Diary of a Labour Man


1940 Leader of the Opposition

Monday 8 January Cottesloe, Western Australia

Is given a surprise birthday party.

‘The goodwill and co-operation between the political and industrial wings, which is one of the greatest prides of the WA Labor Movement, was attested in pleasant form … when a surprise party was called at the Cottesloe home of the Leader of the Federal Labor Party, Mr John Curtin, on the anniversary of his birthday.

Politics were banned in favour of games, and when midnight came, Mrs Curtin, assisted by Miss Curtin, served a dainty supper. Mr Curtin who was taken completely by surprise, thanked his friends for the pleasing gesture, and Mr Needham responding, extended the good wishes of those present and of the WA Labor Movement generally.' 1
Wednesday 10 January Fremantle

Attends meeting of the Fremantle District Council of the ALP for the result of the election of officers.

Attacks Prime Minister Menzies’ Corio election speech saying ‘Mr Menzies suffers from egotism’. 2
Monday 22 January Perth
Attends meeting of the State Executive and announces that he is going to take an active part in Labor’s campaign for the seat of Corio in the forthcoming by-election and therefore would be absent from the State for some time. 3
c end of January  
Travels to Eastern States
Monday 5 February Melbourne
Arrives in Melbourne to take part in the Corio by-election. 4
Monday 12 February Geelong City Hall, Victoria

Assists the Labor candidate, Mr J J Dedman at the opening meeting of his campaign in the by-election for the seat of Corio. The meeting was described by the Mayor of Geelong as the largest ever seen in the building.


‘The importance of Corio cannot be over-emphasised, as a UAP win will  be regarded by the Menzies Government as a mandate for any law it cares to decree.' 5
Wednesday 14 February Melbourne
'Flatly' denies charge by Mr Menzies that he would recall the 2nd AIF when in office and insists that his ministry would retain the first division abroad.' 6
Thursday 22 February Sydney
Inspects car project files. 7
Thursday 29 February Geelong

Speaks at Geelong West Town Hall while Prime Minister Menzies speaks at Geelong Town Hall. Both sides claim they will win victory.

Curtin makes a ‘rousing final speech’ and was ‘warmly cheered’. 8
Friday 1 March ?
Together with the Prime Minister issues a final message to the electors of Corio. 9
c Saturday 2 March  
Leaves Eastern States to return to Western Australia.
Wednesday 6 March Perth

Returns to Western Australia after supporting Mr J J Dedman in his successful bid to win the seat of Corio.

‘… he was greeted and congratulated by prominent industrial and political Laborites.

Mr Curtin was disinclined to talk at length about the Corio victory, claiming that it is for the defeated section to offer any “explanations” of Corio’s complete vindication of Labor as the only truly national Australian party.

The result proved, Mr Curtin said, that the government could  not escape the judgment of the people on the charge that it operated too much in the interests of Big Business and provided inefficient safeguard of the people’s welfare. At Corio Mr Menzies had to face up to the fact that he had reduced rates of pay of the militia and also to the bungling and confusion which had marked his administration.


“One of the heartening features of the campaign,” Mr Curtin added, “was the magnificent receptions accorded to our speakers, and the evident revival of the spirit of public assembly. The meetings were large and definitely supported Labor, although practically every newspaper circulating in the electorate was against us. “BUT THE SCARECROWS REFUSED TO WORK,” he concluded.’ 10
c Wednesday 13 March Fremantle
Attends meeting of the Fremantle ALP District Council and receives ‘hearty congratulations on the wonderful Labor victory in the Corio by-election’. 11
Friday 22 March - Monday 25 March Cottesloe, Western Australia
Spends time in Cottesloe over Easter 12
Tuesday 26 March Perth
Makes statement on Labor's Defence Policy. 13
Monday 1 April Fremantle Trades Hall

Speaks at a social gathering arranged by the Fremantle Branch of the Labor Women’s Organisations.

‘The function took the form of a social-political meeting. Several bright contributions were given by Mesdames Truran and Byrne. Miss Lombston acted as accompanist.’

‘A good attendance was recorded at the function, and those fortunate in being present heard an inspiring address.’

Queens Hall, Bicton, Western Australia

Attends first social held by the East Fremantle Branch of the ALP.

‘The function was a great success, attracting a large gathering of Labor supporters, and proving a financial benefit to the recently formed branch.

The success of the evening was in no small measure due to the services of the ship’s band of the mv Koolama, each member of which voluntarily gave his talents freely. Supper was enjoyed by those present.

