Broadcast Speech by Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Extract 26 April 1939,

The cause of our troubles is a disturbed world. My Government will exercise whatever influence it possesses in the direction of peace. I am not yet among those who regard war as inevitable. Patience and understanding, and quiet firmness, may yet avert it, although I believe noisy partisanship never will. The peace of Great Britain is precious to us, because her peace is ours. If she is at war, we are at war, even though that war finds us not in European battlefields, but defending our own shores.

I cannot have a defence of Australia which depends on British sea power as its first element [1], I cannot envisage a vital foreign trade on sea routes kept free by British sea power, and at the same time refuse to Great Britain Australian co-operation at a time of common danger. The British countries of the world must stand or fall together.

No Australian troops will be compelled to go to a foreign battlefield. But let no one imagine that we can stand neutral or, what is even more important, be treated as neutral, in a war in which Great Britain is engaged. Hence the imperative need for defence-of making this land so armed and prepared that the potential enemy will hesitate to attack us.

In the Pacific we have primary responsibilities and primary risks. Close as our consultation with Great Britain is, and must be, in relation to European affairs, it is still true to say that we must, to a large extent, be guided by her knowledge and affected by her decisions. The problems of the Pacific are different. What Great Britain calls the Far East is to us the near north. Little given as I am to encouraging the exaggerated ideas of Dominion independence and separatism which exist in some minds, I have become convinced that, in the Pacific, Australia must regard herself as a principal providing herself with her own information and maintaining her own diplomatic contacts with foreign Powers. I do not mean by this that we are to act in the Pacific as if we were a completely separate Power; we must, of course, act as an integral part of the British Empire. We must have full consultation and co-operation with Great Britain, South Africa, New Zealand, and Canada. But all those consultations must be on the basis that the primary risk in the Pacific is borne by New Zealand and ourselves. With this in mind, I look forward to the day when we will have a concert of Pacific Powers, pacific in both senses of the word. This means increased diplomatic contact between ourselves and the United States, China, and Japan, to say nothing of the Netherlands East Indies and the other countries which fringe the Pacific.

It is true that we are not a numerous people, but we have vigour, intelligence, and resource, and I see no reason why we should not play not only an adult, but an effective, part in the affairs of the Pacific.

_1 As originally printed there was a full stop at this point, but the comma appears to convey more accurately the sense intended.