Printer Friendly

'Conscription is not abhorrent to laborites and socialists': revisiting the Australian labour movement's attitude towards military conscription during World War I.

On 4 August 1914, in the midst of Australia's sixth federal general election, World War I broke out in Europe. The vast majority of Australians supported their country's participation in the distant European war. When news of the commencement of hostilities hit Australia, crowds cheered in the streets, and inside hotels and town halls they boisterously sang 'Rule Britannia' and 'God Save the Queen'. Only a small section of the community--revolutionary socialists such as the Industrial Workers of the World and assorted pacifist groups--seriously objected to Australia's role. (1)

Joseph Cook, Liberal Prime Minister since 1913, called Australia's first double dissolution election when the Labor-dominated Senate rejected his bill to abolish the previous Labor administration's 'preference for unionists' in government work legislation. Many observers believed the European struggle would advantage Cook's Liberals, as they transformed themselves from a beleaguered minority administration to an active wartime government. But led by its two-time Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, Labor campaigned with gusto. Fisher memorably declared that Australia would fight to 'the last man and our last shilling'. (2) Only a Labor government, argued Fisher, could manage the war effort whilst protecting the nation's most vulnerable citizens.

When Australians placed their ballots on 5 September, Labor triumphed. After the election, Fisher's third government controlled both houses of federal parliament, as had been the case during his 1910-13 prime ministership. Yet just two years later Labor suffered a devastating split, cast out of power federally and in most states. Received wisdom holds that Labor's schism owed solely to Prime Minister Billy Hughes' plan to introduce military conscription for overseas service via a referendum (technically a non-binding plebiscite as no alteration to the constitution was proposed) during October 1916. According to Labor's 1917 federal election manifesto, it was not until Hughes 'decided to advocate conscription' that 'a serious cleavage in our Party resulted'. (3)

Historical accounts of the 1916-17 conscription referendums have perpetuated this interpretation, portraying the Australian labour movement's anti-conscriptionism as a natural phenomenon. Hughes and other Labor pro-conscriptionists were 'rats' acting contrary to the anti-militaristic creed of the working class. As we shall see, that heroic interpretation was first voiced by the victors of the internal Labor stoush in the pages of the labour movement press and reiterated in V. Gordon Childe's canonical 1923 publication, How Labour Governs. According to Childe, 'Hughes flung the torch of conscription, and in a moment split the Movement from top to bottom'. (4) This version was repeated during the 1930s by Labor politician and civil libertarian Maurice Blackburn: until Hughes' volte-face 'neither the Labour Movement nor its leaders were conscriptionist'. (5)

Subsequent histories restated the heroic account from a Marxist perspective. For Russel Ward: '[g]enerally speaking the rich and respectable supported conscription while the poor opposed it'. Historiographical objections were few and far between. Humphrey McQueen's A New Britannia hinted at the non-inevitability of labour opposition but the point was lost amidst his polemical attack upon 'right wing Labor'. Echoing many older accounts, Stuart Macintyre argued that the war 'augmented' Hughes' 'nationalist orientation' at the 'expense of any vestigial concern for the class from which he sprung'. (6)

From the 1990s onwards, the heroic interpretation was somewhat qualified. Terry Irving argued that conscription was 'the lightning rod' that attracted Laborites disappointed with the performance of Labor governments since 1910. Irving exaggerates pre-war internal unrest, but he rightly emphasises the longer-term gestation of the organisational conflict between the political and industrial wings of the labour movement. From a more conservative perspective, John Hirst argued that wartime Labor was hijacked by a class conscious industrial wing, who distorted Hughes' intentions for their own purposes. Yet, as Hirst suggests, these so-called radicals hailed from the Australian Workers Union; by 1916 hardly some militantly left-wing organisation. (7)

What is missing in both orthodox and revisionist accounts is a sense that the form of conscription Hughes proposed was a significant factor determining opposition. In December 1915, 'VIG', a scribe for the Victorian Australian Labor Party (ALP) newspaper, Labor Call, outlined his objection: 'In all the conscription talk, that of wealth is religiously barred. If we have conscription of men it is also imperative to compel the rich to pay for it ... One would think those who howl so loudly for conscription would willingly donate large sums to the nation.' (8) For contemporaries this was a most important distinction: any further call on the nation's manpower during the war had to be met with an equal if not greater demand upon Australia's wealth.

This article argues that labour movement opposition to conscription during World War I was not some fait accomplit. Hughes' divisive leadership style and disdain for majority party opinion were certainly contributing factors. But Labor did not simply divide over Hughes' conscription proposal. Rather, the party split owed to a more complex series of disputes. The first, as Irving noted, was an older and more elemental struggle: who controlled policy and its implementation? Was it the Labor parliamentarians or the rank-and-file membership and unionists who sent them into parliament in the first place? Were Labor MPs merely servants of the party and wider movement? Bound up within that organisational conflict was a second, more ideological dispute. Was Labor to govern on behalf of 'all the people' or primarily for its working-class base? And to what extent did the party need to put its reformist agenda on the backburner during a time of national crisis?

Those questions morphed into a heated question of wartime loyalty: did Labor MPs owe greater fidelity to King and country or the collective will of the labour movement? Was Labor really prepared to honour Fisher's promise of the 'last man and last shilling'? And which came first: men or shillings? Drawing upon contemporary labour movement writings, union and ALP conference proceedings and, in particular, the views of the Victorian Laborite Frank Anstey, this article suggests that the wartime labour movement was not in theory opposed to conscription. Rather the movement objected to a form of conscription which applied to human life but excluded the nation's wealth. This, in turn, raises questions about the inevitability of the Labor split which followed the first referendum.

'Australia Safe': The 1914 'Khaki' Election

No consideration of labour movement attitudes towards conscription is possible without examining the 1914 federal election. Seeking to explain Labor's victory, historians typically reach for the Scottish-born Fisher's emotive pledge of loyalty: 'Australians will stand beside our own to help defend her to our last man and our last shilling.' (9) This phrase was repeated countless times during the campaign and has struck historians as confirmation of Labor's 'capitulation' to jingoism. Yet Fisher used the same phrase in a speech to the Working Man's United Empire League during his 1911 tour of Britain. (10) Moreover, this was no feeble submission to imperial dictate. In a later interview with the Argus, Fisher qualified his pledge, describing how 'his idea of patriotism was to first provide for our own defence, and then, if there was anything to spare, offer it as a tribute to the mother country'. To be sure, Fisher was already in two minds upon the subject of the war, writing to his wife Margaret during the election he noted, 'Should the war prevent [electoral] success we may not miss much [reform]'. (11)

Fisher's declaration of loyalty to Britain was hardly unique amongst Laborites. '[W]hen Britain is at war, Australia is at war. The community can rest assured that the Labor Party will put Australia and the Empire before party', NSW Senate candidate and later anti-conscriptionist Albert Gardiner announced to cheers at an election gathering. '[I]f 50,000 men were required to finish the war in twelve months it would be the Labour policy to send 100,000 to effect a lasting peace.' (12)

In a canny tactical manoeuvre, Hughes attempted to call an electoral 'truce' -- explaining to Fisher that Cook would 'perish' if he did not agree. When Cook declined his offer, Hughes (despite Fisher's similar refusal) issued an updated election manifesto. Cook had 'deliberately refused every suggestion put forward for a political truce'. His party was the second-rate party of Australian defence and, unlike Fisher's second government of 1910-13, failed to ready the nation for war, having 'denounced every one of [Labor's] measures without which to-day Australia would be an object of disdain to the outside world, a burden to the Mother Country, and a humiliation to herself'. (13)