The function was attended by all the Parliamentary representatives of the district.’ 14
Tuesday 2 April Perth
Leaves Perth for Melbourne. 15
Saturday 6 April Melbourne

Speaks at Trades Hall on the occasion of the Labor Day social.

‘The need for unity in the Australian Labor movement was stressed … Mr Curtin also uttered a rebuke to section leaders whose recent activities have been tending to cause disruption in the Labor ranks.

Mr Curtin, who was greeted with prolonged cheering, said nothing would come to the men and women of the working class as a gift from the gods. Nothing had ever come to them. Everything they had gained had to be fought for. Australia belonged to the mass of the people; it was not the property of a special class. Australia was cradled by men and women who had come here with the flag of freedom, and laid down a distinctive note for the democracy of this country. The Labor movement of Australia had been that distinctive movement.’

Attends Labor Party dinner. 16
Monday 8 April Probably Melbourne
Broadcasts to South Africa, a ‘reasoned and lucid statement of Australian Labor’s war attitude and war aims … emphasising ‘the sanity and clarity of reasoning on which Labor bases its decisions’. 17
Wednesday 10 April Sydney
Arrives in Sydney. 18
Thursday 11 April Commonwealth Bank Buildings, Sydney
Attends Meeting of Federal Executive of the ALP. 19
Friday 12 April Commonwealth Bank Buildings, Sydney

 John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.  Records of Lloyd Ross.  ALP Federal Executive meeting, Sydney, 11th & 12th April 1940.  JCPML00617/66/29
JCPML.  Records of Lloyd Ross.  ALP Federal Executive meeting, Sydney, 11th & 12th April 1940.  JCPML00617/66/29
Courtesy National Library of Australia MS 3939, Series 11, Folder 67

Attends meeting of Federal Executive of the ALP 20
Saturday 13th April Melbourne

Gives ‘one of the most striking speeches ever delivered in the cause of Australia’ at the Labor Day Social.

‘Mr Curtin, who was broadcast, made a stirring appeal on behalf of the Labor Movement and said he was proclaiming the “Australianism of Australia”.

Summarised, Mr Curtin declared that Australians had nothing to lavish upon foreign countries, had a heritage from the pioneers who carried the flag of freedom to this land, and should not expound the virtue of “saving” any nation in any sense of the word until the needs, safety and protection of the Australian people had been fully provided for. When that had been done, Australia could contribute to the welfare of others.’ 21
Tuesday 16 April Canberra

Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.

‘…reported to members the first business of the Parliament would be the Address-in-reply and that the Executive recommended that no amendment be moved thereto.' 22
Wednesday 17 April House of Rpresentatives

Opening of Parliament.

Confers with Frank Forde. 23

Thursday 18 April

House of Representatives

Responds to the Governor General’s speech, commenting on the international situation. Reiterates Labour Party policy that Australia’s first priority should be its own security and defence. Discusses industrial issues and the situation of Communist Party members in Australia.

Writes Labor Day message:

‘…”Stand to Labor”. That is my message on this Labor Day.' 24
Friday 19 April House of Representatives

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.  Records of Arthur Calwell.  "Australia and the Indies" Sun, 19 April 1940.  JCPML00694/1/97
JCPML.  Records of Arthur Calwell.  "Australia and the Indies" Sun, 19 April 1940.  JCPML00694/1/97
Courtesy National Library of Australia, MS 4738, Series 21, Box 74, selected folios only

Comments on a statement made by the Minister for External Affairs, and asks the Government to outline its attitude to ‘…the status quo in certain places, and what it is doing to encourage respect for the status quo by all the countries that are concerned.’ 25
Tuesday 23 April Canberra

10.30 am? – 11.50 am
Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. 26

c. Friday 26 April Canberra
Attends mine workers meeting and advises men to return to work and approach the court. 27
c.Monday 29 April Canberra
Attends coal strike talks with Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mining Unions and the Prime Minister. 28
c. Tuesday 30 April Canberra
Attends another conference with Prime Minister Menzies on the coal strike. 29
Thursday 2 May Canberra

10.30 am? – 12.55 pm
Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. 30

Wednesday 8 May House of Representatives
Is ruled out of order by the Speaker when commenting on a proposal to reintroduce the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1939 before it was fully debated in the Senate. 31
Thursday 9 May Canberra

10.30 am? – 1.20 pm
Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, and makes a:

‘…statement to the Party concerning the possibility of an early election and the need for clarification of certain aspects of policy. He felt the Party should request the convening of a Federal Conference and recommended the following:

That in view of the world situation and the state of the war in relation to the defence of Australia and the general questions associated therewith, including the necessity of an early outline of the general principles of post-war reconstruction, the State Executives of the ALP be requested to convene, at the earliest possible date, a Special Commonwealth Conference.’
House of Representatives
Discusses the Financial Statement 1940-41, claiming that Government policy of reducing direct taxation and increasing indirect taxation has resulted in the Government requiring a large amount of money in a short time for the defence of Australia. Comments on difficulties with the Australian balance of trade. 32
Wednesday 15 May House of Representatives
Refuses to take part in a national government, insisting that he can best contribute to the nation as the Leader of an effective Opposition Party. 33
Thursday 16 May Canberra

Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.

