This cinema ad for the 1946 federal election encourages Australians to stay with the Labor Party, which has successfully led the country through the end of the Second World War. The clip shows the ad in its entirety.
Summary by Adrienne Parr.
The ad focuses on the strength and deftness of Labor’s leadership of the country through the Second World War and the immediate postwar period – first under John Curtin then under the incumbent JB (Ben) Chifley.
The ad itself looks very much like a wartime propaganda newsreel – a format very familiar to its audience at the time. It emphasises the role Chifley had played in assisting Curtin to bring the country successfully through the war, while highlighting his experience on the international stage. It includes a shot of Chifley with US President Harry S Truman, probably taken during their meeting in Washington on Thursday 9 May 1946.
John Curtin had been Prime Minister of Australia from just before the bombing of Pearl Harbour and he had seen the country through the Second World War’s many adversities. But Curtin was plagued by illness and fatigue in the last year or so of the war. He favoured Ben Chifley, minister for postwar reconstruction, as his successor. By the time Curtin died on 5 July 1945, Chifley had already stepped into the leadership breach on a number of occasions. When caucus voted Chifley in as the new prime minister, he was initially seen as someone who could maintain his popular predecessor’s methods and momentum. Although close to Curtin, Chifley was temperamentally a very different person. He soon established his own man-of-the-people, no-frills approach to peacetime economic management and social reconstruction.
At the time of the 1946 election the postwar economy was beginning to boom, but with labour (there were still around 250,000 Australian defence personnel yet to be demobilised and repatriated) and materials shortages affecting supply, burgeoning inflation threatened economic stability. Unsure of the popularity in the electorate of Chifley’s style, the party’s campaign managers used a ‘helmsman steering the ship-of-state’ metaphor to promote the leader – hence the title of the ad.
This is an ALP cinema advertisement for the 1946 federal election. It encourages the Australian electorate to stay with the Labor Party, which has successfully led the country through the last four years of the Second World War and a year of postwar social and economic rebuilding.
This film is one of a collection of archival election campaign films held at the National Film and Sound Archive on behalf of the Australian Labor Party.
Ben Chifley had become prime minister on 13 July 1945 after the death of John Curtin. One month later VP (Victory in the Pacific) Day was declared. Chifley, a proponent of strong centralist management of the economy, led the country into a postwar period of stability and growth. In the following federal election, held on 28 September 1946, the Labor Party faced the newly formed Liberal Party of Australia, headed by Robert Menzies. Wartime restrictions and obligatory restraint were quickly becoming a thing of the past, and Chifley seemed a less invincible opponent than his predecessor. Menzies and the regrouped opposition had high hopes going into the 1946 election. Nevertheless the ALP recorded a decisive victory with only a slightly reduced majority in the House of Representatives (43 seats to Menzies’s new Liberal Party’s 15 seats and the Country Party’s 11 seats) and a crushing majority in the Senate (16 seats to the Liberal and Country Party alliance’s 3 seats).
Notes by Adrienne Parr