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Wednesday, 6 May 1942


Mr CURTIN (FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Prime Minister) - by leave-Inthe course of a public announcement made by me on the 18th March, 1942, regarding the observance of Anzac Day this year, I said -

The fact that the enemy is on our threshold and that dangers to the public from warlike operations cannot be disregarded makes it desirable that any large congregations of people outside the normal should be discouraged. Accordingly it is the desire of the Government that marches of returned men through the streets and other outdoor gatherings at memorial services should not be organized. However, there is no reason why church services should not be held as usual nor that wreaths in commemoration of the fallen should not be laid on cenotaphs.

This statement was also conveyed to the Premiers of the States and to the federal president of the ReturnedSailors, Soldiers and Airmens Imperial League of Australia with a request for their cooperation in giving effect generally to the Government's proposals on this as well as other aspects of the observance of the day.

The Premier of New South Wales, in a telegram dated the 20th March, 1942, indicated that he would be glad to cooperate in giving effect to the decisions of the Commonwealth Government in this matter.

The federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmens Imperial League of Australia, on the 19th March, 1942, in acknowledging receipt of my telegram, said that a copy had been sent to each State branch of the league requesting action accordingly.

In a letter dated the 16th April, 1942, the Premier of New South Wales stated that the. New South Wales Branch had communicated with him in February, stating that the branch proposed to proceed with the plans for holding the usual Anzac Day march on the 25th April, 1942, and for conducting a carnival at the Sydney Sports Ground in the afternoon. The league had asked for an expression of the State Government's views on the matter, particularly in reference to the congregation of a large number of citizens at these functions.

The Premier further stated that, following the receipt of my telegram of the 18th March, the New South Wales branch of the league was advised in the terms of that telegram. The State president of the league, in reply, indicated that the directions that marches of returned men through the streets and other outdoor gatherings should not be organized would be observed.

The only request received by me that any modification should be made of the proposal to abandon the holding of marches and outdoor gatherings of the nature described came from the Wahroonga Community Service Association through the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), to whom the following reply was sent by me : -

Reference your letter and enclosures from Mr. T. A. Stocks, president Wahroonga Community Service Association, regarding Anzac

Day commemoration at Wahroonga. Although steps are not being taken to prohibit such functions, Commonwealth Government is desirous for reasons of public safety that outdoor gatherings at memorial services involving congregation of people beyond normal should not be organized. To make exception in case of Wahroonga would create difficulty in withholding approval similar functions elsewhere involving large assemblies. Regarding playing of games on Anzac Day, Government has announced that provision will be made under national security powers that hotels will be closed throughout the day, that all race meetings and organized sport be not held and that theatres, including picture theatres, be closed until 1 p.m.

It will be noted that there was no prohibition. A request was made to the States as well as to the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia. I am happy to say that, throughout, the request and desires of the Commonwealth Government were given effect. A prohibition was gazetted in respect of the hours during which hotels should trade.

With regard to May Day, I received a request from the Honorable C. Tannock, M.L.C., secretary of an organization, in which he asked what the position was. This was my reply -

Your telegram reference banning May Day march by State authorities received. Commonwealth Government has not issued any regulations to prevent marches or similar assemblies. As Anzac Day ceremonies are nation-wide, and as such could be regarded as Commonwealth matter, Commonwealth Government has made request that marches and other large assemblies should, for reasons of security, be abandoned this year, but concerted gatherings arranged in one State only come within the province of the State Government concerned, and I feel that Commonwealth Government should not interfere in present circumstances.

I add to that statement by saying that I made the specific request that there should not be marches and congregations. I issued no prohibition, because there are certain marches which do not attract large attendances or in which there is not a large number of participants. The first organization to observe the request in connexion with May Day was. the Victorian Labour Day Committee, which abandoned all proceedings in connexion with a procession it had arranged to hold on a date in March. In every other State, similar action was taken by the Eight Hour Day Anniversary Committee; therefore, there was no obliga tion on the Commonwealth Government to gazette a regulation prohibiting processions. The Government indicated its wishes. Those wishes have been observed everywhere, except that there was a procession in Sydney on May Day. The Government of New South Wales had the necessary authority to deal with that as it thought fit. As a matter of fact, my telegram to Mr. Tannock commenced " Your telegram reference banning May Day march by State authorities received '". I replied to Mr. Tannock that I was not interfering with any ban imposed by the State authorities.


Mr Spender - The right honorable gentleman went further than that.


Mr CURTIN - I have stated the position. Nowhere else has this situation arisen. Mr. Tannock informed me that in New South Wales a ban had been imposed on a procession, and I refused to interfere with the State Government in the imposition of that ban.


Mr Spender - If the congregation of a large number of persons is regarded as being inimical to security, why did not the Commonwealth Government express its view?


Mr CURTIN - We did express our view.


Mr Francis - Only to the soldiers.


Mr CURTIN - We expressed it to every body. Any one would imagine that this matter was first raised in connexion with Anzac Day. As a matter of fact, it was first raised in connexion with the proposed Labour Day procession in Melbourne in March, six or seven weeks ago ; and in that instance there was compliance with the request that the Government had made. We have not gazetted a prohibition of processions in all parts of Australia for reasons which I think will be obvious. Certain marches might be contemplated, and assemblies of people in reasonable numbers in certain places would not constitute a danger to security. My own view is that the Government of New South Wales should have stuck to its ban.







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