Speaking for Australia: Parliamentary Speeches That Shaped Our Nation

Speaking for Australia: Parliamentary Speeches That Shaped Our Nation

Speaking for Australia: Parliamentary Speeches That Shaped Our Nation

Speaking for Australia: Parliamentary Speeches That Shaped Our Nation


This selection of some of the most important speeches delivered in the Australian parliament is a fascinating record of Australian public life from Federation in 1901 to the present. Each speech is supported by background materials, including information about the speaker, the context of the speech, and the public reaction.


This is the first book to bring together many of the significant speeches made in the Commonwealth parliament during the last 100 and more years. So many of the decisions that changed this nation were first announced and debated in parliament, and so many of Australia's triumphs and disasters were celebrated or mourned there. This selection of speeches will give stimulus and pleasure—and pain too—to historians, politicians, journalists, and above all to the inquisitive general reader.

Through this book we are present as crises unfold. Here are speech-makers grappling with the world Depression of the early 1930s, when one in three Australian workers had no job; and here are warnings made when the nation was in danger of being invaded during World War II. Here are leaders facing questions that aroused high emotions: should young Australian men be conscripted to fight against the Germans in 1917, should the Australian private banks be nationalised in the late 1940s, and should you 'maintain your rage' in the consitutional crisis of 1975? the urgency in the voice of many of the speakers, and the intensity of those who listened, can still be felt.

The early speeches were made in the grand but borrowed parliament house in Spring Street, Melbourne, but most were made in the old and new houses of parliament in Canberra. Until 1946, when parliament was regularly broadcast across the nation, the live audience for most speeches consisted of a handful of reporters, maybe several public servants and a few spectators leaning forward. But the real audience was the nation. From the beginning the daily press, taking an intense interest in parliament, reported many of the early speeches almost word for word, along with the interjections. Surprisingly, it was usually easier then than now for a public-spirited citizen to glean the main reasons for a vital change of national policy.

About half of these speeches were delivered by men who were, or would become, prime ministers. Some were made by members who, because of their mind or manner or voice or vocabulary, had no national reputation as orators but were able . . .

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