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"Conscription History Essay!"
Conscription History Essay!
Rainey Day
In 1916 Prime Minister Hughes proposed raising the numbers needed to maintain Australian troops at full strength at the Front by conscripting those who to date were unwilling or opposed to enlisting to fight.

The government already had the power under the existing provisions of the Defence Act to conscript men - but only for service in Australia. They could not be sent overseas to fight. All the government needed to do was to change the Defense Act to extend the existing power of conscription for home service, to overseas service. All it had to do to achieve that change in legislation was to pass an amendment through both houses of parliament - the Senate, and the House of Representatives.

There was a problem, however. Some members of the Labour Government were against conscription. Hughes knew that he had enough supporters of conscription among the Labour and Liberal parties to have a majority in the House of Representatives; but he was a few short of a majority in the Senate.

To overcome this problem Hughes decided to hold a national vote on the issue.

This vote is sometimes called a referendum, and sometimes called a plebiscite. Strictly speaking a referendum is a vote to change the Constitution. There was no need to change the Constitution in this case, as the Constitution already gave the government power to introduce conscription. So the vote was in effect a national 'public opinion poll' on the issue. The vote would not mean anything officially - but what Hughes planned was that he would be able to use the public vote in favour of conscription to persuade a few Senators to change their vote in parliament. Even though the Senators were personally against it, the vote would show that the people they represented in fact wanted conscription, so the...

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