As these statements evince, Labor vigorously pointed the electorate towards its governing record on matters of national defence, in particular Fisher Labor's creation of the Royal Australian Navy in 1911 and its long-term advocacy of compulsory military training. Labor's election manifesto was explicitly titled 'Australia Safe'. In it Fisher personally assured electors, 'The record of the Labor party is the best claim to its fitness to govern during this great crisis'. Labor propaganda overtly emphasised Fisher's trustworthiness. Fellow Queensland MP W.F. Finlayson thought Australia needed 'cool heads' and 'nothing savouring of jingoism': 'Even his bitterest opponents admitted Andrew Fisher's big Australian outlook and his dignified conception of Imperial responsibilities.' (14)

Beyond the electioneering bravado, Fisher's government had spent nearly a third of the budget on defence; the fourth highest per capita in the world. (15) 'The Fisher government proved in its three years of office that it was a national party, bent on developing Australia for the Australians', insisted Labor Call's W. Wallis, soon a caustic critic. 'It would appear as if the Labor Party had foreseen the European eruption, so well did they make preparations in case of invasion. Had the electors kept that party in power, security to-day would have been doubly secure.' (16)

Labor's defence credentials formed just one part of its electioneering weaponry. Given expected cost of living increases and potential wartime profiteering by elements of big business, European and domestic 'war fronts' were consciously conflated. Hughes emphasised the need for price controls and job security. In doing so, he contrasted the wartime dangers of 'the man who has a snug bank balance' with the 'families where the weekly wage is all that stands between them and the beginnings of privation'. (17) For Hughes, patriotism concerned itself not only with defence matters but with an effective management of the wartime economy, a collectively minded task to which Labor was allegedly well suited.

By contrast, Hughes thought the motives of big business, and its political allies, questionable to say the least: 'Trade and Commerce, as conducted by private enterprises, do not recognise what true patriotism really means ... it may become necessary to interfere with the ordinary channels of business in order to secure proper and right conditions for the people generally ... the Fusion [Liberals] party will go to any lengths to avoid displeasing its wealthy and influential supporters.' (18) The Australian Worker's Henry Boote made this case in more evocative terms:
   We can render a good account of ourselves on the fields of blood.
   But here, in our own land, we are powerless to defend our homes
   against an enemy as arrogant as the Prussian military caste, and as
   utterly dead to all sense of human rights as any barbarian
   conqueror haughtily spurning a subjugated country under the Heel.


In his policy speech, Fisher alleged that Cook would attack wages, allow prices to run out of control, and potentially dismantle pensions and maternity allowances in a time of likely economic stress. As an alternative, Fisher promised a nation-building program to protect the domestic economy: to produce 'great national works ... on a scale [never] hitherto undertaken'. (20) (With the rural vote especially in mind, Fisher proposed an extensive system of government or co-operative marketing agencies and credit institutions for primary producers). Labor's inventive linkage of 'fronts' would buttress its victory but eventually prove its political undoing.

The broader labour movement's attitude to the war was rather more complex. The labour press oscillated between denouncing the war as a product of capitalist trade rivalries and European imperialism, all the while hoping for a British victory. Western Australian Senator George Pearce, the former defence minister, was at pains to support the empire, but even so declared that 'one of the causes of trouble ... was the element of private profit, which ... played a big part in foreign diplomacy'. (21) Few Laborites were prepared to directly accuse Britain of such motivations.

At least at this moment Laborite loyalty to Empire, nation and class were woven into elaborate justification of Australian involvement. The Brisbane Worker wholeheartedly supported the official Labor line. 'Had this seemingly near European Armageddon been postponed for a few years', declared an editorial penned by movement veteran Charles Seymour, 'Labor would have been so firmly placed in power that the proposed slaughter would never have taken place'. Nonetheless, 'any attempt to evade [our] responsibilities under present conditions would not only be courting eventual disaster as a people, but would be altogether unworthy of us'. There was, however, an important caveat to Seymour's argument: 'No man can be compelled to leave his own shores to fight. This fact stands out too plain to be overlooked.' (22)

Opposition to militarism was most pronounced in Victoria, reflecting the influence of the Victorian Socialist Party and state Labor's electoral marginalisation (discussed below). It was Melbourne, location of the Federal Parliament, which became the organisational centre of the anti-conscription movement. Wallis typified the Victorian view in August 1914, walking a fine line when he alleged, 'Labor, if in power, would say we will assist England if in danger of being demolished, but does it not seem ridiculous for a nation to be dragged into war in which it has no interest?' (23)

Britain's diplomatic sensibilities in regards to Japan also raised suspicions. At the beginning of the war Japan was neutral but later joined with the allies, and on instructions from the British seized several ex-German colonies and general control of the Pacific. Wallis intimated that the nation had more important battles to wage, as he invoked the threat to White Australia: 'Had Labor been in power from the start, Australia would have now been able to protect herself instead of having to look to the Jap, who, perhaps, is an enemy in disguise.' (24)

Others believed the war to be a deliberate capitalist ploy to restrain the worldwide socialist movement by pitting working-class populations against each other. As Victorian federal Labor MP Frank Anstey exclaimed: 'It is unthinkable to believe that because an archduke and his missus were slain by a fanatic, the whole of Europe should become a seething battlefield and deplorable misery brought on the people'. (25) During the election such views were generally avoided. Labor's manifesto typified the views of the mainstream labour movement,
   We deplore war! ... [But] our interests and our very existence are
   bound up with those of Empire. In time of war half measures are
   worse than none. If returned with a majority, we shall pursue with
   the utmost rigour every course necessary for the defence of the
   Commonwealth and Empire. (26)

At this point I shall be more precise regarding Labor's electoral strategy and, to be sure, its ideological premise. As part of what I term the 'wartime bargain', Labor would encourage the contribution of the nation's workers to the war effort, but special legislative protection from expected rising costs of living and potential profiteering by big business had to be provided to them and their dependants. Equally, the labour movement's implicit expectation was that such sacrifice would be matched by the nation's financial resources. If profits could be made during war, then working-class demands for economic justice must also continue. As Hughes suggested towards the campaign's end, 'The wage-earners are prepared and willing to make their full share of sacrifices, and are doing so now, but they cannot be expected to bear their own share and that of the balance of the community as well'. (27)

'No more notable triumph has ever been achieved by Labor throughout the world', boasted the Westralian Worker. 'When Australia is passing through her most strenuous time, when the very wisest and most level-headed men are required at the helm ... the public have decided that the Labor Government are the right men.' (28) Following a crushing election victory, Fisher's party held 42 seats to 32 (with one independent member) in the House of Representatives and a dominant 31 seats to five in the Senate. As before, Fisher was Prime Minister and Treasurer, Pearce Minister for Defence and Hughes Attorney-General.

Australians perhaps decided that life would be safer with an interventionist Labor government. Revealingly, four of Labor's five lower house gains (three in NSW and two in Victoria) were rural seats. (29) Ultimately voters appeared to judge that Labor was the party best suited to acting in the national interest; this was certainly no victory for some militant working-class or even socialist agenda. Nonetheless, Labor celebrated with even more gusto than its 1910 win. 'The Fusion [Liberals] worked the war for all it was worth, and it worked in vain', crowed Anstey. 'The victory of 1910 was not such a victory as this.' (30) But was this a victory Labor really desired?

