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Tuesday, 22 March 1966

Mr HAROLD HOLT - I shall be glad to supply to the honorable gentleman the statement made by Mr. Curtin when he took over the Prime Ministership.

Mr Calwell - That was a burst of generosity.

Mr HAROLD HOLT - Well, this Government is never likely to suffer from that situation so far as the Leader of the Opposition is concerned. We do not ask for generosity from him. We ask for a fair and objective statement of the facts. The late John Curtin gave a sober, responsible and realistic view of the situation as he found it in reporting to the Australian nation when he took office, and he paid a tribute to the Government which his Government succeeded for the state of the nation's forces and, generally, the administration of the defence apparatus. Sir, I know that the Labour Government was able to go on in later years after we had done all the ground work - the preparation, the planning for the munition establishment of this country and the munition effort of Australia which laid the foundations for vast areas of our subsequent secondary industry development. This produced results in later years, as anybody who knows the ways in which manufacturing activities operate would readily appreciate.

We had to start from the ground upwards with the aid of men such as Essington Lewis, Larry Hartnett and the rest of them. Even Mr. Chifley himself was appointed at one stage to do a job in relation to manpower organisation. It was this apparatus which the Leader of the Labour Government, Mr. Curtin, was able to take over from the Government that his Government succeeded, and it was in respect of that that he made the statement to which I have referred. I am asked why he found it necessary to introduce conscription because of the state of our defences. The national service scheme - or conscription - in 1943 was introduced more than two years after the Curtin Government of the same political party as that to Which honorable gentlemen opposite belong, had taken office, and after Japan had come into the war. At least let us have the facts straight as to the past. As to the present, the Australian people will be able to decide for themselves where realism lies in this issue, and I am quite confident that if we can have the facts dealt with in a fair and objective way the Australian people will give their continuing support to this Government for its defence policy.

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