There was a substantial divide within Australian society during the time of World War 1 regarding conscription. World War 1 began on the 4th August 1914 when Britain declared war on Germany. As Australia and Britain are allies, Australian troops were sent to fight against Germany and the other central powers. As the crimson thread was still a dominant factor in Australia most men ran at the opportunity to enlist for the war, fighting for the British Empire. In 1914 there was 52, 561 enlistments. 20,000 were sent to Gallipoli to fight against the Turks but due to the mistakes made in the landing and poor leadership 7594 ended up dead, with many more casualties. Andrew Fisher was the Prime Minister at the beginning of the war and he said that Australia will fight for Britain “to our last man and our last shilling”. Some reasons for Australia’s involvement in the War were that they wanted the protection of British forces if needed, many Australians were of British descent and many classified Britain as home, and it was seen as an honour to fight for the mother country. Some reasons against the involvement of Australian troops in the war were that with the working class away people believed that would create a window for immigrants to come and take their work for cheap labour, that with Australia’s relatively small population they could not afford to lose their defence force and that many believed that it was a trade war. Conscription is the compulsory enlistment for service. Key individuals in the involvement of Australia’s involvement in World War 1 were William Hughes, Andrew Fisher, Douglas Haig and Daniel Mannix. Issues on the home front contributed to the negative views towards conscription as well as views of Daniel Mannix, trade unionists, women and peace groups and the bulk of the labor party. Billy Hughes’ determination for conscription led to two referendums in 1916 and 1917.
Paragraph one: uniting and dividing
Censorship was introduced- stopped the information from reaching Australians who wanted to know about the war and the results.
Germans were exposed to discrimination. Workers in some industries threatened to strike unless German workers were removed, it was illegal to communicate or publish in the German language and dachshund dogs were targeted.
The cost of living was increased by 45% and new taxes were introduced
Enthusiasm of the war began to decline
Life was hard for the working class- many believed they were being exploited by the capitalist system. Strikes in 1916 and 1917
Paragraph two: Conscription (for)
Billy Hughes, the national press, soldiers on the western front and the Anglican church supported conscription
Billy Hughes, the PM at the time, said “Don’t leave the boys in the trenches. Don’t see them butchered. Don’t leave them below their strength or you will cover Australia with shame.” After he visited the troops on the western front and saw the destruction the war caused, he decided on pushing for conscription in Australia. He wanted to comply with the British orders and saw men who didn’t want to fight as bringing Australia shame.
The national press, like ‘The bulletin’ released countless amounts of propaganda stating their pro-war and pro-conscription views. One example of propaganda produced by ‘The Bulletin’ displays someone being arrested for voicing their anti-war views. The newspaper had a constant of national pride and had the opinion that everyone should want to fight for the British Empire.
The soldiers on the western front had the attitude of “why should we fight and risk our lives for people not willing to fight for our country?” and felt neglected by their fellow Australian men. I would not like to be sent back to Australia before the war is over. You see so many going about who will not enlist & the excuses they give would make your hair turn grey. These sort of men make you feel ashamed & you want to get away to your own men again.