Like most of the world, Laborites believed the war would be over quickly and, somewhat perversely, further incline Australian democracy towards socialism. Hughes thought Labor could 'turn this calamity into an opportunity for the great advantage of the nation'. Even Anstey saw the potential for progress: '[the war] will assuredly end in revolution and the dethronement of monarchs. If the workers of the world federated, like those of this hemisphere, and said we will not fight, then war and swashbuckling is at an end.' (31)

Common to these readings was the belief that war was conducive to Labor's collectivist ethos and, moreover, might expose the exploitative nature of capitalism. But not all thought war compatible with Labor politics, as Boote warned: 'If War is inherent in the make-up of men, then it is good-bye to the Labor Movement.' Boote, more than most, recognised the perils awaiting Labor:
   We must protect our country. We must keep sacred from the mailed
   fist this splendid heritage. For that our Army of Defence was
   formed, and our Navy built. But we hope no wave of jingo madness
   would sweep over the land, unbalancing the judgment of its leaders
   and inciting its population to wild measures, spurred on by the
   vile press, to which war is only an increase in circulation, and
   every corpse a copper. (32)

'Capitalistic Vampires have Arisen in Our Midst': The Poisoned Chalice of Wartime Government

In early 1914, Labor was governing two of the six Australian states, New South Wales (NSW) and Western Australia (WA). Within months it was in power federally and narrowly re-elected in WA. By mid-1915 Labor governed in another two states, triumphing in South Australia and, for the first time in its own right in Queensland, courtesy of strong campaign by its leader, T.J. Ryan, around cost of living pressures. At this point, Victoria was the sole exception to the rule of Labor governments. Wartime office, however, would prove a poisoned chalice for the only social democratic or working-class party charged with that daunting responsibility. Indeed, Labor was then the only party of its type to have ever governed anywhere in the world. The rapidity of its progress also meant that important considerations, such as the extent to which a working-class party needed to subjugate policy aims to the national (and Empire) interest, had been left unresolved, despite the bellicose rhetoric of the election. And the Great War's horrific human cost--when the conflict concluded in late 1918 some 15 million people had been killed and many more wounded--would especially torment Labor's soul.

Australians responded enthusiastically to the Empire's call to arms, providing more assistance per capita than any dominion country except New Zealand. Some 20,000 men enlisted for service with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during the war's first week, and 50,000 by year's end. Forty-three percent were unionists well above the proportion of adult males. (33) Voluntary enlistments remained strong throughout 1915, buttressed by mounting unemployment as Australia's export-dependent economy felt the effects of a collapse of international trade. Industrial strife was also relatively quiet over the first 18 months of the war's duration.

As the war exceeded its expected Christmas conclusion, and despite rising unemployment and inflation, Labor saw itself as prosecuting a relatively successful war effort. However slow and indecisive, Fisher Labor was intent on prosecuting the war and pursuing domestic palliatives. Legislative measures included raising the land tax for both crown leases as well as freehold, introducing the first Commonwealth income tax and a federal inheritance tax and, critically, the (re)introduction of a referendum to widen commonwealth powers with a view towards controlling prices. (34)

But after initial gains made by the German-led Central Powers the war became a stalemate. News began to filter back regarding the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, where 7,500 Australians perished. During 1915 wages were effectively frozen at pre1914 levels. Between mid-1914 and mid-1915 staple food prices escalated: the price of meat doubled; flour rose by 87 percent, butter 63 percent, bread and sugar by some 50 percent; compounding the effects of a drought in South Eastern Australia and general trade disruption. (35)

It was in this context that the split developed. Tensions between the political and industrial wings of the labour movement, largely concerning the powers of Labor parliamentarians, had threatened to explode on several occasions before the war. (36) The war magnified the older dilemma at play. Did the parliamentary Labor party owe greater fidelity to the nation or to the party organisation (ipso facto representing the organised working class)? And how much flexibility ought to be allowed in managing this balancing act?

On the party's Right, Hughes was under no illusions. A German victory, he believed, would destroy all of the labour movement's achievements, not to mention the threat posed by an expansionist Japan no longer constrained by a British presence in the Pacific. In addition to legislating the draconian War Precautions Act during 1914, which gave the government wide-ranging censorship powers and the ability to restrict civil liberties, Hughes increasingly urged that Labor's reformist policies be put on the backburner for the duration of the war. As he later claimed, 'Liberty and everything that make life worth living are in peril'. Labor had to 'do whatever is necessary to be done to save Australia. A doctrine of hesitation now would be fatal'. In the states, too, Labor premiers William Holman (NSW) and John Earle (Tasmania) adopted a similar strategy; Earle declared that his responsibility was to govern the 'whole' state and not a 'faction'. (37)

Much of the union movement and the party's Left insisted that Labor's implementation of its legislative program was non-negotiable. Here the Victorian-based Left was crucial influence. Led by figures such as Anstey, Labor had moved substantially to the left of the political spectrum during the 1900s. Its largely urban, more classically proletarian electoral base, together with VSP influences perpetuated a form of anti-parliamentarianism which (reinforced by electoral failure) lasted well into the twentieth century. In March 1915, for instance, Labor Call's Wallis angrily demanded that federal Labor wage a renewed 'War on the Fat Man' to make Australia the 'greatest socialistic country in the whole world'. In any case, many Left Laborites were highly sceptical as regards the war's causes and became more alarmed by its conduct. The chief spokesman of this tendency was Anstey, who, despite his criticism of the capitalist war, initially supported Australia's involvement, telling parliament '[it is] our duty to furnish all the aid we can, whether in arms or men'. (38)

As the conflict dragged on, Anstey used his regular column in Labor Call to increasingly attack the war and castigate his own government's actions. Anstey alleged that a powerful cabal of international financiers was conspiring against the people; whatever the war's outcome, ultimate victory would go to the 'Money Power'. These predators, according to Anstey, were making great profits from the conflict while workers died fighting, and their families and those workers left behind faced deteriorating living standards: 'Men come back armless, legless, maimed and shattered; Money comes back fatter than it went.' (39)

Worst of all, Fisher Labor was powerless or unwilling to stop the wartime profiteering. Speaking in parliament Anstey rebuked the government's April 1915 'gift' of 100,000 [pounds sterling] to the King of Belgium to fund the war effort against Germany. (40) Contrary to his earlier belief that humanity might benefit from the war, in mid-1915 Anstey claimed that the 'money-worshipper, the Jew, the exploiter, and rigger are all seen at their worst', alleging a capitalist conspiracy:
   Anyone but the veriest idiot must see through Fat's game. By urging
   workers to enlist he is weakening Labor's ranks all the time.
   fiberalism is a back number in Australia, so capital urges the
   workers to go and fight his battle on foreign land ... Capitalistic
   vampires have arisen in our midst, and are devouring us
   wholesale--and we have a national Labor government in power, too.

Denouncing as 'absolute bosh' claims that Fisher's government had no power to prevent wartime exploitation, Anstey effectively resigned from the federal party in June, telling parliament that he owed 'no allegiance to the government'. 'I am here to uphold the principles of the Labour Movement and not to support any particular government which does not uphold those principles.' (42)

Anstey's critique emboldened other Laborites angered by the war's prosecution. Eleven days after Anstey's 'resignation', federal caucus passed a motion requiring all legislation be submitted for approval prior to its introduction, a none-too-subtle rebuke of senior ministers Fisher, Hughes and Pearce. The May 1915 federal Labor conference witnessed a Victorian-sponsored motion (eventually withdrawn) sharply criticising Fisher's failure to enforce the policy of preference for unionists. (43)

At this juncture, no Laborite seriously advocated against continuing Australian military involvement. The aforementioned conference carried a unanimous motion that conveyed the following pro-Empire aspiration: 'during the coming year [the King's] reign will be crowned by victory for the British and Allied armies in the great war of freedom and the realization of an enduring peace'. (44) It was clear however that the genie of internal dissent could not be put back in the bottle. A defeated Victorian Labor candidate, JK McDougall, writing in Labor Call, lashed out:
   Because the Fisher Government is called a Labor Government, it must
   not be assumed that it exercises its energies exclusively on
   working-class interests, and does not concern itself about
   establishing on satisfactory lines the affairs of the Fatman. There
   is nothing in the recent record of the Fisher Government that would
   make Joe Cook or Iceberg Irvine blush ... Andrew of the battling
   days has become a political lotus eater, with whom it is always
   afternoon. (45)

An omen of the later split, the tensions between the party's class-based organisation and the more nationally orientated leadership were now on full public display. By contrast, the anti-Laborites were solidly locked in behind the leadership of Cook and his uncompromising pro-Empire, win-the-war position. Outside of parliament, in September 1915, the Universal Service League was established, a body boasting several leading Laborites including the party's first Prime Minister, Chris Watson, and campaigned vociferously for the introduction of conscription.

