House of Representatives
18 April 1945

17th Parliament · 3rd Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

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Prime Minister find Minister for Defence · Fremantle · ALP

– I desire tto refer to the death of Mr. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United SStates of America.

On Thursday last there died in his own country a man who, on four occasions in succession, had been elected to the highest office iin the gift of the American people. Of his work for the

United States of America, it is not becoming that I should attempt any assessment. It is because he was a friend of good in the universe, and because he used his great resources and capacities for the welfare of mankind, that in this place, the Parliament of Australia, we mourn to-day the loss of one of the greatest of world leaders. Before the war, it was clear to us that in the President of the United States of America we had a warm friend ; that our cause appealed to all his instincts, and that his energies would be devoted to giving to us the maximum aid that circumstances permitted. We watched how events dictated conduct- for us, and how profoundly they affected all those other countries that were not, immediately engaged in the struggle. Even then, it was clear to us that without the material and moral hacking of the people of the United States of America, our cause, however right, would lack the strength requisite for its vindication. Before the war assumed its global character, we in this Parliament and in this country, and those who were with us in the struggle, knew that to the uttermost we would have in Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the leader of the people of the United States of America, not only a counsellor and a friend, but also a bastion upon which we could rely. Many of us will recall that in the darkest days we knew that help to the Allies was going across the Atlantic. When the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), as Prime Minister of Australia, was abroad and before there’ was war in the Pacific, this Parliament adjourned so that we might welcome in the port of Sydney a fleet representative of the great strength which the United States of America could use in war. That was a practical demonstration of the fact that in our hour of trouble we had a friend who would be gallant in our defence. It was also a warning to others, which they did not take, that if they were to act aggressively the American fleet - of which the force assembled in Sydney was but a token - would be available to resist the aggression.

I have sent to the Prime Minister of Great Britain a personal message of sympathy in what I know to be the great loss which the leader of the British Empire has sustained by the death of Mr. Roosevelt. who, I am certain, was to Mr. Churchill not only a friend, but also a colleague upon whom he relied and in whom he found an immense reciprocity concerning everything for which he was striving.

I have attempted to convey to the widow of the late Mr. Roosevelt, and to the new President of the United States of America, the sentiments of the people of Australia. We know that before and during the war, and in what wo hoped would be the state of the world when the war had ended, the mind and heart of Mr. Roosevelt were attuned to everything that was good; that his opposition was confined exclusively to that which could be said to be evil; that, although the leader of a country, he none the less had a deep conception of what- was requisite for the welfare of mankind at large. His interest in Australia was much more than objective-, it was intimate, wellinformed and well-founded. On the occasions on which I had the privilege of meeting him, he manifested a knowledge of this country that was indeed remarkable in one who might be expected to he at least detached. He had a keen sense of the strategic importance of Australia in the war, and a great admiration for its people.

I recall that when the American, British, Dutch and Australian area was established on the outbreak of war with Japan, President Roosevelt agreed that the American Navy would be responsible for the whole of the Pacific Ocean east of the Philippine Islands and Australasia, including the American approaches to Australasia. In February, 1942, he sent to me this personal message -

I assume you know now of our determina tion to send, in addition to nil troops and forces now en route, a total of 30,000, another force of over 27,000 men to Australia. This force will be fully equipped in every respect. We must fight to the limit for our two flanks, one based on Australia, and the other on Burma, -India and China. Because of our geographical position we Americans oan better handle the reinforcement of Australia and the right flunk. I say this to you, bo that you may have every confidence that we are going to reinforce your position with all possible speed.

History will .bear testimony to the manner in which that undertaking has been carried out.

