AIMING TO BRING "SOMETHING BETTER TO
THE PEOPLE" — BEN CHIFLEY
The Light on the Hill
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Chifley's The Light on the Hill speech.
Leaders of the Australian Labor Party Herbert Evatt (left)
and Ben Chifley (middle) meet with British Prime Minister
Clement Attlee (right) at the Dominion and British Leaders
Conference in London, 1946. — National Archives of
It follows an excerpt from the transcript of
Ben Chifley's The Light on the Hill speech, delivered at
Sydney, Australia — June 12, 1949.
I have had the
of leading the
Labor Party for nearly four years. They have not
been easy times and it has not been an easy job.
It is a man-killing job and would be impossible
if it were not for the help of my colleagues and
members of the movement.
No Labor Minister or leader ever has an easy
job. The urgency that rests behind the Labor
movement, pushing it on to do things, to create
new conditions, to reorganize the economy of the
country, always means that the people who work
within the Labor movement, people who lead, can
never have an easy job. The job of the
evangelist is never easy.
Because of the turn of fortune's wheel your
Premier (Mr. McGirr) and I have gained some
prominence in the Labor movement. But the
strength of the movement cannot come from us. We
may make plans and pass legislation to help and
direct the economy of the country. But the job
of getting the things the people of the country
want comes from the roots of the Labor movement —
the people who support it.
When I sat at a Labor meeting in the country
with only ten or fifteen men there, I found a
man sitting beside me who had been working in
the Labor movement for fifty-four years. I have
no doubt that many of you have been doing the
same, not hoping for any advantage from the
movement, not hoping for any personal gain, but
because you believe in a movement that has been
built up to bring better conditions to the
people. Therefore, the success of the Labor
Party at the next elections depends entirely, as
it always has done, on the people who work.
I try to think of the Labor movement, not as
putting an extra sixpence into somebody's
pocket, or making somebody Prime Minister or
Premier, but as a movement bringing something
better to the people, better standards of
living, greater happiness to the mass of the
We have a great
objective — the light on the hill —
which we aim to reach by working the betterment
of mankind not only here but anywhere we may
give a helping hand. If it were not for that,
the Labor movement would not be worth fighting
If the movement can make someone more
comfortable, give to some father or mother a
greater feeling of security for their children,
a feeling that if a depression comes there will
be work, that the government is striving its
hardest to do its best, then the Labor movement
will be completely justified.
It does not matter about persons like me who
have our limitations. I only hope that the
generosity, kindliness and friendliness shown to
me by thousands of my colleagues in the Labor
movement will continue to be given to the
movement and add zest to its work.