Partially in response to bitter personal attacks, Fisher resigned as Prime Minister on 27 October 1915, taking up the London High Commissionership. In truth Fisher was ill-equipped for the rancour of war. He was at his best playing the consensual broker of Labor's competing interests, and this was an increasingly impossible task. Fisher tried to recuperate from a nervous breakdown in New Zealand earlier in the year but to no avail.

A few days later, federal caucus unanimously elected Billy Hughes as Fisher's replacement. Many hoped that his strong leadership might salvage the drifting party. Boote's Australian Worker praised the new Prime Minister: 'There is no side about him, and throughout Australia he is known as "Billy" Hughes. Unquestionably he is a great man, with great services still to perform for Australia.' (46)

Hughes' elevation to the top job entailed significant risk. As he remarked to caucus, 'They all knew him to be a man of strong opinions and he felt sure they would prefer him to express those views'. (47) Ominously, one of Hughes' first prime ministerial acts was to issue a highly controversial, mandatory questionnaire that every un-enlisted man between 18 and 44 had to fill in.

Internal dissent and leadership ructions were not limited to the federal arena. In NSW, Labor premier Holman was urging a similar win-the-war policy to Hughes and adopting a cavalier approach to implementing the party's platform. Apart from residual anger over his role in the defeat of the 1913 commonwealth powers referenda, Holman enraged the wider movement by dropping key pillars of the NSW State Labor program in August 1914 (such as his failure to attempt the abolition of the Upper House), as well as declaring that pay increases would not be considered by wages boards and that by-elections would not be contested but filled by a nominee of the existing party.

Holman's actions prompted frustrated unionists, notably the powerful Australian Workers Union (AWU), to organise an Industrial Unions Committee (the 'Industrialists') during late 1915. Their aim was to use a block of votes at conference to force Holman to concede their demands. Having succeeded in capturing the numbers at the April 1916 gathering, a censure motion on the government sparked the mass resignation of Holman's cabinet. Disaster was only averted when a compromise deal was worked out whereby Holman continued in office but under strict Industrialist control. It was an agreement which merely papered over party divisions.

What happened next effectively split the ALP. However, it was not conscription that proved Labor's undoing. In 1911 and 1913, Labor-initiated referendums to widen commonwealth powers over monopolies and industrial relations were narrowly defeated. In response, at the May 1915 federal Labor conference, Hughes devised a new referendum to be submitted the year afterwards with the specific aim of controlling prices. NSW delegate Arthur Rae summed up the majority view in favour of submitting 'at the earliest opportunity'. 'The [increased] cost of living had awakened the people to what was necessary . If there was no record of work done the people would consider the Government had failed.' (48)

Hughes successfully introduced the enabling bills into parliament, despite conservative opposition. And in both word and deed, Hughes indicated that he would pursue the referendum, now seemingly the key to securing Labor's wartime bargain. As Hughes argued in a pro-referenda pamphlet entitled 'The Case For and Against':
   We are at war, but the Capitalist insists upon his profits, the
   moneylender upon his interest, [and] the landlord upon his rent ...
   Who suffers? Who pays? Always the people pay! And those who are
   exploiting them, who live luxuriously, who draw fat dividends, say:
   'Do nothing to help yourselves while the war last[s]'. They are all
   right. But what about the great mass of the people? (49)

The labour press unanimously supported his campaign. The Worker glowingly described Hughes as 'the most brilliant member of the Federal Labor Party', whose 'heart [was] in the Movement'. Even Labor Call basked in 'the fury of the bandits, who feel that their campaign of robbery is about to be thwarted and brought to an end'. (50)

Within a week of becoming prime minister, Hughes dropped the planned referendum. Instead he secured a deal for the states to refer their powers to the Commonwealth for the war's duration. Under intense pressure from conservative interests, and Labor premiers Holman and Ryan, Hughes believed that the referendum was bound to fail without bipartisan political support and, ironically, would only prove divisive. (In any case, none of the States transferred the powers, stymied by the generally anti-Labor state upper houses.) And what was the point, Hughes would later argue, of achieving constitutional change when a German victory would render such gains null and void.

Many Laborites felt otherwise: Hughes had no right to unilaterally determine policy, which was decided collectively at the party's supreme decision-making body, a triennial federal conference. To the previously supportive labour press, Hughes' actions seemed extraordinary, unthinkable under Fisher who thought 'nothing short of an earthquake' (51) would stop the referenda. Anstey thought it 'one great fraud, a gigantic sham ... the politicians have reached the limit of their democratic performances'. Labor Call renounced any allegiance to an 'imperial sycophant'; Hughes belonged with the 'political snobs and Tories'. (52)

The paper was now all but convinced that a split within Labor's ranks was inevitable. 'It is the calm before the storm. The turning down of the referendum, after all the protestations of Hughes, can never be overlooked', lamented a 2 December editorial. '[A] man who deliberately breaks his pledge is a traitor to the cause he represents, and can never again be trusted by the people.' Even Boote, who had defended the Fisher government against the criticism of Anstey and co, finally lost patience: 'the limits of working class endurance have been reached'. (53) Thus the conscription split was as much the occasion as the cause of the Labor schism.

At this juncture, a formalised split very nearly eventuated. During January 1916 the recently constituted federal executive publicly censured Hughes over his postponement of the prices referendum (it lacked the power to expel Hughes from his state branch of NSW), only reversing its decision when he threatened to resign from the ALP and the prime ministership. (54) Brazenly, Hughes immediately left Australia for London upon the invitation of the British Imperial War Cabinet, on departure lashing his opponents in the labour movement as 'foul parasites'. (55)

Hughes did little to assuage their fears while in Britain. As well as visiting troops on the Western Front, arranging vitally needed sales of wheat, wool and other products to Britain, and making a purchase of merchant ships to transport those exports, Hughes went on a well-publicised speaking tour, during which he forcefully demanded a renewed war effort under the rubric of 'Wake up England!', and all but advocated conscription. (56) For many Laborites the remaining wartime script had been penned: having betrayed his party over the prices referendum, Hughes was prepared to foist the greatest of all conspiracies on Australia. Yet the question remains: was conscription inherently anti-Labor?

'This Party has No Argument Against Conscription': Labour Movement Attitudes towards Conscription Prior to September 1916

On 31 July 1916, Hughes returned to a polarised Australia. He was greeted by the Australian Worker's front-cover salutation, 'Welcome Home to the Cause of Anti-Conscription', quoting his previous opposition to conscription. (57) In Hughes' absence, anti-conscription leagues had sprung up and, instructively, by June the largest state Labor conferences declared against conscription. At its April 1916 State Conference NSW Labor decided to oppose conscription mandating that any pro-conscription MP would be stripped of their electoral endorsement. By July, Queensland and Victoria Labor followed suit. (Revealingly, the Queenslanders rejected a proposal to declare that advocacy of conscription was opposed to the principles of the labour movement). (58)

Additionally, the AWU's January 1916 Annual Federal Convention declared itself 'absolutely opposed' to conscription, (59) as did a specially-convened national union congress held in Melbourne. The South Australian and Tasmanian parties waited until the October campaign to follow suit. Westralian Labor ultimately refused to commit itself to opposing conscription, adopting a compromise position that allowed its state and federal politicians a free hand. (60) On the other side of the equation, proconscriptionists --a powerful combination of Liberals, the Universal Service League, Australian Natives Association, Australian National Defence League, Chambers of Commerce, Protestant churches, most of the press, some unionists and the Universal Service League--also mobilised their supporters.