House of Representatives

Expresses pleasure that the coal dispute has been resolved and agrees with a proposal by the Prime Minister for a conference on industrial matters.

Supports a proposal to withdraw Government legislation on changes to the electoral system until after an all-State conference to discuss the possibility of uniform procedures. 34
Friday 17 May House of Representatives
Agrees with a proposal by Prime Minister Menzies that members sit for four days the next week and five the following one and is attacked by members of his own party [Blackburn, Ward and Pollard] who claim it is a preliminary step towards the early closing of Parliament. 35
Tuesday 21 May House of Representatives

Comments on proposed changes to the Electoral Act, maintaining that a change to random (by ballot) listing rather than an alphabetical listing on a ballot paper is of no value or advantage.

Speaks in support of legislation to remove certain exemptions from the Land Tax Assessment Bill for mutual life assurance societies and friendly societies. 36
Wednesday 22 May Canberra

10.30 pm? – 1.40 pm
Attends meeting of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. Was absent ‘at the early stage of the meeting, the Deputy Leader Mr Forde presided.’

‘…Mr Curtin then made a statement to the Party regarding the difficulties of leadership and the need for greater cohesion. He instanced factors decidedly embarrassing and expressed the belief that such incidents as had occurred in the House on Friday last impaired the position of his leadership. [see entry for Friday 17 May].

A lengthy discussion ensued…’ It was finally moved and carried, ‘That no motion shall be moved or division called for by any member without the consent of the Party. In the event of any question arising unexpectedly the decision of the Leader shall be regarded as the decision of the Party.’ 37
Tuesday 28 May Canberra

10.30 am? -  1 pm
Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, and outlines a speech he intends to deliver in response to the Prime Minister’s statement on the war:

‘This speech Mr Curtin declared would oppose further divisions for overseas, non participation in a national government, a proposal that 100,000 men be immediately secured by voluntary enlistment for training to assist in providing more adequate defence of Australia. … He would approve the Empire Air Scheme.’

House of Representatives

Restates Labour Party objections to:

  • Conscription
  • expeditionary forces being sent overseas
  • the concept of a national government.

Comments on:

  • the Air Force
  • naval dockyards
  • munitions and military training. 38


Wednesday 29 May House of Representatives

Speaks on the Motor Vehicles Agreement Bill 1940, and proposes an amendment to counter the possibility of a monopoly in the manufacture of motor vehicle engines in Australia. 39

Top of page


Saturday 1 June ?
Broadcasts over the national network on the ‘vital need for unity …a united Australia is imperative and the collaboration of Labor in that unity is also imperative. … The stark fact faces us today that our very existence is in the balance….’ 40
c. Sunday 2 June  
Travels to Western Australia
Tuesday 4 June Kalgoorlie
Comments on the war saying ‘the position is grave, but not hopeless’. 41
Friday 7 June Capitol Theatre, Perth

Speaks at a Win-the-War Rally and rouses

‘the big audience to high enthusiasm by declaring that now Australia is at war nothing less than a total effort to organise the industrial, manpower and financial resources of the nation would suffice if the people of Australia were to face their great national task. The keynote of Mr Curtin’s stirring address can be summed up thus: “We are at war; let us be in it thoroughly.”’. 42
Saturday 9 June Perth
Speaks at Patriotic Rally. ‘there can be no security for Australia, except by the nation being out on a war footing immediately’. 43
Wednesday 12 June Fremantle
Addresses meeting of the Fremantle ALP Council and reviews the political position in the federal arena. 44
c. Thursday 13 June  

Travels to the Eastern States.

