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Thursday, 10 November 2011
Page: 8923

Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (19:51): Sixty years ago tomorrow the following statement was read out on radio across Australia. Although it was written for another time, it is still relevant today, possibly even more than it was then. I would like to read it again today:

There are times in the histories of peoples when those charged with high responsibilities should plainly speak their minds.

Australia is in danger.

We are in danger from abroad. We are in danger at home.

We are in danger from moral and intellectual apathy, from the mortal enemies of mankind which sap the will and darken the understanding and breed evil dissensions. Unless these are withstood, we shall lack moral strength and moral unity sufficient to save our country and our liberties.

Our present dangers are a challenge to us: but in meeting the challenges of history, peoples grow in greatness.

The dangers demand of all good Australians, community of thoughts and purpose. They demand a restoration of the moral order from which alone true social order can derive.

We remind all Australians that we are members one of another, dependent, even for our daily bread on the work of many. From the community we have our livelihood, culture, protection in a reign of law. To the community we owe a just return of loyalty and service.

We believe that each of us has a duty to defend the community against evil designs and aggression and to preserve for our children that which was given to us.

We believe that each of us has a duty to deal fairly with his fellows in the transactions of life;

We believe that each of us has a duty to himself and to his fellows of honest work;

We believe that the development of a true community amongst ourselves and with all peoples of good will is the one way to peace at home and abroad.

Therefore we call for a new effort from all Australians to advance moral standards. We ask for it from individuals in their personal and vocational relationships; in and through the lives of families; in and through all our voluntary associations; trade unions; employers and professional groups, the organisations of women, of servicemen, and all the societies which our people have created to express their cultural, social and economic interests.

We call for an adequate understanding of the nature of law and of its necessity as the principle of order in a free society.

We call on all Australians to take the active concern in public affairs proper to citizens of a free society.

We call on each Australian to examine his conscience and his motives in all his associations with his fellows. If each does his part, the whole community will be renewed.

We call on all our people to think now of the future into which our children go, that we may shape it well and wisely for them.

We call on all our people to remember those whose labours opened this land to the uses of mankind; those who bore and reared the children of a new nation; those who died in battle for us, bringing splendour to Australian arms; those who worked with mind and muscle for the heritage which we, please God, shall hold and enlarge for our children and their children.

And that this may be so, we ask that each shall renew in themself the full meanings of the call which has inspired our people in their highest tasks and in their days of danger.

11th November 1951

This statement was signed by the heads of the Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican and Catholic churches in Australia as well as by the senior Jewish chaplain to the Com­monwealth and the president of the Australian Council of the World Council of Churches. It was also signed by the chief justices of the supreme courts of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Aust­ralia—all six states of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Prime Minister of the time, Robert Menzies, described it as 'a challenge to Australians in every walk of life to face up to their moral responsibilities as citizens in a free democracy'. Both he and Dr Evatt, Leader of the Opposition, commended it to the Australian people.

I read this tonight not only because it is the 60th anniversary of its original reading but also because tomorrow is Remembrance Day, the 93rd anniversary of the day when the guns fell silent in what became known as the Great War.

In 1918 our nation was new. The ink had barely dried on the Constitution before we saw our best sent to the slaughter of the First World War. They returned to build a nation, and every year we remember the sacrifice they and others made to give us the freedom we treat so casually today.

Tomorrow we remember those who have given their lives so future generations of Australians can live in liberty. I cannot help but wonder if they feel their sacrifice has been adequately returned. Today our lives and our decisions are determined not by the needs of our families and communities but by the demands of the economy and of the environment.

Fear is a challenge we have met before. Australians have often confronted fear, whether personal or collective, in economic crises or potential invasion. Our families have faced tragedy and death, our communities have faced hardship and adversity, and our nation has faced depression and onslaught but through it all we have remained determined and confident. Our history is one of courage in the face of fear.

Mark Twain, a man who knew human nature, once said:

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.

We have known fear and we have fought fear, and our weapon against fear was courage and our confidence in our nation, in our history and in each other.

Today, however, our nation is challenged not only by fear but also by guilt. Our children are not encouraged to dream, to hope and to be innocent but to fear and to rebel and to despair. They are taught to fear for our future and to feel guilt for our past. Their nation’s history is shown to them as a reason for shame instead of an example of inspiration. How will this develop confident, determined and courageous leaders for the future of our nation and for the generations to come? Be not afraid. Courage is the resistance to fear; resist with confidence. Courage is the mastery of fear; master it with determination. Courage is the greatest of human qualities, because it is the quality that guarantees all others.