At this juncture, pro-conscriptionism did not contravene federal Labor's platform. As anti-conscription MP David Watkins remarked to an interstate conference convened to expel Labor's apostates during December 1916, 'personally he was an absolute anti-conscriptionist, but he had never seen it demonstrated that to advocate conscription was against the platform'. When future Labor leader Jim Scullin moved the relevant motion he acknowledged that '[w]hether the exact words are on the Platform or not is merely a quibble' for the expelled had adopted a position 'opposed to the principles embodied in the Australian Labour Party's platform' and the 'spirit of the Labour Movement'. (61)

Even that was a dubious claim given prior federal policy. Following the 1902 federal conference, Labor's platform explicitly advocated a citizen army. Under J.C. Watson's leadership, Labor supported Edmund Barton's 1903 Defence Act which granted the federal government powers to conscript men of military age for home defence. Fisher Labor likewise backed Alfred Deakin's scheme of universal compulsory military training for men and compulsory drill for youths, a policy practically implemented by Fisher's second administration. With Labor's fervent support, Australia, along with New Zealand, was the only English-speaking nation that compelled men to train for war during peacetime. (62)

A month after his return, Hughes announced that a referendum would take place in October for the purpose of introducing conscription for overseas service. During a marathon 20-hour meeting he narrowly convinced federal caucus to put the divisive issue directly to the people. On the one hand, Hughes had rejected both the majority opinion and democratic norms of his party; on the other, his plan was, rather ironically, consistent with Labor's long-held commitment to the democratic instrument of the referendum.

Why did Hughes choose this course of action? Hughes' conversion was a matter of his head following heart. The London-born 'Little Digger' was both an imperial patriot and Australian nationalist, and those passions were only strengthened by a visit: 28,000 Australians perished during the Battle of the Somme, including a former caucus colleague. The actions of other Triple Entente supporters also influenced his decision; the British government's unreferenced decision to introduce conscription for single men in January 1916 (and married men during May) and New Zealand's introduction of a form of conscription in June 1916. Hughes also realised that amending the relevant Defence Act via the parliamentary path would likely fail. Whilst many of his Ministry and Labor Premiers Holman and Crawford Vaughan (SA) backed conscription, its path was blocked by the Labor-dominated, anti-conscriptionist Senate.

Yet Hughes was convinced that internal opposition to his plan would dissipate in the face of a well-organised national campaign. He even attempted to persuade the Victorian and NSW executives to reverse their stances. However, NSW Labor quickly expelled him from its ranks, and withdrew its endorsement for his West Sydney seat, along with Holman.

Hughes' enemies alleged that he had been 'duchessed' in Britain and was prepared to contravene a sacred Labor shibboleth. One Queensland Labor publication suggested: 'At the instigation of an erstwhile leader of democracy, drunk with the lust of power and flattered to insanity by the patronage of the historic enemies of the common people, Australia stands threatened with that greatest of all industrial and social curses--Conscription'. (63)

Rather than being the party's natural ideological response, Labor anticonscriptionism arose from a range of impulses: a nationalist suspicion of empire and entanglement in 'old world' troubles; a conviction that Australia was already doing enough; disappointment with wartime ALP governments; civil libertarian opposition to compulsion (especially for overseas service); and antagonism to the fact that while workers were expected to risk their lives, there was no similar sacrifice expected of capital. The latter argument was the crucial determining factor behind Labor's eventual position. Before the campaign proper the most persistent 'anti' argument held that conscription, if not applied to wealth, was both practically and morally wrong. 'The individual is asked to give his life to save his country', noted the Australian Worker in mid-1916, 'but the shipowner must not give his ships, nor the money-hog his ill-gotten gold'. (64) This objection to a perceived (and probably real) unequal wartime sacrifice, was ultimately based upon the logic of Fisher's campaign motto, and subsequent absence of the 'last shilling' in Hughes' proposal.

It was upon this assumption, that no Labor government could introduce conscription of life without a concomitant call upon the nation's wealth, that most Laborites entered the conscription debates. Fisher, for one, hinted at this option when Prime Minister. Announcing the holding of a national wartime census in July 1915, he argued that any form of wartime compulsion of citizens would necessarily extend to wealth: '[I]f we were to mobilize at all we should include the wealth of all our citizens.' (65)

So what if Hughes had proposed to conscript the men and the shillings? Might the labour movement have supported such a quid pro quo arrangement and averted the devastating Labor split that followed? Because of his divisive style, labour movement support for a model of dual conscription was never likely with Hughes as leader. This is not to argue that imposing a form of conscription via, for instance, taxation on wealth under the auspices of the War Precautions Act would not have been difficult. Certainly, opposition from conservative politicians, state parliaments (who then possessed financial independence from the federal government) and big business would have been vociferous. The question of how important the issue of overseas military service also complicates 'what if' scenarios.

Nonetheless, under Fisher conscription's implementation may have been possible, at least earlier in the piece, and combined with the pursuance of the prices referendum. Certainly Labor militants of Anstey's ilk would have been delighted. In a speech to Parliament in May 1916, he left open the possibility of supporting dual conscription:
   This party has no argument against conscription. It cannot have
   any. It was the first party to make it a party battle-cry to have
   conscription of men for the country ... once we admit the fact and
   accept the principle of conscription, it is a matter of
   indifference where the men shall be called to fight ... If it be
   true that the nation is fighting for its life, and we should
   organize all the resources and energies of the country for its
   defence, why stop short at the conscription of men? (66)

Yet Anstey later became one of the leading 'No' case campaigners. Unsurprisingly his speech was quoted by several 'Yes' case pamphlets. When the Referendum Bill was first presented to Parliament, Anstey reiterated his attitude: 'I have no objection to conscription, to compulsion. I have no objection to force; I never had, either in the work of unionism or in the work of the nation.' (67)

Anstey was later asked to explain his position to the Victorian PLC executive. He initially gave no answer before seemingly acquiescing and providing an unequivocal rejection of any 'compromise' form of conscription. Post-referendum the same executive unsuccessfully moved to censure him, whereby Anstey defended his position as 'socialist'. (68) Perhaps Anstey sensed the future possibilities of compelling wealth for the socialist project in Australia. In any case, Anstey's arguments, coming as they did from one of Labor's most prominent internal critics, is clear evidence that anti-conscriptionism was no fait accompli before August 1916.

