Japan Enters Second World War - John Curtin (1941) by NFSA published on 2016-11-03T01:13:09Z In a national broadcast Prime Minister Curtin announces that Australia is now at war with Japan. NFSA title: 677049 An instrumental version of 'Advance Australia Fair’ begins the recording. It is followed by the voice of a male presenter who solemnly introduces the prime minister. Notice his standard English accent which contrasts with Curtin’s unmistakable Australian accent. Curtin appeals directly to the listener by addressing the ‘men and women of Australia’. It was thought that Curtin was the first to use this form of address which Gough Whitlam, another ALP prime minister, adopted in tribute to Curtin. Apparently Robert Menzies, the Liberal prime minister who preceded Curtin, also used this form of address in speeches. In the beginning of the speech Curtin details why Australia is at war and how the Allies had attempted to negotiate with Japan to avoid war. The language then becomes more emotive as he aligns the actions of Japan ‘like an assassin in the night’ with that of the approach of Hitler. He beseeches the Australian public to serve the nation which is in peril and facing its ‘darkest hour’. The inference, though not stated, is the threat of invasion. Darwin was bombed for the first time several months later on 19 February 1942. It is now thought that the Japanese were not intending to invade Australia as such, but to seize raw materials and to secure a perimeter. Curtin aims to reassure listeners by describing the steps being taken by the Australian government to prepare and plan for ‘whatever eventuality’. Curtin exhorts the listeners to support the efforts of the government: ‘The call is to you, for your courage, your physical and mental ability, your inflexible determination that we, as a nation of free people, shall survive’. The history of Australia as a British colony is inferred by such references to the 150 years in ‘this spacious land’ without any reference to the original inhabitants. Australia is a citadel for the ‘British-speaking’ and ‘a place where civilisation will persist’. The speech concludes with a quote from the English poet Swinburne. Though Curtin’s early education was disrupted by frequent moves, he maintained a lifelong interest in learning. During his involvement with the Socialist Party as a young man he attended classes in literature and public speaking, both of which increased his confidence and skills in writing and giving speeches. He also had experience in journalism, starting out as a copy boy at the Age newspaper and later editing several union newspapers.