24 April 1945

17th Parliament · 3rd Session

The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

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– I desire to inform the Senate that on the 15th March, accompanied by honorable senators, I waited on the Governor-General and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Royal Highness’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of the Third Session of the17th Parliament, agreed to on the 8th March, 1945. His Royal Highness was pleased to make the following reply:-

Mr. President:

I desire to thank you for the Address-in- Reply, which you have just presented to me. It will afford me much pleasure to convey to His Most Gracious Majesty the King the messageof loyalty from the Senateof the Commonwealth of Australia to which the address gives expression. I also thank you and membersofthe Senate for your expressions ofwelcome to me.

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Senator KEANE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · Victoria · ALP

– The death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the comparatively early age of 63 years is a most grievous and mournful event, and I desire to ask the Senate to agree to a motion, the terms of which I shall indicate at the conclusion of my speech. The world has witnessed the passing of one of the great Presidents of the United States of America. The late President Roosevelt rendered almost a life-time service to his country and to the world. He performed outstanding service to his nation and the Allies in the last world war, and it was his privilege tobe closely associated with that other great humanitarian, the late President Wilson.

The natural qualities which he possessed were fired and tempered in the tortures of a major physical suffering overa prolonged period.

Few public men would have emerged from this ordealwith the spirit and will to conquer and to rise above the permanent disabilities which were left in its train as did the late President Roosevelt. Whatever his ambition previously, without a doubt his illness served to heighten his fervour to serve humanity and his country. Mr. Winston Churchill wrote this tribute concerning him -

To ninety-nine men out of a hundred such an affliction would have terminated all forms of public activity except those of the mind. He refused to accept this sentence. He fought against it. . . . He contested elections; he harangued the multitude; he faced the hurlyburly of American politics in a decade when they were exceptionally darkened by all the hideous crimes and corruption of gangsterdom which followed upon prohibition. He sought, gained and discharged offices of the utmost labour and of the highest consequence.

In world history the greatest humanitarians have invariably been confronted with extremely difficult situations when they have risen to power, and the late President Roosevelt had to meet a serious situation when the economic structure of his country was dangerously impaired. The concept and planning which he put in hand to remedy this situation were brilliant, comprehensive and effective. He gave to his countrymen a new deal. It was in the nature of the man that there should be embodied in those plans a degree of care and protection for the poverty-stricken, the under-privileged and the unemployed. It was inevitable, too, that the essence of these plans would be opposed to the “ economic royalists “ - as he termed the fortunate sons of the wealthiest families. The more intensive the opposition the more ironlike his resolution became, combined with the rarest capacity to have his humanitarian policies accepted by his people. The biographer Ludwig made this telling contribution to the literature dealing with the life of the late President -

He was born rich, and he fought against the rich; he was paralysed and he led the battle, sword in hand; he came out of the banking circles and was the first to break the pride of the captains of finance, for he was a genuine friend of the people.

It is my belief that God was fashioning an instrument for the cause of freedom and truth in the battle against the greatest forces of evil which were to break loose upon the world a few years later. This task was to become President Roosevelt’s main mission in life, and that mission embraced the task of bringing about the absolute defeat of Hitlerism. Ho was of Hitler’s generation, and he assumed power at the same time as Hitler. For years he worked for peace, until he was satisfied that it was Hitler’s policy to unleash upon the world the evil practices and philosophies of Nazi-ism. He then began to prepare for the war, which he saw was inevitable, and to devise plans and ways and means whereby he could assist the countries already at war against Hitlerism. The racial diversification present in his own country, the powerful isolationist groups and an inherent and traditional desire on the part of the American people to avoid international entanglements added tremendously to his task. It required leadership qualities of the most brilliant nature to bring about a result where the great industrial and economic strength of the United States of America would be thrown into the war being waged against Hitler. His great vision, his inspiring leadership and his immeasurable capacity to plan and achieve success were such as to raise the hopes of the peoples of the Allied and conquered nations during their darkest hours.

The lend-lease legislation which the late President Roosevelt sponsored was probably one of the greatest concepts in world history. I remind honorable senators of his momentous message to Congress when he asked for its assent to the lend-lease legislation. He said -

In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression - everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want - which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peace-time life for its inhabitants - everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear - which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction in armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbour - anywhere in the world.

By means of the lend-lease planhe brought to the aid of those countries which were fighting with their hacks to the wall American arms, ammunition, aeroplanes, tanks, military equipment and civilian supplies to maintain the wartime economy of the nations.

In the hour of Australia’s deadliest peril, when all our experienced fighting troops were in the battle zones on the other side of the world, when all the military equipment which we manufactured was sent to them and to others, when we found ourselves in the position of being wide open to attack, it was President Roosevelt who provided the means whereby the invader’s heel was kept off our continent. The aid which he made available immediately proved effective and arrested the triumphant march of our enemies. As the Minister in charge of lend-lease operations in Australia, I assure honorable senators that our capacity to defend ourselves would have been seriously impaired had it not been for the receipt of the implements of war. and the tremendous quantities of raw materials and other supplies, made available under the lend lease plans and authorities of President Roosevelt.

Honorable senators will agree with me when I say that a relationship of the utmost historical significance was established between that great leader of the peoples of the British Empire, Mr. Churchill, and the leader of the great Republic of the United States, the late President Roosevelt. “With their individual superb qualities they made a combination which could ultimately lead only to the most devastating a.nd smashing blows being delivered to our enemies. His passing has created a profound sense of loss in his great companion in arms. At a later stage he played an outstanding role in the conferences in which he participated with Mr. Churchill and Marshal Stalin, where the over-all plans for the defeat of our enemies were formulated.