Queensland Labor Premier T.J. Ryan was also inclined towards dual conscription. In England, Ryan was privy to the same evidence that convinced Hughes conscription was necessary. It was only after Hughes confirmed there would be no conscription of wealth that Ryan broke his previously equivocal stand. In part, as D.J. Murphy notes, this owed to his understanding of the organisational dimensions of the conflict.69

The anti-conscription motions of the union movement and various state Labor conferences bear out this more complex interpretation. One of the earliest gatherings to explicitly deal with the question of conscription, a meeting of the NSW Labor Council in September 1915, notably resolved that conscription of life must be accompanied by that of wealth. (70) Five separate motions for dual conscription or a variation thereof were presented to the council in early 1916. Whilst none were successful, in the words of one supporter, the immediate conscription of wealth at home 'would go far towards removing opposition to compulsory service of men'. (71) When the powerful Queensland AWU publicly declared against conscription in January 1916, it was notable that the relevant motion defined its opposition to 'that form of conscription which does not include the conscription of wealth'. (72)

The most famous anti-conscription gathering held before Hughes' announcement was the May 1916 All-Australian Trade Unionism and Conscription Congress (AATUCC) staged in Melbourne. Claiming to speak for 280,000 unionists, its official manifesto announced its 'uncompromising hostility to Conscription of life and labour'. In fact the manifesto qualified its rejection of conscription. 'The principle of conscription is one thing--its practice is quite another. In principle it is an instrument of national defence; in practice it is made an instrument of working class subjugation.' In other words, conscription was not an inherently anti-working class, un-Labor stance. When the motion was first put forward, South Australian delegate T.P. Howard moved an unsuccessful amendment backing twin conscription provided that the powers that be could show that 'there is no other way out'; and, in that case, two further criteria be fulfilled, firstly that 'the wealth of the nation shall first be the subject of Conscription', and secondly, a referendum of unionists be taken to 'confirm the consent'. (73)

Even in Victoria, the ideological heart of the 'No' case, the April 1916 Victorian Labor conference saw a motion moved by the AWU's J. Kean against the 'conscription of men unless all wealth is first considered'. The motion was quickly amended to remove references to wealth, yet the unanimous objection to conscription tended to make the 'equality of sacrifice' argument rather than that of individual liberty. (74)

As noted earlier, South Australian opinion was uncertain well into the campaign proper; only in October was a full-blown anti-conscription position threatening the endorsement of Labor MPs made official. Previously, on 7 April 1916, the United Labor Party decided to support a model of dual conscription as per the unsuccessful AATUCC motion cited above. (75)

Western Australian Laborites initially decided to support conscription if the Hughes Labor government thought it 'necessary'. (76) Later, in mid-1916, WA Labor's state conference called upon the government to 'conscript the wealth of Australia in the interests of the people, and the defence of the empire'. The motion was referred to an agenda committee where a more specific resolution approved by Labor Premier John Scaddan was unanimously agreed to, calling for the conscription of 'all wealth in the Commonwealth for war purposes, and pledges itself to oppose any attempt at the conscription of men until this was done'. (77) When the conscription debate formally ensued, the regional Labor councils were split and the Westralian Worker threw open its pages to both sides.

Matters were similarly complicated in Tasmania. The July 1916 Annual Conference of the Tasmanian Workers Political League witnessed an unsuccessful resolution for dual conscription 'to fully utilise the services of every citizen and the resources of the Commonwealth until the conclusion of the war'. 'They should support their boys, contended a speaker for the motion, to "the last man and last shilling", as Mr Fisher had promised.' (78) The state's leading labour newspaper, Hobart's Daily Post, was initially equivocal, arguing that conscription of life would have to accompany wealth. (79)

Revealingly, across the various ALP and union fronts of the debate, there was almost no distinction made between domestic and overseas aspects of compulsory military service. The debate at this point centred upon equality of sacrifice. Indeed, that the most powerful unionist and Labor office-bearer in the country during this period, the Victorian E.J. 'Jack' Holloway, had to issue a circular to all interstate Labor bodies ruling out a 'compromise on the question of wealth' (80) seems to indicate that such a deal was on the mind of many Laborites.

The writings of the eastern seaboard labour press during 1916 confirm this current of Labor thought. The Brisbane Worker featured many editorials and opinion pieces calling for conscription of wealth or dual conscription, or both, justifying such calls in the name of Laborism and socialism. 'True conscription', noted Worker scribe 'Australian', 'that is conscription of wealth, as well as life, is honest, is just and socialistic'. Regular feature writer, Norman R. Freeberg, who, like most Worker and AWU types, came to oppose conscription, summed up the feelings of many.

'Conscription is not abhorrent to Laborites and Socialists, providing it be true conscription. But conscription which takes life and ignores equally indispensable wealth is victimisation.' (81)

As late as May 1916 the chief editorial was putting a similar case. 'Conscription is bad when it is applied to the workers and fighting men only, but, if handled properly, it would be a good thing if applied to the whole resources of the Commonwealth.' (82) When Hughes finally moved the Worker was still defining its objection in terms of the gross inconsistency at play. The memorable 'Great Betrayal' quoted earlier implored federal Labor members to move an amendment to the enabling legislation 'with a view to putting the sincerity of conscriptionists to the test'. In the Worker's opinion the questions to be submitted for decision by the electors ought to read:

Are you in favour of conscription--

(a) of men;

(b) of wealth
   And based on the understanding that the question shall be declared
   in the negative unless there be a majority for both parts. (83)

This is not to deny that many Laborites were uncompromising in their rejection of conscription. The Melbourne-based organiser of the 'No' case campaign, John Curtin and the Australian Worker's Boote were particularly vocal critics. Boote dismissed the notion of conscription being a socialistic measure. 'If that were true, this paper would publicly recant its Socialism, and make a hurried bonfire of the Labor platform.' (84) Boote was, in a sense, engaging in a form of megaphone advocacy and it is important not to equate his important anti-conscription work during the 1916 campaign with the attitude of the wider movement prior to that ballot.

Published rank-and-file attitudes lend further credence to my reading. Many letters to the Australian Worker favoured some form of dual conscription. 'A Member of the AWU' maintained that 'Conscription is Unionism': '[T]here should be compulsory service as well as the handing over of all wealth until the termination of the war. The both should go hand in hand as the best means of exterminating the Huns.' 'I am a thoroughgoing state socialist', declared another unionist, G. Ryan, 'and as a logical consequence a conscriptionist'. (85)

It was only when the referendum was announced that a majority shifted to unconditional opposition, attacking Hughes' proposals as not constituting 'real' conscription. Ultimately the dual conscription case was subsumed by the narrative of Hughes' apostasy and the practical need to maintain movement solidarity. It simply was not tenable to argue for dual conscription during the heat of the referendum.

Rather, it was far easier to paint a conspiracy in which Hughes was a renegade and conscription was, in effect, an isolated event during the tumult of war. Faced with Labor's success, its enemies had allegedly used the cloak of war to wedge the working-class electorate and stage an anti-democratic coup. The Brisbane Worker told the tale in October 1916:
   Labor in Australia by its success in capturing practically the
   whole of the country is regarded by the big money institutions of
   the old countries as a very real danger ... This then is the motive
   power behind the agitation for conscription ... to defeat the aims
   of Democracy by every and any means. (86)

'Australia Remains Free!' The 1916 Referendum and its Aftermath

The formal campaign of September--October 1916 was uniform in its divisiveness. On both sides speakers were assaulted and meetings regularly interrupted, if not prevented from taking place at all. With the aid of returned soldiers, violence against 'No' case supporters was generally more pronounced. Wild accusations of unpatriotic behaviour were levelled at 'antis', especially at Irish Catholics, in view of the violent 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and the anti-conscriptionism of high-profile Catholics such as Melbourne's Archbishop Daniel Mannix (though he would really come into his own during the 1917 campaign) and the Queensland Premier, Ryan.

Hughes, despite bearing the title of Labor prime minister, alleged that his opponents were variously treacherous German sympathisers, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) revolutionaries or members of the Irish republican group, Sinn Fein. Melbourne Trades Hall was raided on the orders of Defence Minister Pearce. Curtin was sentenced to three months jail (but released after three days) when he avoided a government call-up of eligible men for military training in preparation for their despatch overseas after the expected 'Yes' vote. Despite this unprecedented polarisation, the epithets thrown by the two sides played on the same scaremongering themes and accusations of disloyalty. Both sides argued that a vote for the other would destroy White Australia.