Tuesday 18 June Melbourne
Speaks at Victorian Australian Labor Party Conference, and is one of the delegates from Western Australia. Says he is not in favour of a National Government but urges that the Federal party be given power to co-operate in War measures. 45
c. Thursday 20 June - Friday 21 June Melbourne
Address Australian Labor Party delegates at the Federal Conference. Says Labour must co-operate in the war effort. 46
Thursday 20 June Canberra
Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.
House of Representatives
Supports the National Security Bill 1940 and points out that the Bill has the support of the Labour and Trade Union movements who believe that the Government will respect the rights of the workers in implementing its defence programme. Repeats his refusal of an offer of a national government and reiterates his belief that he would be of more value to the people of Australia in opposition. 47
Sunday 23 June Melbourne
Makes speech, which was broadcast to ALP Conference. 48
Monday 24 June Melbourne
Responds to ‘numerous questions fired at him from all parts of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council at the ALP Conference,’ during the committee session. Those present could not fail ‘to be impressed by his courage, his grasp of subjects, his eloquence, and above all his Australianism’. 49
c. Tuesday 25 June Canberra
Confers with Prime Minister Menzies regarding Australian Labor Party proposal for National War Council. 50
c. Saturday 29 June Canberra

Broadcasts an appeal for unity in Australia as its existence is in the balance. 51


c. Wednesday 3 July Melbourne
Attends Federal Conference of Unions regarding the formation of a Trade Union Defence Panel. 52
Travels to Western Australia.
c. Tuesday 23 July Perth

Attends meeting of the Fremantle ALP District Council and was ‘warmly welcomed by assembled delegates’.

Mr Curtin gave a ‘studied and careful review’ of the recent federal conference in Melbourne …. ‘Mr Curtin, questioned as to his attitude towards rationing of petrol, stated that it was necessary to conserve our storage of petrol and thus ensure the proper protection of Australia. He strongly urged a modified form of rationing.

At the conclusion of his address Mr Curtin was cordially thanked for his resume, which received hearty acclamation. 53
Thursday 25 July Perth - Sydney
Leaves by train for Sydney with P J Trainer, to attend a special meeting of the federal executive of the ALP in Sydney. 54
Wednesday 31 July Sydney

Attends special meeting of the federal executive of the ALP.

‘The meeting was convened to consider charges of disloyalty to decisions of the recent Federal Conference made against the secretary and the vice-president of the State Executive of New South Wales, Messrs W Evans and J R Hughes.’ 55
Saturday 3 August Sydney

Appeals to trade union officials to support the federal party.

‘This is not a bosses’ country. It is a workers’ country and the Labor Party has given its utmost support for the defence of that country and for the prosecution of the war. This is the extent of our collaboration with the Federal Government. I will not abate it. However much we may be opposed to the Government, we are not opposed to the country which the Government governs.’ 56
Tuesday 6 August Canberra

Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.

House of Representatives
Comments on the difficulties of discussing the international situation in public in a time of war and proposes a secret session of parliament to allow open discussion. 57
c. Wednesday 7 August Canberra - Sydney
Leaves for Sydney to address union leaders regarding the Australian Labor Party split and the suspension of the State Australian Labor Party executive. 58
c. Thursday 8 August Canberra

Addresses union leaders. Defends the Federal Australian Labor Party regarding the minority rights of Labour and is supported by union executives. 59

Wednesday 14 August Canberra

Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.

Mr Curtin expressed to members the deep shock that had been occasioned in the tragic happenings of the last 24 hours in which the most calamitous of all air disasters in this country had occurred [an air crash near Canberra on 13 August]. In this most distressful event ten persons had lost their lives including three Cabinet Ministers, The Hon G A Street, J V Fairbairn and Sir Henry Gullett. The Leader Mr Curtin expressed great grief that he felt in these moments and paid a warm tribute to the public service rendered by each of these men. To the relatives of all the persons who had perished in this dreadful disaster profound sympathy would be extended.

Mr Curtin moved, seconded Mr Forde and supported by Senator Collings: This meeting of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party places on record its great appreciation of the public services rendered by the late Hon G A Street, J V Fairbairn, and the Hon Sir Henry Gullett, expresses a profound shock at the tragic happening which precipitated their death. The party extends to sorrowing relatives expressions of deepest sympathy.

This meeting expresses its deep sorrow at the death of General Sir H V Brudnell White, Lt Col E Thornwaite and Mr E E Elford, and members of the crew. Richard Hitchcock, Richard Wiesener, John F Palmer, Charles J Crosdale. It offers its sincere sympathy with those who have been bereaved.

The resolutions were carried by members standing in silence.’ 60
Tuesday 20 August House of Representatives
Raises concerns about rates of pay and industrial relations matters under the terms of the National Security Act. 61
Wednesday 21 August Canberra

Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.

