Statement by Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister

CANBERRA, 23 August 1939, 12 noon

Although the position in Europe is still obscure, and it is both unwise and unnecessary to rush to any exaggerated conclusions about the suggested pact between Germany and Russia, it is certain that the state of tension has never been greater. The simple fact is that Great Britain and France have pledged themselves to upholding the methods of peaceful negotiation of grievances. Their pledge can involve themselves and Europe in war only if Germany insists upon a military adjustment.

The British Government has behaved, and is behaving, with magnificent restraint: it has, in spite of many discouragements, kept the door of the conference room open. If it is forced into war it will not go alone.

Misapprehension appears to exist in foreign countries as to the effect of the modem constitutional developments in the British Empire. It is true that each of the great British Dominions has had full recognition accorded to its nationhood and to its equality in all things with other members of the British Commonwealth, including Great Britain. But this independence does not indicate separatism.

On the contrary, we are still members of one family, and Our family feeling is reinforced rather than weakened by our adult growth.

I speak unhesitatingly for Australia and I am confident that the same could be truly said for the other Dominions, that, in this time of testing and strain, Great Britain has, and will continue to have, the fullest cooperation from us in her magnificent efforts to avoid the insanity and injustice of war.

If her great efforts fail, we will stand with her. It would be a cardinal error for any other country to assume that there is any disunity among the British peoples on these matters.

Australia stands where it stood 25 years ago. [1]


1 This statement was made after a Cabinet meeting in the morning.

The Minute of the meeting records only that ‘Cables with regard to the European and international position were read by the Minister for External Affairs’ (AA: A2697, vol. 2, 23 August 1939, Minute 10).