'Australia remains free!', announced Australian Worker cartoonist Claude Marquef s striking front-cover image 'The Glorious 28th', 'Democracy' triumphantly posed with a bloodied sword over the defeated body of Prussian-style conscription. (87) Labor's heroic anti-conscription mythology was complete. Voters ultimately rejected conscription by a narrow majority with 1,087,557 votes in favour and 1,160,033 against.

Overall, conscription won a narrow victory in Victoria, but was soundly defeated in Queensland, NSW and South Australia. Only the states of Tasmania and Western Australia voted solidly in the affirmative. No case supporters were jubilant. Yet conscription ultimately failed, not because of some innate working-class opposition or even the supposed high Irish-Catholic working-class vote, but because the proposal was made to a war-wearied people. Ironically, farmers (by now hardly rusted-on Labor supporters) fearful of losing their workforces proved crucial.

With hindsight the victory of the anti-conscription Laborites was most Pyrrhic and within weeks the party split into two. Protesting that they had not contravened the official platform, on 14 November Hughes and 24 others walked out of caucus before being pushed to found the 'National Labor Party'.

The Labor renegades eventually merged with Liberals in a so-called 'Win the War' coalition, or Nationalist Party. Those who remained elected the mild-mannered Victorian Frank Tudor as their new leader. At a special December conference the remaining conscriptionists were brutally expelled from the party, terminating lifelong friendships.

At the May 1917 federal election Hughes' Nationalists won a landslide victory. During the campaign Hughes promised not to reopen the conscription issue, except in dire need. By November this arose; Hughes announced another referendum for 20 December. The referendum was lost by an even larger majority: 1,015,159 in favour; 1,181,747 against.


With hindsight the 'khaki' triumph of 1914 was to become, along with the defeat of the 1917 conscription referendum, one bookend of Labor's Great War experience, marked by two celebrated yet Pyrrhic victories. Labor proceeded to lose five federal elections in a row between 1917 and 1928. This is not to argue that Labor's fate was somehow preordained by the political gods. Rather, Labor's wartime experience was influenced by context and contingency. The same is true of the party's attitude towards military conscription, the issue which ostensibly split the party. However, as I have insisted, the schism over conscription possessed a far longer gestation period and the contours of that heated debate were far more complex than historians have allowed.

There was nothing inevitable about Laborites opposing conscription or their party dividing over the issue. My interpretation is borne out by the career of Labor's most strident anti-conscriptionist. At war's end in late 1918, as editor of the Westralian Worker, John Curtin lashed 'hypocritical' capitalists who supported the conscription of life, but were not prepared to 'LAY THEIR WORLDLY POSSESSIONS UPON THE ALTAR OF NATION'. (88)

And yet it would be Curtin whose courageous prime ministership during World War II reasserted Labor's patriotic credentials some two and half decades later. It is richly ironic that in the process Curtin was forced to introduce a limited form of conscription for overseas service against the wishes of many Laborites who bitterly remembered the struggles of 1916-17.


(1.) Ross McMullin, The Light on the Hill: The Australian Labor Party, 1891-1991, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1992, p. 92; Ian Turner, Industrial Labour and Politics: The Dynamics of the Labour Movement in Eastern Australia, 1900-1921, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney, 1979, pp. 70-71; D.W. Rawson, Labor in Vain? A Survey of the Australian Labor Party, Longmans, Croydon, 1966, p. 103.

(2.) Argus, 1 August 1914.

(3.) Manifesto of the Australian Labor Party, 1917 Federal Election, Riley and Ephemera Collection, State Library of Victoria.

(4.) Vere Gordon Childe, How Labour Governs: A Study of Workers' Representation in Australia, 2nd ed., Melbourne University Press, Parkville, [1923] 1964, pp. 48, 52.

(5.) Maurice Blackburn, The Conscription Referendum of 1916, Anti-Conscription Celebration League, Melbourne, 1936, p. 10. See also Leslie Jauncey's The Story of Conscription in Australia, G. Allen & Unwin, London, 1935.

(6.) Russel Ward, A Nation for a Continent: The History of Australia, 1901-1975, Heinemann Educational Australia, Richmond, 1977, p. 111; Humphrey McQueen, A New Britannia: An Argument Concerning the Social Origins of Australian Radicalism and Nationalism, Penguin Books, Ringwood, 1970, pp. 38-39; Stuart Macintyre, The Oxford History of Australia, Volume 4, 1901-1942: The Succeeding Age, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1986, p. 161.

(7.) Terry Irving, 'Labour, State and Nation Building in Australia', in Stefan Berger and Angel Smith (eds), Nationalism, Labour and Ethnicity 1870-1939, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2003, p. 206; John Hirst, 'Australian Defence and Conscription: A Reassessments, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 25, no. 101, October 1993, pp. 608-27; and John Hirst, 'Labor and the Great War', in Robert Manne (ed.), Australian Century: Political Struggle in the Building of a Nation, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 1999, pp. 53, 55-56. I will refer to the latter source. In a similar vein to Irving, see Rawson, Labor in Vain? p. 15.

(8.) Labor Call, 28 December 1915.

(9.) Argus, 1 August 1914. There is simply no evidence to sustain John Hirst's claim that Hughes mechanically fed this quote to Fisher; see Hirst, 'Labor and the Great War', pp. 48-49.

(10.) Edward Humphreys, Andrew Fisher: A Forgotten Mian, Sports and Editorial Services, Teesdale, 2008, p. 63.

(11.) Argus, 5 August 1914; cited in McMullin, The Light on the Hill, p. 93.

(12.) Cited in Frank Farrell, The Fractured Society: Australia during the Great War, CCH Australia, North Ryde, 1985, p. 8.

(13.) Cited in L.F. Fitzhardinghe, The Little Digger: A Political Biography of William Morris Hughes, Volume 2, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1979, p. 5; 'Manifesto of the Australian Labor Party, 1914', cited in Worker (Brisbane), 13 August 1914; Worker (Brisbane), 13 August 1914.

(14.) Worker (Brisbane), 10 September 1914; Worker (Brisbane), 13 August 1914.

(15.) Hirst, 'Labor and the Great War', p. 50.

(16.) Labor Call, 27 August 1914.

(17.) Worker (Brisbane), 13 August 1914.

(18.) Ibid.

(19.) Australian Worker, 13 August 1914.

(20.) The Age, 8 July 1914.

(21.) Westralian Worker, 28 August 1914.

(22.) Worker (Brisbane), 6 August 1914.

(23.) Labor Call, 13 August 1914.

(24.) Ibid.

(25.) Ibid., 6 August 1914.

(26.) Worker (Brisbane), 27 August 1914.

(27.) Ibid., 13 August 1914.

(28.) Westralian Worker, 21 September 1914.

(29.) Geoffrey Sawer, Australian Federal Politics and Law 1901-1919, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 1972, p. 128.

(30.) Labor Call, 10 September 1914.

(31.) Australian Worker, 17 September 1914; Labor Call, 6 August 1914.

(32.) Australian Worker, 1 October 1914; Ibid., 6 August 1914.

(33.) Ernest Scott, Australia during the War, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1938, p. 660; E.J, Holloway, The Australian Victory over Conscription, Anti-Conscription Jubilee Committee, Melbourne, 1966, p. 3.

(34.) John Murdoch, A Million to One Against: A Portrait of Andrew Fisher, Minerva Press, London, 1998, p. 85.