In March, 1942, four momentous decisions were taken, either on the initiative of President Roosevelt or .by his approval of recommendations that had been made by the Australian Government. First, the President proposed that the world war theatre should bc divided into three areas - (a) the Atlantic, under joint British and American responsibility ; (6) the Indian, Middle East and Mediterranean, under British responsibility ; and (c) the Pacific, including China, under United States of America operational responsibility. Under this arrangement, Australia came within the sphere for which the United States of America accepted. operational responsibility. Secondly, the late President advised the Australian Government that General MacArthur had been sent to Australia from the Philippines, and had been placed in command of all United States Forces in this country. Shortly thereafter, the late President approved the Australian Government’s nomination of General MacArthur as the Supreme Commander of all Allied Forces in the SouthWest Pacific Area. Thirdly, the proposals of the Australian and New Zealand Governments for the political and strategical .direction of operations in the Pacific theatre were communicated to the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The late President intimated that he was in general agreement with them. In April, 1942, the Pacific Ocean Area and the South-West Pacific Area were formally announced, and their directives were issued to the respective CommandersinChief by the late President. Fourthly, the late President announced that it had been decided to set up a Pacific War Council at Washington, in order that all the United Nations actively’ engaged in the Pacific conflict could consider together matters of policy relating to their joint war effort. This was the culmination of the Commonwealth Government’s efforts since the outbreak of the war with Japan to have such a council set up on which Australia would have a proper voice in the making of decisions affecting the Pacific area. In a statement to the American people in Washington last April, I said that the success of operations in the South-West Pacific Area had been due to the gallantry of the Allied Forces, the ability of the High Command, the aid from Britain and the United States, and the efforts of the Australian people. It will be evident from the facts to which I have referred, that President Roosevelt, as the head of the United .States Government, played a preeminent part in the establishment of the machinery for the higher direction of the war in the Pacific, and in providing assistance with American Forces and supplies to hold and repel the Japanese advance. From this critical beginning, there has grown the massive converging attack on Japan which assures us of ultimate victory in the Pacific.

The late President’s personal role in these matters was one of outstanding significance. I refer not only to his role as head of his country, for, as a.n individual, he had a passionate devotion to the causes that are involved in the struggle which has been forced upon us. That struggle commenced even long before the British Empire was at war, but eventually, we- were involved in war in Europe and ultimately in the Pacific, and finally the Stage was reached when almost every country was embroiled, regardless of its wish or formal decision to remain neutral. I know that the late President devoted all of his talents to organizing the maximum war effort of which the Allies were capable. The effort involved was so stupendous, and the inevitable sacrifices were so great, that there was a positive attempt to ensure that never again should aggression be able to strike as it has struck at freedom in the world, and that countries, regardless of their strength or population, should have some assurance that their integrity would not be assailed by a strong and wanton aggressor. Great, indeed pre-eminent, as the part that President Roosevelt has played has been in the organization of the forces which are now on the eve of victory, and great as is the strength which those forces need in order to carry on their campaigns, I feel that President Roosevelt’s devotion to the principles of human liberty, and to the welfare of mankind, was one in which the fervour of his heart and the greatness of his mind were given in just as large a measure as he used his other great qualities in the conduct of the war.

So mankind’s hopes of a better day, of a more secure position, have been lessened to some degree, at any <rate, by the loss of this great leader in the organization of world security. In a few days a conference representative of many nations will assemble at San Francisco. It meets significantly on what is known in Australia as Anzac Day, but it meets almost as the sound of the drums has died on the air at the graveside of the late President. His ideas and his ideals can he carried- to fruition at that conference. He has left to the world a legacy, and the greatest monument that can be erected to him is that men of good will shall devote their energies and passions to a realization, of the lofty ideals which marked the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I move -

That this House records its sincere regret at the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, places on record its high appreciation of his devoted and self-sacrificing service to the United Nations in the war to defeat tyranny and aggression, expresses to the people of the United States its profound regret at the loss they have suffered, and tenders its deep sympathy to Mrs. Roosevelt and her family in their bereavement.

leader of the Opposition · Kooyong

– On behalf of the Opposition, I second the motion, and concur in the remarks that have fallen from the right honorable the Prime Minister. The late President of the United .States of America, was, I ‘believe, by common consent of mankind, one of the world’s great men. He was certainly one of the few men in this century who have distinctly influenced the course of human progress. As the right honorable gentleman has said, it is not for us to attempt to assess his work in the domestic field of his own country, though the historian will not fail to note that in breach of tradition he was elected President thrice and four times by the people of his own country. In the world fieldi, upon the stage of international conflict and international politics, I believe that his work is completely monumental. As we in Australia see it, there have been three phases in the work of Franklin Roosevelt in this waa-. The first phase was when the United States of America was a neutral country. Never, I suppose, in the history of the world has any neutral country been so utterly devoted in sympathy and in practical aid to the cause of one set of ‘belligerents. If that is true, as it is, then I believe that no American living could claim one fraction of the credit of that result that goes to the late President Roosevelt. From beginning to end, he was our friend. From beginning to end he never lost sight for a moment of his clear vision of the issues which confronted humanity. Although he respected his own country’s neutrality, and respected, as he guided, the opinion of his own people, he reserved his profoundest respect for the freedom, of his fellow men. So, right through the period of his neutrality, we found him associated with policies hitherto undreamt of in neutrality - for example, the policy of Lend-Lease, by which with one stroke he made available to those fighting for freedom in the world the enormous industrial resources of the United States of America.

The second phase of his career in these matters is, of course, associated .with the leadership of his nation at war from the time that war came to the United States and his own country became a belligerent. In that leadership I believe that he can claim in the hearts of his own countrymen the same magnetic place as will be claimed in the hearts of the British people by “Winston Churchill.

The third phase was, in a sense, about to begin. Just as Mr. Roosevelt knew that a great nation must be prepared for war, and just as he knew that a great nation must, in certain circumstances, fight a war, and fight if necessary to the death, he also knew, so clearly that most of us must feel dim in comparison, that if war is to be won in a real sense it must usher in a real peace, guaranteed by a real goodwill founded upon a real determination of the nations of the world. Of all the builders of a world security order he was, I believe, entitled to stand in the very front rank, and it is a tragic thing that the world should be deprived, of his magnetic and powerful services at a time when the San Francisco conference is about to begin.

I have referred to the late President’s career, and mentioned its three phases in that order because, in a sense, that is the true order; but in reality the third element, in his life informed both of the other two. He led his country into a state of sympathetic aid when his country was neutral, because at that time he had clearly a sense of national responsibility towards international security which has distinguished his policy right through. He knew at that stage that there could be no peace for it war-torn world, no real or permanent peace, unless his own great, country, with its great resources, its great power, and its great moral authority, would accept responsibility for the affairs of the world. It was because he had this feeling that he became also a great leader of his country at war.

I should like to say, not only on behalf of those who sit with me in this House, but also, I believe, on .behalf of every one in Australia, that the heartfelt prayers of this country will go out for President Truman, who succeeds to office after a great man has left the stage; who comes, in a sense, relatively unknown to the world, but whose task it is to carry on the influence of his nation in the affairs of the world, so that the magnificent sense of international responsibility which has distinguished the United States of America shall not be weakened by a personal change at the “White House. The new President faces an enormous responsibility. I believe that he will receive encouragement from the fact that there is not one lover of freedom anywhere in. the world who does not hope that he may achieve the utmost success. All our thoughts are with him, and. as we honour the memory of his great predecessor, so we shall hold out our hands to him.

Leader of the Australian Country party · Darling Downs

– I humbly but sincerely associate myself and my party with the sentiments so appropriately expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I am sure that. I express the feelings of every true Australian, when I say that it is our belief that the death of Franklin Roosevelt was a loss, not only to the great American people whom he so ably led, but also to the people of Australia. He, in association with those other two great leaders who formed a vigilance committee for the protection, of freedom and civilization, brought the United Nations to the verge of victory. It is regrettable that the man who played so important a part in this achievement was not spared until the coming of peace. Those three men, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, will be remembered as long as the world lasts. As the Leader of the Opposition has stated, Franklin Roosevelt played a preeminent part in the drama of this war, and in the saving of the democratic world from the savagery of the Axis powers, in a sense we all feel that, with his passing, we have lost a relative, a guardian. The world has lost a man who was not only fully determined to win the war, hut who also had prepared careful plans for the winning of the peace so that the winning of the war should be worth while. When we are rejoicing in the hour of victory, which I hope will be in the near future, I am sure that a grateful world will pause for a few moments to remember the man who did so much to make victory possible, the great American who has passed on.

Mr. Roosevelt was a courageous man. He was courageous physically and morally. He bore his grave physical disability with a courage that was characteristic of’ him. No journey was too long, nor any task too onerous, for him to undertake. He travelled extensively in order to confer with the other leaders of the Allied Nations. Australia will be for ever grateful to a great tuan who was the leader of a great nation.

