...democracy's task will not be performed by a race which merely says, "We thank Thee, Lord, that we are not as other men." It will not be performed by men who look complacently at the past and who avoid looking with clear eyes at a troubled future. Our destiny will not be achieved by wordy phrases and empty but resounding promises of a new heaven and a new earth. William Blake, in his famous poem, sung as a hymn in many churches, said:
I will not cease from mental fight, Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, Till we have built Jerusalem. In England's green and pleasant land.
This is a great verse. It sees that fighting by the sword and fighting by the mind must go side by side. We cannot leave war to the soldiers and the problems of peace to chance. We must think hard if we are not to find that a war has been won and a peace lost.
What, then, must democracy do if it is to be a real force in the new world? In my opinion, two things. It must recapture the vision of the good of man as the purpose of government. And it must restore the authority and prestige of Parliament as the supreme organic expression of self-government. Let me take them in their order.
What is the good of man? This is the oldest of philosophic questions. It admits of a variety of answers. To some advanced political thinkers (I think that is the right expression) it involves making the citizen a pensioner of the State from the cradle to the grave. This is, to adopt a phrase of Mr I L Garvin, the very ecstasy of national suicide. I do not want my children and their children to be dependants upon the State: I should much prefer the State to be dependent, to some degree, upon them. The fallacy of this ideal of universal pensioning is that it assumes that the State has unlimited resources which have only to be tapped for all of us to live in ease and comfort for ever. But the State has no resources except those that its citizens create or make available. You cannot have a strong State made up of weak men, or a generous State in which nobody has worked and saved so that there is something to give. The best and strongest community is not that in which everybody looks to his neighbour hoping for something from him, but that in which every one looks to his neighbour, willing and able to do something for him. In brief, we achieve the good of man when we help and encourage him to be a man - strong, self-reliant, intelligent, independent, sympathetic and generous.
Teach us the strength that cannot seek, By deed or thought, to hurt the weak; That, under Thee, we may possess, Man's strength to succour man's distress.
This means that in the new world we must seek to develop all the intelligence and strength and character in every child. Each one of them must have his chance. We must spend much more on education; we must show that discipline is not the enemy of freedom but its best friend; we must get to know that at least as much genius is to be found and nurtured in Collingwood and Bankstown as in Toorak or Bellevue Hill; that in any event it is better to be a poor man furnished with ability and conscience than to be an advertised member of the "wealthy lower orders". We must train for citizenship. We must alter our standards of value. The Twelve Apostles are amongst the immortals, yet they were poor men as the world calculates wealth.
When the war is won, for every hundred boys and girls who now pass into higher schools and universities there must be a thousand. Lack of money must be no impediment to bright minds. The almost diabolical skill of men's hands in the last forty years must be supplemented by a celestial skill of men's minds and a generosity of men's hearts if we are not to be destroyed by the machines of our creation. In common with other members of Parliament, I must increasingly realise that my constituents are not seventy thousand votes, but seventy thousand men and women for whose welfare and growth I have some responsibility. To develop every human being to his fullest capacity for thought, for action, for sacrifice and for endurance is our major task; and no prejudice, stupidity, selfishness or vested interest must stand in the way.
Radio Broadcast 13 November 1942 - Reprinted in The Forgotten People, Sydney: Angus & Robertson 1943