(35.) Marnie Haig-Muir, 'The Economy at War', in Joan Beaumont (ed.), Australia's War 1914-1918, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1995, p. 109; Stuart Macintyre, A Concise History of Australia, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999, pp. 161-63; McMullin, Light on the Hill, pp. 100-101.

(36.) See Nick Dyrenfurth, Heroes and Villains: The Rise and Fall of the Early Australian Labor Party, Australian Scholarly Publishing, North Melbourne, 2011, chs 3 and 4.

(37.) Sydney Morning Herald, 1 December 1915; quoted in R.P. Davis, Eighty Years' Labor: The ALP in Tasmania, 1903-1983, Sassafras Books, Hobart, 1983, p. 11.

(38.) Labor Call, 25 March 1915; Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates (CPD), 14 October 1914, 75: 147.

(39.) Cited in Hirst, 'Labor and the Great War', p. 55. Anstey's articles during 1915 were turned into Labor Call pamphlets such as the anti-Semitic 'The Kingdom of Shylock', revised and expanded into a book of the same title in 1917, and finally as a larger volume Money Power in 1921 sans antiSemitism.

(40.) CPD, 29 April 1915, 76: 2766.

(41.) Labor Call, 13 May 1915.

(42.) CPD, 3 June 1915, 77: 3667.

(43.) Bronwyn Stevens and Patrick Weller, The Australian Labor Party and Federal Politics: A Documentary Survey, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 1976, p. 76; Official Report of the Sixth Commonwealth Conference of the Australian Labor Party, Adelaide, 31 MMy 1915, Worker Trade Union Printery, 1915, pp. 30, 31-34.

(44.) Cited in Turner, Industrial Labour and Politics, p. 97.

(45.) Labor Call, 14 October 1915.

(46.) Australian Worker, 4 November 1915.

(47.) Cited in Stevens and Weller, The Australian Labor Party and Federal Politics, p. 28.

(48.) Sixth Commonwealth Conference of the Australian Labor Party, pp. 10, 11.

(49.) Cited in Labor Call, 12 April 1917.

(50.) Worker (Brisbane), 4 November 1915; Labor Call, 22 July 1915.

(51.) Cited in Ross McMullin, 'Leading the World', in John Faulkner and Stuart Macintyre (eds), True Believers: The Story of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, Allen & Unwin, East Melbourne, 2001, p. 101.

(52.) Cited in Peter Love, Frank Anstey: A Political Biography, unpublished PhD thesis, Australian National University, 1990, p. 272; Labor Call, 2 December 1915 and 13 January 1916.

(53.) Labor Call, 2 December 1915; Australian Worker, 16 December 1915. Revealingly, whilst Hughes was later overseas visiting Britain and France, Pearce, as Acting Prime Minister, used the War Precautions Act to impose price controls on flour and bread in March 1916 and, in July 1916, created the Necessary Commodities Commission with commissioners in each state empowered to impose price controls on any items. See John Connor, Anzac and Empire: George Foster Pearce and the Foundations of Australian Defence, Cambridge University Press, 2011, p. 78.

(54.) L.F. Crisp, The Australian Federal Labour Party: 1901-1951, Longmans, London, 1955, p. 56.

(55.) Cited in Hirst, 'Labor and the Great War', pp. 58-59.

(56.) Carl Bridge, William Hughes: Australia: Peace Conferences of 1919-23 and Their Aftermath, Haus Publishing, London, 2011, pp. 61-64; Ward, A Nation for a Continent, p. 111.

(57.) Australian Worker, 3 August 1916.

(58.) Blackburn, The Conscription Referendum of 1916, p. 12.

(59.) Cited in Australian Worker, 3 February 1916.

(60.) Bobbie Oliver, War and Peace in Western Australia: The Social and Political Impact of the Great War, 1914-19 (26), University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, 1995, p. 93.

(61.) Cited in Labor Call, 4 January 1917; cited in Crisp, Australian Federal Labour Party, p. 135. See Rawson, Labor in Vain, p. 36.

(62.) K.S. Inglis, 'Conscription in Peace and War, 1911-1945', in Roy Forward and Bob Reece (eds), Conscription in Australia, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1968, pp. 27-28. The European population of the then British colony of Natal were likewise compelled; see Connor, Anzac and Empire, p. 27.

(63.) 'Appeal To All Who Love Liberty', Executive Committee of Queensland Labor, cited in Worker (Brisbane), 21 September 1916 (emphasis in original).

(64.) Australian Worker, 11 May 1916. For Labor's arguments against conscription, see Nick Dyrenfurth and Frank Bongiorno, A Little History of the Australian Labor Party, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 2011, pp. 63-64.

(65.) CPD, 8 July 1915, 77: 4716.

(66.) CPD, 18 May 1916, 79: 8010.

(67.) Love, Frank Anstey, p. 288.

(68.) Cited in Love, Frank Anstey, pp. 278-79, 303.

(69.) D.J. Murphy, 'Queensland', in D.J. Murphy (ed.), Labor in Politics: The State Labor Parties in Australia, 1880-1920, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1975, p. 193.

(70.) Peter Love, Labour and the Money Power: Australian Labour Populism 1890-1950, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 1984, p. 70.

(71.) Australian Worker, 27 January 1916.

(72.) Official Report of the Queensland Branch of the Australian Workers' Union Third Annual Delegate Meeting, Brisbane, January 1916, Worker Newspaper, Brisbane, 1916.

(73.) Australian Trade Unionism and Conscription, Report of Proceedings of the Australian Trade Union Congress, Labor Call Print, Melbourne, 1916, Riley and Ephemera Collection, State Library of Victoria, pp. 4, 12-13.

(74.) Labor Call, 4 May 1916.

(75.) Australian Worker, 4 May 1916.

(76.) H.J. Gibbney, 'Western Australia', in Murphy (ed.), Labor in Politics, p. 369.

(77.) Triennial Congress of the West Australian Division of the Australian Labour Federation, 31 May, Kalgoorlie, cited in West Australian, 2 June 1916.

(78.) Daily Post, 28 July 1916.

(79.) Marilyn Lake, A Divided Society: Tasmania during World War One, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 1975, p. 65.

(80.) Labor Call, 7 September 1916. In 1916 he was General Secretary of Trades Hall, president of both the Victorian PLC and the ALP federal executive, as well as founding secretary of the national anticonscription executive.

(81.) Worker (Brisbane), 10 February 1916; Ibid., 27 April 1916.

(82.) Ibid., 11 May 1916.

(83.) Ibid., 7 September 1916.

(84.) Australian Worker, 13 January 1916.

(85.) Ibid., 10 August 1916; Ibid., 9 March 1916.

(86.) Worker (Brisbane), (26) October 1916.

(87.) Claude Marquet, 'The Glorious 28th', Australian Worker, 2 November 1916.

(88.) Cited in Neville Kirk, '"Australians for Australia": The Right, the Labor Party and Contested Loyalties to Nation and Empire in Australia, 1917 to the Early 1930s', Labour History, no. 91, November 2006, pp. 99-100.

Nick Dyrenfurth, The author would like to thank the two anonymous referees of Labour History for their comments and suggestions.

Nick Dyrenfurth is a Lecturer in the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University. He is the author of Heroes and Villains: The Rise and Fall of the Early Australian Labor Party (Australian Scholarly Publishing).

COPYRIGHT 2012 Australian Society for the Study of Labour History
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Dyrenfurth, Nick
Publication:Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Nov 1, 2012
Previous Article:Marxism for beginner nations: radical nationalist historians and the Great War.
Next Article:The mobilization of capital behind 'the battle for Freedom': The Sydney Banks, the Institute of Public Affairs (NSW) and opposition to the Australian...

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters