that we were at war with Germany. In broadcasting to the Australian Nation at that time I used these words: There never was any doubt as to where Great Britain stood. And neither is there any doubt that where Great Britain stands there stand the people of the entire British world.

Unknown voices from the chamber: agreed

Robert Menzies: What maybe before us we do not know nor how long the journey. But this we do know – that truth is our companion on this journey – that truth is with us in the battle – and that truth must win.

At this moment Mr Speaker, more than five and a half years later we are in this National Parliament, rejoicing in victory over Germany. I regret as all honourable members regret that the Prime Minister is not able to be present to share in our happiness. For he like his predecessors has devoted himself unsparingly to our great cause. The writing has been so clear upon the wall for so many months that the final surrender of Germany comes with relief but not with surprise. We thank God for a great deliverance from a powerful and savage enemy. Those who live by the sword have perished by it.

We shall press forward with renewed strength at the defeat of Japan which is certain but will yet involve large sacrifice of precious blood and material treasure.

In our National joy, in the brief period of celebration which will precede the girding of our loins for the final battle – I am thinking most of those who have died for our defence against Germany and of their families for whom National victory brings inexpressibly sad proud memories. Amid our cheers for victory Mr Speaker let us remember with great full hearts all our citizens who have accepted the burdens of war, but in particular the intrepid sailors – the tenacious soldiers and the gallant young airmen, who in treacherous seas – in blinding sandstorms or reeking jungles – or in the shattering skies – have been most willing to pay the greatest price for freedom. Let us remember our allies and their courageous peoples. With special feeling let us as Australians within the covenant of the British blood remember our own folk of Great Britain and their immortal leader. For it was they who in the darkest years, the darkest hours of this war stood undaunted to defend in and over and around their small islands the whole future of the human race. Though a host was intent against them their hearts did not fear and above all let us remember that our task has changed but has not ended. There are war-torn countries to be restored – great peoples to be fed – the cruel wounds of five years to be healed and half a world to be brought back to sanity and justice. In the months that remain for Japan we have heavy tasks to destroy the power and tyranny of the Prussians in the far-east – to release thousands of our people from bitter captivity and to build a better world upon the ashes of the greatest war in history – to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death – to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Speaker of the House: Right Honourable, the leader of the Country Party, The Right Honourable A W Fadden.

A W Fadden: Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Country Party I join with the previous speakers in expressions of regret that the Right Honourable John Curtin, our Prime Minister is not able to be with us this evening to take part and to express his happiness at the termination of the war in Europe.

We Sir who are assembled in this parliament this evening have every reason for jubilation at the dreadful downfall of Germany over the most ironical nation in the world. From the dramatic afternoon of the 3rd of September 1939 – when my colleague the leader of the opposition – who was then prime minister – announced to this house that Great Britain and likewise Australia were at war with Germany – we have watched the progress of the conflict which has brought untold suffering and misery to hundreds of thousands of people in all parts of the world. Therefore the news of the unconditional surrender is an occasion for the people of Australia to join with those of other democratic nations in rejoicing at the humiliating defeat of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The war in Europe is over.

The war to crush the remaining active partner of the axis, Japan – has yet to be won. Tasks of the greatest magnitude and involving the greatest danger are still ahead. Hordes of Japanese existing virtually at Australia's front door have to be exterminated. Fearsome bloody fighting will be necessary to accomplish the total defeat of Japan. And until Japan shares the defeat which has now been administered to Germany and Italy, the United Nations will not have completed the solemn mission pursued through the past five and a half years. For Australia particularly there can be no carefree rejoicing until the martyred 8th Division is rescued from the prison camps of Nippon – until we have back home again the sailors, soldiers and airmen who have fulfilled the ANZAC tradition on sea, land and in the air, thankful to God for the European times of justice – recognising however, that the time for relaxing our own war effort is not yet here.

Let us honour all who have shared in the common effort which in the European theatre has now brought common victory. Let us honour the Americans whom that great General Eisenhower led in a succession of victories – the Russians who stood desperately at Stalingrad and thereafter steamrolled on from success to success – the valiant Yugoslav partisans – the tiny Greek nation which refused to knuckle-down to Nazism and took the known consequences, and all those splendid patriots who through years of subjection kept the spirit of the overun nations of Europe burningly alive. But above all let us honour the grand courageous people of Britain, our Mother Country. But for them we would not know this day of rejoicing. The people of Britain endured without complaint or any thought of surrender ordeals just as great as those which had now reduced swashbuckling Germany to a shivering mass of disorganised chaos. Had they failed or flinched when bombs rained about them the dictators would have enslaved the universe. Under a good King and a great prime minister they defied the idea of failure. The open gates of Hell could not prevail against them. Their resistance provided the rock foundation on which the whole salvation of the democratic world could be built. As a nation whose servicemen made substantial contributions to Germany's defeat we recall the deeds of Australian fighting men which have helped to bring this day. We recall them with sorrowful pride for those who have fallen with proudly anxious admiration for those who in Pacific theatres of the war must still fight on. We recall the Middle Eastern and North African exploits of an AIF which today is winning battle with new honours. The campaign in which, surging into Bardia, AIF battalions chalk up for the democracies their first land-wins of this war. The grim months when holding Tabruk they gained a decisive North African victory over Rommel and Hitler. The superlative occasion of El Alamein when they acted as the essential hinge on which the immortal 8th Army began the triumphant swing that covered two continents and ended only the other day on the north coast of Germany itself. We recall the many thousand fearless exploits of the RAAF which was still in at the final [unclear]. We recall what glimpses we have been so far permitted of the stirring deeds of the Royal Australian Navy in little ships and larger, where ever danger required to be faced and honour could be won.

Now we have to face two great tasks. One is immediate: the Japanese Jackall must be relentlessly pursued, overtaken as soon as can be and whipped into the same sort of kennel as that which now contains his German and Italian confederates. The other task is ultimate: never again must our women be subjected to the sorrows, our sons to the perils of the last five years. We as the United Nations and we Australians as one of the United Nations must subordinate everything in the future to ensuring that peace is always maintained by the good will of free peoples backed by their strong combination against all oppressors.