‘Mr Curtin informed the Party that the Government intended passing legislation for the repatriation of mariners engaged on war services … explained to the meeting certain details regarding election publicity and the campaign … read to the meeting a draft of the policy speech … [and] thanked members for their cooperation to him and wished them a safe return from the elections.

Mr Forde expressed to Mr Curtin on behalf of the Party warm appreciation and admiration for his work as Leader of the Party. This was heartily carried with cheers.’ 62
c. Thursday 22 August  
Travels to Western Australia.
Monday 26 August Arrives in Perth
‘Perth Gives Labor Leader a Grand Welcome. … The people of the city extended a typical Western Australian welcome to Mr J Curtin … [who was] cheered enthusiastically as he stepped off the train.' 63
Wednesday 28 August Perth

Launches election campaign through a national broadcast:


Speaks on defence, stressing the importance of Australia ‘ensuring its own defence before it “rushed to do battle across the world”, arguing that the “primary responsibility of any Australian Government” was to ensure the “security and integrity of its own soil and people,” before contributing to the “common cause.”’ 64
Thursday 29 August Fremantle Town Hall
Addresses electors. 65
Friday 30 August Perth Trades Hall
Delivers a ‘fighting speech, in which he dealt trenchantly with scurrilous Communist attacks on himself stealthily circulated at night. He also made a vigorous reply to Press critics of Labor’. 66
Saturday 31 August Perth

Denies whispering campaign that he is not eager for a Labor victory. ‘”Labor is out to win make no mistake about that,” Mr Curtin said.’

Leaves for Eastern States and an election tour that will cover something like 8 000 through five states in 21 days. 67
Monday 2 September Adelaide

Speaks at the Adelaide Town Hall. 68

Tuesday 3 September South Australia

Election campaign.
Speech at Clare concerning money for social reforms. 69

Wednesday 4 September Adelaide

Replies to Menzies policy speech.
Leaves Adelaide. 70

Thursday 5 September Melbourne

Speaks at Melbourne Town Hall. 71

Friday 6 September Ballarat
Speaks ‘in support of the candidature of Mr Pollard for the Ballarat seat’ 72
Saturday 7 September Melbourne
Leaves Melbourne. 73
Sunday 8 September Launceston
Arrives Launceston. 74
Monday 9 September Hobart
Demands the ‘”immediate withdrawal” of an “outrageous UAP election poster” which depicted the British and Australian Prime Ministers together. Mr Curtin said that it was utterly reprehensible that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr Winston Churchill, should be drawn into the vortex of Australian politics. 75
Tuesday 10 September Launceston
Speaks in election campaign 76
Wednesday 11 September Burnie
Speaks in election campaign. Leaves Burnie 77
Thursday 12 September Melbourne

Arrives in Melbourne and leaves the same day for Sydney.

Claims that Mr Menzies is ‘losing his memory,’ in replying to an electioneering speech by the Prime Minister in Sydney. 78
Friday 13 September Sydney Town Hall

Speaks at meeting and announces he has cabled the British Labor leader Major Attlee, that:

‘”Australian Labor stands solidly and unitedly for a more vigorous effort in conducting, unflinchingly and irrevocably, this life-and-death struggle, which is yours and ours.

“We will stand or fall together.”

Mr Curtin was greeted with cheers and singing of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”

The crowd was almost as large as the audience that heard the Prime Minister (Mr Menzies) in the Town Hall on Tuesday. …

[This] meeting was noisier, but there were only a few hostile interjections.

After Mr Curtin’s speech, the Lord Mayor (Alderman Crick) called for three cheers. 79
Sunday 15 September Sydney
Leaves Sydney. 80
Monday 16 September Brisbane
Arrives in Brisbane, gives speech at Brisbane City Hall. 81
Tuesday 17 September Brisbane
Leaves Brisbane for Sydney 82
Wednesday 18 September Sydney
Makes election speeches 83
Thursday 19 September Sydney
Makes election speeches 84
Friday 20 September Sydney
Leaves Sydney for Melbourne 85
Saturday 21 September Melbourne

Arrives in Melbourne.

Federal election which:

‘… proved to be a triumph for Labor. It won seven extra seats to take it to 36 seats including four for Lang Labor, only one less than the Government.’ 86
c. Tuesday 24 September  
Travels to Western Australia.
Friday 27 September Perth

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.  Records of the Curtin Family.  Elsie, John and Elsie Curtin, September 1940 [Leader of the Opposition, JC & Mrs C & daughter Elsie].  JCPML00004/23
JCPML.  Records of the Curtin Family.  Elsie, John and Elsie Curtin, September 1940 [Leader of the Opposition, JC & Mrs C & daughter Elsie].  JCPML00004/23

Arrives back in Perth from the Eastern States for the declaration of the Fremantle poll.

Mr Curtin arrived home to await the verdict. He was met at the Perth station by hundreds of enthusiastic supporters who made the rafters of the old building ring with their cheers. Cabinet Ministers and all the candidates, including Miss Tangney were in attendance.

When Mr Curtin stepped from the train – to be claimed first by Mrs and Miss Curtin – he reflected the same optimism which had possessed his supporters and declared that he was ready for whatever came. The most precious record which he had was thirty-three years of honourable service to the Labor Movement and nothing was going to smirch it as far as he was concerned. For half an hour Perth railway station was the scene of a Labor rally which will not soon be forgotten. By this time many had decided that Curtin must win and that was the keynote of his send-off from the station. 87
c. Saturday 28 September Perth

Attends a football match where:

‘the scoreboard finally announced to the cheers of the crowd that Curtin had been returned, eventually emerging with a majority of just over 600 votes. 88
Monday 30 September Trades Hall, Perth

Attends social gathering to celebrate the victory of Labor in the Fremantle election.

‘If I had lost the Fremantle seat I would not have been lost to the Labor Movement, whether or not another seat was found for me.' 89
c. Tuesday 1 October Perth

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.  Records of the Curtin Family.  Letter from Walter Murdoch to John Curtin, 1 October 1940.  JCPML00401/26
JCPML  Records of the Curtin Family.  Letter from Walter Murdoch to John Curtin, 1 October 1940.  JCPML00401/26

Speaks at the West Australian Chamber of Manufacturers on ‘Out to win the War’ 90







Top of page


Thursday 3 October Fremantle
Speaks at the declaration of the poll saying that ‘the electors had given a mandate neither for nor against the government. 91
c. Thursday 3 October Perth Railway Station
Returns to Eastern States. 92
Friday 4 October

Zanthus [a stopping point for the Trans-Australian train, located on the Nullarbor Plain between Kalgoorlie and Rawlinna.]

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.  Records of the Curtin Family.  Elsie Curtin reading correspondence at the Lodge. [n.d.].  JCPML00376/242
JCPML.  Records of the Curtin Family.  Elsie Curtin reading correspondence at the Lodge. [n.d.].  JCPML00376/242

Sends telegram wishing Mrs Curtin a happy 50th birthday:

‘Many happy returns of today.
Your magnificently played half century has given example and comfort and to me is a constant urge to hold my greatest achievement your love and companionship in life stop

Blessings for all the years ahead and gratitude for those we have had

Your loving husband John’

‘The Council Room at Trades Hall in Perth were “gay as a spring morning with abundant flowers in many colours” when the Perth Labor Women’s organisation held a function to celebrate Mrs Curtin’s 50th birthday. “A profusion of wild flowers, roses and anemonies made bright decorations, and dancing and a musical programme added to the pleasure of the proceedings.” Mrs Curtin was accompanied by Miss Elsie Curtin and her son, Mr J Curtin.’ 93
Monday 7 October Melbourne
Meets and consults with Prime Minister Menzies concerning Menzies’ enquiry ‘as to whether the Labor Party would be prepared to consider the principle of a National Government’ 94
Monday 14 October Canberra

Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party and is elected leader unopposed.

‘Reports to the meeting on consultations with the Prime Minister in Melbourne concerning whether the Labor Party would be prepared to consider the principle of a National Government. “Mr Curtin said he had not committed the Party in any way and that the caucus was quite free to make whatever decision it desired. He himself preferred the idea of a War Council or War Cabinet on the same lines as that instituted by the Labor Government in New Zealand.’ 95
Wednesday 16 October Canberra
Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, which appoints the Leader (Curtin), the Deputy Leader (Forde) and Dr Evatt as managers to attend the all-parties conference. 96
Thursday 17 October Canberra
Meets F M  Forde and Dr H V  Evatt to draw up Labour policy points for National Government meeting on 21 October. 97
Monday 21 October Canberra
Attends National Government meeting. 98
Tuesday 22 October Canberra
Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party and reports on the conference of Party managers. 99
Wednesday 23 October Canberra

Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.

