School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    Catholics and conscription: a problem of loyalty
    Francis, Michael Philip ( 2013)
    Saturday the 16th of September 1916 was a rainy day at the Albert Hall in Clifton Hill. Despite the threat of stormy weather, a sizable crowd of Melbourne’s lay and clerical Catholics had gathered for the opening of a bazaar dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Amid enthusiastic applause, Dr Daniel Mannix, the Coadjutor-Archbishop of Melbourne, ascended the podium and delivered an address, lasting merely three minutes. Mannix spoke in response to an announcement made on 30 August by Prime Minister William Morris Hughes. Returning from England earlier in July, Hughes was convinced that Australia needed to boost enlistments in order to aid Allied forces in the war effort. The voluntary system had failed to meet expectations and Hughes was determined to introduce conscription, which required amending existing legislation. The Commonwealth Defence Act of 1902 allowed for compulsory military enlistment for home defence, but prohibited conscription for service abroad. Many of Hughes’ own Labor Party, which had a majority in the Senate, were opposed to conscription, so in an attempt to avoid a party split, the Prime Minister decided to seek the endorsement of the Australian people and had announced a referendum to be held on 28 October. What followed was one of the most divisive public debates in Australia’s history since Federation. (From Introduction)