I endorse the remarks of the Leader of the. Opposition when he wished success to President Truman who has assumed a gigantic task at a critical time in th, history of the world. I am sure that I express the sentiments of every member of this House when I extend our best wishes to the successor of the late President. Roosevelt.


– I should like to add to the tributes already paid a personal one. It remains for me one of the few memories that time has not in any way robbed of its charm that I met, and for some hours had intimate converse with, this man for whom we mourn to-day. The circumstances of my life have been such that I met many of the great figures who have moved across the contemporary world scene. I have always regarded Mr. Roosevelt as the greatest of those with whom I have come in contact. The compelling charm of his personality, the liberality of his thought, the spaciousness of his mind, the complete catholicity of his interest in all human affairs, were of a nature completely to captivate any one who came closely in conduct with him.I believe that not yet can the world assess the loss that has come to it. He has left a world still loud with the clash of arms, but a world upon which we believe dawn is breaking. Yet I believe that already clouds have rolled up on that horizon - clouds which would not have risen had this man remained. He will be referred to manytimesasa great statesman, but even in the field of statesmanship it is not enough to refer to him in that way. He bad certain attributes which must otherwise be described ; and with very profound respect, and also with a very great deal of pride - because I believe that in this place I shall not be misunderstood - I say that he was also a consummate politician. It has been said ofone of his great predecessors that he was also a great statesman, and I pay tribute to him. He had a vision which might well have saved the world the conflict through which we pass to-day, but he failed partially because he lacked something of the equipment of a politician. Mr. Roosevelt had all those attributes - indeed,he had all those human qualities that really makethe sum total of greatness. As we stand to-day, figuratively beside his new-made grave, it is well that we should remind ourselves that the complete clarity of mind, and charity of heart, that were epitomized in himcan now endure only in the mindsand hearts of those people who carry on the work thathe has left. I hope that Mr. Roosevelt’s dream of world security, based upon a free tolerance, will notbe lost by those who must go on along the road that he would have trod had he remained alive.


– As one who had the privilege of discussing with the late President Roosevelt Australia’s problems, and of appreciating his intense, sympathetic interest in the safety and progress of Australia, and of the British Empire, I desire to nay my tribute to the memory of one of the world’s greatest leaders. On the eve of victory which he did so much to ensure, he died with his face to the foe, having fought unceasingly for the peace of the world and the uplift of the ordinary man and woman. He gave his life for the cause of world freedom as truly as does any man who falls on the field of battle.

President Roosevelt was that rare combinationof a great constructive statesman, anda great master of political strategy in the highest sense. The keynote of his policy was conservation - conserva tion of human resources of every kind; conservation of natural resources; and conservation of the springs of goodwill, both national and international. In the greatest depression of history, he set out to restore his country and uplift downtrodden men and women the world over. In his own country, he leaves many permanent memorials to his statesmanship: I need refer to only one, the Tennessee Valley Authority. In the world at largo, ho leaves an international organization that will ensure the peace of the world through full American participation. His great masterpiece of political strategy was his gradual conversion of the American nation from isolationism to full participation in the world-wide struggle for the freedom of all peoples to live their lives as they desire, and in peace with all others. This masterstroke will be the political wonder of all time. He accomplished these results by reason of his great personal qualities and character - his adamantine will, which brought himback from helpless invalidity to the most active and responsible political post in the world ; his quick human sympathy and understanding of t he thoughts and hopes and desires of the common people; and his dauntless courage that triumphed over both personal crippling disease and the disabilities of deep-rooted national tradition. Browning wrotehis epitaph years before the late President was born -

One who never turnedhis back but marched breast-forward,

Never doubted clouds would break,

Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,

Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,

Sleep towake.

The whole world weeps because he is no longer with us, but is grateful that he was.

Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.

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Mr. CURTIN (Fremantle - Prime

Ministerand Minister for Defence). - As a mark of respect to the memory of the late President Roosevelt, I move -

That the House do now adjourn.

In doing so, I invite honorable members to join in a memorial service to the late

President, to be held in front of the House this afternoon at 4 o’clock.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjournedat 3.38 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 April 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.