Today he is still regarded as one of Australia's most successful leaders and a great hero. In the darkest days of WWII John Curtin rose to become Australia's fourteenth prime minister. A Victorian by birth, he was the only Prime Minister to represent a Western Australian seat in the House of Representatives. Curtin led his country through extremely difficult times, which took a toll on his personal health. Curtin became prime minister on 7th October 1941 at a time when Australia had deployed most of its trained troops to defend Britain. On December 1941 the Japanese attacked the American base at Pearl Harbour and war began in the Asia-Pacific area. As prime minister, Curtin then faced what no other Australian prime minister before or since has faced, enemy attacks on the Australian mainland and the possibility of invasion. Curtin's subsequent actions changed the foreign policy of Australia and signalled a fundamental shift in the way Australians regarded themselves and their countries place in the world. the traditional allegiance of Australians to the British Empire shifted in the face of the practicalities of alliance with, and reliance upon, the United States in their battle for survival against the Japanese. He would do everything he could to ensure full national security in Australia and he did it well. Curtin was not only a great wartime leader - he also formulated policies for Australia's post-war reconstruction, including planning for full employment, assisted immigration and improvements in social security. Under his leadership, the Australian parliament passes landmark legislation, including and Act which established a uniform taxation scheme and removed the power of the states to collect income tax. His government also ratified British legislation establishing the independence of Dominion parliaments.
Foreign policy, under Curtin, changed in terms of Australia's dependency and partnership with Great Britain. Australia's first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton, set the pattern for decades of Australian foreign policy in 1901 when he drew cheers during his election campaign by proclaiming: 'There could be no foreign policy of the Commonwealth. The foreign policy belonged to the Empire' (The Courier Mail, 1901). The British Government generally concurred, with Prime Minister Herbert Asquith insisting in 1911 that grave matters such as the declaration of war 'cannot be shared' (Hooper, B., Henderson, D., Gray, I., Hennessey, J. & Lewis, R. , 1996 ). This was demonstrated in both World War I and World War II. When World War I broke out Prime Minister Joseph Cook said that 'when the Empire is at war, so is Australia at war' with Opposition leader Andrew Fisher declaring that Australia would support Britain 'to the last man and the last shilling.' (Hooper, et al.,1996, p. 359). A quarter of a century later, Australia's 'British to the bootstraps' Prime Minister Robert Menzies told his fellow Australians on September 3 1939 that it was his 'melancholy duty' to inform them that 'in consequence of the persistence of Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her, and that, as a result, Australia is also at war' (Menzies, 1939). At the same time, Australia had, from Federation onwards, been far from a passive partner in its relationship with Great Britain and continued in that vein in its relationship with the United States after 1941. At the time of Federation 12,000 Australians fought for the British in the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1901), a campaign in which 600 Australians died. Another 300 troops were also fighting alongside eight European countries to quash the 'Boxer Rebellion' in China in 1900. A decade and a half later, when Australia followed Britain into World War I, more than 300,000