Mr Menzies becomes Prime Minister, Canberra

Title:
Mr Menzies becomes Prime Minister, Canberra
NFSA ID:
257462
Year:
1939
Category:
Access fees

This 'exclusive’ Cinesound Review newsreel opens with a view of Parliament House and a voice-over stating Australia has been experiencing a dramatic politic crisis. This refers to the sudden death of Prime Minister Joseph Lyons on 7 April 1939. On 18 April, the United Australia Party (UAP) elected Robert Menzies as its new leader and he was sworn in as prime minister eight days later.

Menzies addresses the Australian public in an informal and candid manner. He stands alone on the lawns of Parliament House, his right arm in a sling from a fall the previous day, speaking without notes and being surprisingly self-deprecating. He only mentions being the new leader of the UAP, not the new Australian prime minister. Given his unusual rise to the position and not being a prime minister directly elected by voters, he is perhaps deliberately choosing to play down his appointment and appear as an 'everyman’. This is reinforced by the complete absence of any of the trappings of political office. It is filmed outside rather than inside Parliament House, there are no emblems of Australia – no flags or coat of arms – no reference to the Commonwealth of any kind which is in stark contrast to what we now know of Menzies and his devotion to the British monarchy. The voice-over also mentions Menzies’ appointment coming at a time of international tension. Menzies himself refers to Australia’s security as being not merely a problem for 70,000 young men but requiring everyone to join together in a spirit of self-sacrifice if Australia is to be safe. These comments presage the Second World War and, within months of this footage, Menzies delivered a famous radio broadcast informing the nation that Australia was at war.