1910s >> 1917 >> no-150-february-1917

The Labour Wasters in Australia

Under the heading of “Australia’s Labour Split,” I noticed a few days ago in the English Press that the united front had somewhat crumpled up. An intimation was conveyed to all and sundry that “Mr. Hughes and the Liberal leader, Mr. Cook, after a day’s consultation, finally failed yesterday to arrive at an agreement for the creation of either a National or a Coalition Ministry, or for a political compact enabling Mr. Hughes to attend the Special Imperial War Cabinets immediately.” (“Daily Chronicle,” Jan, 9th, 1917.) Mention was also made that only an early General Election can produce a stable Government for Commonwealth defence.

From another source comes an article dealing with Mr. Hughes and his conscription campaign which makes somewhat interesting reading. A few quotations, therefore, might not be amiss.

“Has Australia fallen from a democracy to a wretched despotism ? It seems very like it. It is not democracy that rules in Australia now, although the widest principle of a democracy has just been exerted here. That is what makes the present Government so anomalous. The people were allowed to decide on a great question of policy. With the policy went those who proffered it. Both the principle of conscription and its advocates were tried by the democracy—and cast down. Yet, despite the voice of the people, those who advocated conscription as a vital policy are still governing the erstwhile democracy in Australia !

It is something new in democracy to find the people appealed to and when the appellants are rejected to have them still claiming the right rule. . . .

He came back to this country hot for conscription He found his party, that had been elected to administer Australia’s government at the last election, would not sanction that policy, so he chose to cleave from his colleagues, and test his right in the supreme court of Democracy —the Referendum.

He did so and was defeated.

Only last month Australia was permitted to think herself a wide democracy. She functioned as such ; but her power was appealed to only to be turned into futility. Just as well for Australians to know their position. They are continually being told that a war is being waged for the upholding of privileges of democracy. . . .

Now a military oligarchy has supplanted the vaunted form of democratic rule that is so paraded and virtuously dilated upon by our war-purring champions. . . .

So not only is conscription out of the question in Australia, but the present enthronement of despotism here in this land of free democracy gives the lie to any freedom plea for the purposes of war. If the last great demand of the people is to be nullified by the action of a democracy-mocker, on what ground can the name of Freedom be now used in the exhortation of strife ?

—”The Socialist,” Melbourne, Nov. 17th, 1916.

The article finishes up by stating that “Mr. Hughes is damned and discarded,” and “there is only one way by which he can retain office— and that is in defiance of the democracy. That way loses any right of his to ask the manhood this country to take up arms in defence of democratic institutions.” So much, then, for another Labour fakir.

S. T.

(Socialist Standard,February 1917)

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