‘Mr Curtin reported to the meeting that the Government Parties had accepted the Labor Party proposal for an Advisory War Council. It was proposed that the Council should be of eight members, four nominated by Government Parties and four by the Opposition parties. … An exhaustive ballot then was proceeded with to elect the three representatives. The following members were elected: Messrs J Curtin, F M Forde and N Makin.100
Tuesday 29 October Melbourne or Canberra

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.  Records of the Curtin Family.  Inaugural meeting of the Advisory War Council, 28 October 1940.  JCPML00376/131
JCPML.  Records of the Curtin Family.  Inaugural meeting of the Advisory War Council, 28 October 1940.  JCPML00376/131

Attends first meeting of Advisory War Council, with Forde and Makin, as the elected Labor representatives, and ‘requested information on “the present disposition of the ships of the RAN [Royal Australian Navy] and the possibility of disposing them for the defence of waters north of Australia” as well as “information regarding naval mines and the possibility of arranging for a battleship to be located near Singapore".' 101


Wednesday 30 October ?

 John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.  Records of West Australian News Ltd.  John Curtin with Frank Anstey in the Depression years, n.d.  JCPML00409/4
 JCPML.  Records of West Australian News Ltd.  John Curtin with Frank Anstey in the Depression years, n.d.  JCPML00409/4

Hears of death of ‘estranged mentor’ Frank Anstey.

[The ‘mercurial Anstey’ remained ‘central to Curtin’s life for more than three decades, providing a constant source of advice and encouragement. … Their close relationship ended in the mid thirties, possibly due to “blatant nest-feathering” by Anstey, who was no longer in receipt of a parliamentary salary’.

[Francis George Anstey was born on 18 August 1865 in London, and at 11 years of age stowed away on a full-rigged passenger vessel bound for Australia. He jumped ship in Sydney and worked the Pacific islands trade as a cabin boy.

Joining the Seamen's Union in 1883, Anstey became an active supporter of socialism, and developed into a fiery speaker and pamphleteer. In 1902 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Victoria as Labor representative for East Bourke, and remained there until 1910 when he entered the House of Representatives as a member for Bourke, a seat he held until his retirement in 1934.

In 1922 he became Deputy Leader of the Federal Labor Party, and from October 1929 to March 1931 he was Minister for Health and Repatriation.

When Anstey died on 30 October 1940, John Curtin paid tribute to him as a 'remarkable figure', a worker to whom the Labor movement owed much, and the man who had influenced him (Curtin) to the greatest extent.] 102
End of October - Beginning of November  
Travels to Western Australia.
Thursday 7 November Kalgoorlie
In Western Australia to attend the Kalgoorlie by-election, missing the Advisory War Council meeting in Melbourne. 103
Tuesday 12 November Coolgardie

Speaks in support of local candidate, Victor Johnson. 104

c. Thursday 14 November Kalgoorlie
Broadcasts speech at Kalgoorlie by-election – Labour wants National Council – Artisans leaving Western Australia. 105
c. Friday 15 November Boulder

Speaks in support of local candidate, Victor Johnson.

Labor retained the seat with an absolute majority. 106
c. Saturday 16 November  
Travels to Eastern States
Tuesday 19 November Canberra
Attends meeting of Advisory War Council
Meets with Mr Beasley and indicates that ‘the correct procedure would be for members of his group to make application to the NSW Executive to be readmitted to the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party’. 107
Thursday 21 November Canberra

10.30 am? – 12.45 pm
Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party

House of Representatives
In response to reports of close enemy activity calls for better use of the Navy, until the Air Force was sufficiently well equipped to assist in the defence of the coastline. 108
Wednesday 22 November House of Representatives

Refers to a report of a distress signal from a vessel being attacked by a raider some distance from Fremantle.

‘He said that the position lent added force to the request he had made for a doubling of the strength of the Fremantle naval establishment. … The Minister for the Navy (Mr Hughes) replied that if Mr Curtin would resubmit the request … he would consider the matter forthwith.’ 109
Tuesday 26 November Canberra
Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, which discusses the Budget. 110
Wednesday 27 November Canberra

Broadcasts an appeal for the new £28,000,000 war loan.

Makes statement on federal taxation and proposes amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Budget Estimates. ‘Mr Curtin added that the proposals tabled by the Treasurer were inequitable as they denied entirely the cardinal principles of taxation – the ability to pay’. 111
Thursday 28 November House of Representatives

Comments on the 1940-41 Budget, agreeing with the amount proposed by the Government for expenditure but disagreeing with the means of revenue-raising. Claims that the working class is carrying too great a burden and that not enough was being carried by the wealthy.

Proposes amendments in relation to low income earners, soldiers and their dependents, old age and invalid pensioners and wheat growers. 112
Wednesday 4 December Canberra

Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.