During my visit to the United States of America I expressed to the people of that country the great appreciation of Australia of the magnitude of supplies and services provided by it, and I also explained that the goodwill which had been established between Australia and the United States of America had proved of the highest value to us. All of their available resources, both of man-power and of materials, were concentrated on the war effort, but despite their great preoccupations they were able to keep fully in mind Australia’s need at the most critical time in our history. This great concession was made possible only because of the glorious part played by the great war-time leader of the United States of America.

It is appropriate that the motion which T propose to make should be submitted on the eve of the opening of the United Nations Conference on International Organization to be held at San Francisco when the new Internationa] Security Organization will be brought into being. These far-reaching proposals of the late President must succeed if we are to enjoy peace and tranquility. We must avoid the worst weaknesses of that abortive predecessor - the League of Nations. There must be no swerving from the ideals of a lasting post-war settlement. The memory of the late President should help us to translate into action these great ideals of world security. As President Truman declared. “ It is futile to seek safety behind geographical barriers; real security will be found only in-law and justice”.

It is fitting that the late President Roosevelt should have written his name into the fabric of our nation. I desire to express the sorrow of the Australian nation at the passing of probably the greatest of all American Presidents, and to express gratitude for all that he did for Australia and the Allied nations, and for the ties of goodwill which he established - ties which should govern our relationships with the American people in the centuries of nation building which are ahead of us. I believe that the gratitude of Australia can be expressed by our dedication to the four freedoms which he enunciated, as well as by our furtherance of those humanitarian principles to which his life was devoted. I move -

That this Senate records its deep and sincere regret at the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, places on record its high appreciation of his great services to the Allied Nations in the present war, expresses to the people of the United States of America its profound regret at the loss they have suffered, and tenders its deep and heartfelt sympathy to Mrs. Roosevelt and her family in their bereavement.

Senator LECKIE:
Acting Leader of the Opposition · VICTORIA · UAP; LP from 1944

– I second the motion, not as Acting Leader of the Opposition, but as a senator, because there are no parties at a time like this. _ The people of Australia, in common with the people of the United States of America and, indeed, of the whole world, have suffered a severe and devastating loss; every one in Australia has a feeling of gratitude and admiration for the man who has just passed away. When a great head of a great nation dies, his own nation honours im: but President Roosevelt was more than that; ho was a great world leader, and as such we have shared in his achievements and his inspired leadership. As I have studied the life and work of the late President, I have always thought that he embodied the best qualities of the English-speaking race - courage, steadfastness, humanitarianism, and a sense of fair play. In addition to those qualities, he had an imagination and a gift for far-sighted planning that is sometimes missing from the British people. In his character and achievements the late President Roosevelt epitomized what we believe to be best in our British traditions. It seems to me that he had a rather late blossoming and that his great gifts and talents were all coloured by the splendour of the jetting sun. Now he has gone, with his job not quite finished, and for that we are sorry. If any man deserved to see the fruition of his efforts, President Roosevelt did, but he was fated not to reach that stage. We cannot but admire his’ amazing patience and ability as he gradually taught the people of his country that they no longer could be isolationists, but had a part in the future of the world, indeed, that it was their duty to take a leading part in world events. Under his guidance America found its soul. In a short space of time he turned a peace-loving nation into the greatest fighting machine that the world has ever known. He mobilized for war purposes the great industries and the man-power of the United States of America; and by his planning I believe that he saved the world. It is hard for any one in Australia to assess properly the value of the man who has just passed away, but I hope that the gratitude for the help which the late President Roosevelt- gave to this country in its darkest hour which is now uppermost in our thoughts will remain in the minds of all Australians. What the result would have been had that help not been forthcoming, I do not know; but most of us believe that if President Roosevelt had not stood behind us the fate of Australia might have been tragic indeed. Although the memory of his great achievements and the honour that is associated with them belong primarily to his own country, the influence of his life, his character, his courage, his spiritual qualities belongs to all mankind. In the march of mankind to its ultimate destiny, in a world in which there will be fair piny and happiness for all, the name of this great man Franklin D. Roosevelt who led the march of mankind along the road to its great destiny will remain for all time on the scroll of fame.

Minister for the Interior · QueenslandMinister for the Interior · ALP

– It has been said that flowers on the coffin send no fragrance back over the weary way. If we were able to peer behind the veil, and thereby gain a greater knowledge of the inscrutable workings of the infinite, we might better understand some of the most tragic happenings in life; but because that is impossible, we can only honour ourselves on occasions such as this by revering the memory of great men who have passed over to the other side. I have risen on this occasion because I am not only the oldest senator in years, but I share with you, Mr. President, the honour of being oldest in membership on this side of the chamber. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) has paid an eloquent tribute to the many virtues of this great man. We cannot do more than pay tribute to his wonderful physical, moral, and spiritual courage. Those of us who have had some experience’ of the responsibilities of government have some conception of the magnitude .of the task which the late President Roosevelt set himself in connexion with world affairs. Obviously, great crises usually produce great leaders. This man, whose passing we now mourn, was undoubtedly one of the world’s great figures. While we now express our sympathy with the great nation which he led, and our sincere sympathy with the loved ones ‘he has left behind, sad and sorrowing in their bereavement, we oau with profit to ourselves also review the late President’s life, particularly the more recent years of it, and realize that he lias laid the foundation upon which the structure for the future security of the world will, we all hope, be solidly built. We are grieved that this great man has gone. It would have been most fitting had he lived just a little longer to see the great work to which lie devoted so much of his life brought to fruition. I am privileged this afternoon to have had the opportunity to add these few remarks to those of the Leader of the Senate and the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie).

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

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Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to -

That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Thursday next, at 3 p.m.

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Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to -

That, as a mark of respect to the memory of the late President Roosevelt, the Senate do now adjourn.

Senate adjourned at 3.23 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 April 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.