Curtin, Prime Minister John, 1885-1945

Curtin was Prime Minister of Australia from 1941 until shortly before the end of the war. As leader of the Australian Labor Party he had opposed conscription in the early days of the war and had resisted offers to join in a National government. In 1941 he brought down the Fadden government and came to power with a majority of one. He immediately found that he had to increase conscription because Australia declared war on Japan after Pearl Harbor. From this point he set about re-orienting Australia’s foreign policy and became a firm advocate of partnership with the USA. He had difficult relations with CHURCHILL and had rows over Britain’s lack of naval support in the Far East. Curtin was a firm advocate of Air Force power and gave MACARTHUR his full support. In 1942 while Australia feared a Japanese invasion Curtin became his own Minister of Defense but as the threat receded he relinquished this post and took greater interest in diplomacy and the postwar situation. He was a popular figure and led the Labor Party to electoral victory in 1943. He became ill in November 1944 and died in July 1945. His Deputy, CHIFLEY, became acting Prime Minister in April 1945 and full Prime Minister in July.

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