‘Mr Curtin outlined to the Party the result of over two hours’ discussion in the Advisory War Council where the matters of political moment in the Budget had been reviewed. Mr Menzies had again suggested the formation of a National Government. The Leader Mr Curtin stated that the Party desired the workability of the Parliament and that policy was paramount to other considerations. That was why the Labor Party had submitted the amendment. The Prime Minister had said that he would further review the matter with the Cabinet and would then further communicate with Mr Curtin and other members of the Advisory War Council. Mr Curtin suggested that in view of these circumstances no other business be taken at this meeting of the Party and that it stand adjourned until convened by him. The suggestion was agreed to.’

8 pm. Chairs reconvened meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, where ‘improved conditions’ in the Budget were further discussed. 113
Thursday 5 December Canberra
Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. 114
Monday 9 December Canberra

Makes statement on national government.


Trades Hall and City Hall, Ballarat.
Mrs Curtin, ‘a native of Ballarat’ visits the city which she has not seen for ‘well over twenty years’. 115
Tuesday 10 December Canberra
Chairs meeting of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. 116
Tuesday 10 December and Wednesday 11 December House of Representatives
Speaks in support of a Bill to provide a bounty to assist in the establishment of a wire netting factory in Western Australia. 117
Thursday 12 December House of Representatives
Asks for members of the War Cabinet to enter the House and, if necessary, conduct proceedings in secrecy to enable discussion of defence plans prior to the parliament going into recess. 118
Thursday 12 December and Friday 13 December House of Representatives
States that the Government has not lived up to its promise on pensions in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill 1940. Argues that the Bill should be re-drafted to ensure that the pension would not fall below an agreed level without the authority of parliament. 119
Saturday 14 December Perth

Mrs Curtin returns to Perth, after spending a month in the East.

‘Mrs Curtin expressed her gratitude for the cordiality with which she was received everywhere by Labor women. … ‘ and extended her ‘…cordial thanks to all who showed her such goodwill throughout her holiday.’ 120
c. Monday 16 December Melbourne
Becomes ill, is badly run down. 121
Tuesday 17 December Guildford Council Chambers, Western Australia
Mrs Curtin travels ‘all the way from Cottesloe’ to join ‘a large gathering of women’ to hear Dr Evatt speak in support of Mr J Dinan, Labor candidate for the seat of Swan. 122
Wednesday 18 December Melbourne
‘Under medical advice was compelled, through illness to forego participation in the Swan by-election in Western Australia and to take a complete rest…’ 123
Thursday 19 December Melbourne
‘Under medical advice was compelled, through illness to forego participation in the Swan by-election in Western Australia and to take a complete rest…’ 124
Sunday 22 December Melbourne

Leaves for Western Australia. 125

Wednesday 25 December Perth

Christmas morning.
Arrives in Perth after postponing his departure from Melbourne for a week under medical instructions..

‘Leader’s Christmas Message

This is the second wartime Christmas. Normally, it is a period which we reflect on the achievements of the year that has passed and contemplate the objectives towards which we shall strive in the new year.

At this period of our history, we have to undertake our retrospect and our contemplation in the shadow of war. That fact, however, does not completely overshadow what would be our normal task.

Australian Labor stands today just as strongly for the maintenance of social and economic standards as at any stage in its history. In fact, that is even more so the case because we declare that one of our war aims is the preservation of social security and that, if it be not preserved in time of war, then there is nothing to be gained.

It was for that reason that the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, earlier this month, used what power it was able to bring to bear on having the 1940-41 Budget re-adjusted so that taxes would be borne more equitably; so that pensioners would be able to meet the onset of wartime conditions; so that dependents of soldiers, sailors and airmen would be better equipped to meet the economic sacrifice entailed by the enlistment of their menfolk for active service.

And so it is that, at this period, the Australian Labor Party affirms its unswerving intention of maintaining in 1941 its struggle against the evil forces of Nazism and Fascism that assail us from without and against incursion upon our people’s living standards from within.

Labor’s part in this war is the paramount factor. Because, not only is if from the ranks of the workers that the great bulk of our fighting forces are recruited but it is the labour-power of our nation that produces the multitude of equipment needed for our forces in this hideously modern war.

We must not fail our soldiers, airmen and sailors. For, if they go down then so do we. It is our task to ensure that there is a maximum and an efficient production until the very weight of our physical resources becomes the final, decisive factor in the fight for liberty.

Canberra, December 1940

John Curtin’ 126
End of December Cottesloe
At home for the Christmas break. 127