Australia Day [26 January 1942]

[Editor: An editorial from the Canberra Times during the Second World War.]

Australia Day

For more than a century and a half, January 26 has been the day on which Australia has been able to approach as the annual miles one in the march forward of a young and virile race. Compared to other peoples, we are lacking in age and deficient in numbers but we yield to none in virility. And this has ever been a feature of the Australian — whether the Australian was born overseas and became an Australian in spirit or whether the Australian was born within these shores to assume a part of our heritage and to take his share in the task of nation building. Thus, it has been that each succeeding Australia Day has been an occasion for measuring national progress, and each succeeding survey has demonstrated that a superior summit has been reached in our country’s greatness.

To-day, Australia Day is not given to rejoicing. Throughout Australia, there will be work instead of play as the nation’s war effort braces itself for greater calls in the name of Australia. To-day, for the first time in our history, the very future of Australia is at stake. In Malaya, Australian forces are engaged in a desperate fight to save Singapore. In New Guinea, we are defending Australian soil against the Japanese invasion. Over the South Western Pacific, the Royal Australian Air Force now is in daily combat with the enemy. In Australia itself, the war potential has attained new heights only to find that more and still more has to be achieved. The Australian people is ready for whatever may come and will fight as our fathers fought against the elements in settling the wide spaces of a continent. But, this Australia Day tells us through every portent that we may see that Australia is being forced to a new conception of her place in the world and a new appraisement of her relative position to other countries.

To-day, Australia is one of the Allied nations united in the Pacific conflict, and there is none that is contributing more in proportion to its resources of men and materials more than Australia. But, Australia has not received and is not receiving her due from that very quarter of the world to which traditionally and instinctively we have rendered aid in every trouble for 60 years past. Other nations with us in this fight have sent greetings on this Australia Day but from the United Kingdom there is silence in answer to our call. From our comparatively slender store of man power, we have given men for every phase of war operations. Young Australians who came forward to help Britain in a common fight now lie in war graves in Africa, Europe and Asia. The Australian Government sent them forth assured solemnly by the United Kingdom Government that the Pacific zone would be adequately guarded. Not only has the United Kingdom Government been found wanting in this respect, but it has consistently failed and is still failing to give to Australia that place in war decisions that we have earned long since.

Thus it is that Australia Day finds Australian nationalism surging to high spirited resolve to defend Australia tinged with an indelible disappointment at the failure of the United Kingdom. Every day that this dissatisfaction continues in Australia, there will be an increasing resolve to alter future relations within the British Commonwealth so that we shall never incur a similar risk again. The new world order after the war will for Australia inevitably contain a British Commonwealth very much different to the present. We have been led to believe that we were in a partnership only to find that in a crisis we are treated as small minority shareholders without a seat on the board of directors. We shall not tolerate this for the rest of the war and we shall never tolerate it in the peace. All those attributes which have made up Australian nationhood rebel against the old order of the British Commonwealth and make us resolve that a better British Commonwealth shall arise and that we shall no longer be content to sit at the footstool.

The Canberra Times (Canberra, ACT), Monday 26 January 1942, page 2

[Editor: Corrected “here is slence n” to “there is silence in”; “comparatvely” to “comparatively”; “simlar” to “similar”; “people is ready” to “people are ready”.]

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