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Griffith, one of the drafters of the Constitution advised him that the existence of a double dissolution trigger alone did not automatically lead to the granting of such an election. As to the existence of either condition he must form his own judgment. Although he cannot act except upon advice of his Ministers, he is not bound to follow their advice but is in the position of an independent arbiter. The Governor-General granted Cook his double dissolution on 4 June If the Liberals were frustrated by their numbers in Parliament, Labor was not without its tensions.

Although it had won the election, had control of the Senate after the election and was in power in three states NSW, Western Australia and Tasmania at the beginning of , there were tensions between the industrial and political wings of the labour movement.

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As historian Joan Beaumont puts it:. These tensions, simmering within the labour movement in , would intensify under the pressures of war. Parliament was prorogued on 27 June, the day before the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and dissolved on 30 July. Both parties had already formally launched their election campaigns before war broke out—Labor on 6 July and the Liberals on 15 July. Both leaders campaigned on much the same issues they had campaigned on at the election. Cook wanted to reform the Constitution to give the Commonwealth power over monopolies, introduce a uniform companies Act and set up wage fixing tribunals.

He also said he wanted to introduce a new voting system—proportional representation in the Senate and preferential voting for the House of Representatives. He promised marketing agencies for primary producers, an inquiry into the prevention of diseases such as tuberculosis and help for orphans. On 30 July , the Governor-General Munro Ferguson received the first official telegram from London warning that war was imminent. Only five of the ten ministers made it to the emergency Cabinet meeting called for Monday 3 August. That night both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition responded in similar terms.

A few days later, on Monday 3 August, Cabinet agreed to offer the British Government two things: to put the newly-acquired Australian fleet of seven ships under control of the British Admiralty, and to send an expeditionary force of 20, troops overseas to wherever it was required. Furthermore, it offered to bear all associated costs. The cable was sent to London at 6. The outbreak of war was greeted in Australia, as in many other places, with great public enthusiasm.

In response to the overwhelming number of volunteers, the authorities set exacting physical standards for recruits. But, nevertheless, by reason of the fact that we are part of the Empire, we may be called upon, willy nilly, to bear the consequences of our Imperial connexion. Furthermore, on the evening of Sunday 2 August, both Fisher and Billy Hughes, separately, issued statements indicating that at such a time the interests of the nation were above party politics.

It was bound to be a hard-fought political campaign. There were large public meetings supporting Home Rule in May and June , which Fisher and other Labor leaders had attended, countered by anti-Home Rule demonstrations. Parliament, which had been dissolved on 30 July , was generally considered irrelevant in any decision as to whether Australia would go to war or remain neutral. This arrangement was not just sentiment—it was underscored by legal and constitutional arrangements.

Australia accepted the authority of the British Government and its Parliament in such matters. Notwithstanding that the Australian Constitution provided that the Commonwealth Parliament could legislate with respect to both defence and external affairs subsections 51 vi and xxix respectively , and the Executive had the broader executive power of section 61, the Australian Government knew that the British Imperial Government remained responsible for the foreign policy of the empire including declarations of war and the power to enter treaties.


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It did this without consulting Parliament, notwithstanding that it was dissolved at the time. He explained:. Had this request for troops come to the Government while Parliament was sitting no action would have been taken without a full opportunity for discussion; though the Government certainly would not have refused—it would have agreed to send any troops, and would have submitted, if the House was not sitting, its determination to Parliament afterwards, for honorable members to take such action as they might be advised.

In , some in the Opposition and the media felt that the situation was serious enough for Parliament to be recalled before the election.

Commonwealth Parliament from to World War I – Parliament of Australia

As the writs for the election had already been issued, neither option was likely to occur. Parliament could then meet immediately after the election. Alternatively, the proclamation dissolving Parliament should be revoked, a highly unconstitutional procedure that Hughes argued could be validated if the British Parliament passed an Indemnity Act.

These ideas were not accepted by Cook and the election campaign continued. Labor comfortably won the election, regaining most of the seats it had lost in Previously the difference had been 29 to 7. Voter turnout was It noted that the Australian Navy had been placed at the disposal of the British Admiralty and that its presence had ensured that the waters around Samoa and New Guinea had been kept clear of enemy ships.

Nevertheless, it recorded the loss of the Australian submarine AE1 in that campaign. After outlining the nature of the engagement, he read out some congratulatory telegrams, including one from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and then said:. There is a host of other telegrams from within Australia and from individuals outside the Commonwealth, but I do not think I need trouble the House with them.

I have only to add that I do not think there is a soul in Australia but feels very happy indeed that such an opportunity arose, and such a success has followed the first serious naval action by our own ships. Although Labor was in power, it was hardly united. Parliament quickly enacted the War Precautions Act in late October As Hughes put it:. The Bill confers upon the Commonwealth power to make orders and regulations of a far reaching character, and, as honorable members may see in clauses 4 and 5, is.

Its aim is to prevent the disclosure of important information, to give power to deport, and otherwise deal with aliens, to interrogate and obtain information in various ways, and to appoint officers to carry into effect any orders or regulations which may be made under the Bill. Recognising that these drastic powers are necessary to enable those in our midst, who seek to destroy the integrity and to injure the interests of the Empire, to be dealt with, I shall give the Government cordial support in passing this and other measures having that object in view.

It makes it clear that offences against the regulations are punishable on summary conviction He praised manufacturers for their cooperation and for accepting the prices at which the Commonwealth had acquired goods. This legislation closely followed that which was enacted in Britain. He wondered if the legislation was constitutional but felt that this was not the time to test that possibility.


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  • He also sought, and received, assurance that the provisions of the Bill would be limited to the duration of the war. He was concerned that freedom of speech would be curbed by section 4 d of the Bill which would enable:. The Governor-General [to] make regulations for securing the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth Mathews was also concerned that the Bill prevented servicemen, who were required to have matters heard by a military court, from having the same access as civilians to the civil courts. The Government and people of Australia are deeply gratified to learn that their troops have won distinction in their first encounter with the enemy.

    Matters about Gallipoli and Egypt raised in Parliament mainly focussed on the problem of gaining information about casualties from that front and the raising of individual cases in which letters from there had taken a long time to reach their anxious relatives. The chief object of my rising is to make a suggestion to the Postmaster-General with regard to communications passing between Australia and the seat of war, in which we are more directly interested—Gallipoli and Egypt.

    I want to ask the Postmaster-General if he and his Government will take into favorable consideration the question of appointing an officer directly responsible to the Minister to look after the delivery of all correspondence and the despatch of all cable matter from the seat of war to Australia.

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    Hansard is bristling with illustrations of the miscarriage of communications between relatives in Australia and. Some have been rather heart-rending, mothers and widows having had to wait six weeks or two months to learn the fate of their relatives. The landing at Gallipoli was named Anzac Day in and marked by parades, church services and ceremonies which were held in London as well as Australia.

    Throughout the war it would be commemorated in patriotic rallies and used as a means to raise recruiting levels. For example, in the Minister for the Navy was asked if he had seen a press report:. At the end of December after three months of managing important decisions about the war, an exhausted Fisher left for New Zealand, encouraged by Hughes, to recuperate for a month.

    In mid, in a show of bipartisanship, the Government established an advisory body consisting of eight members and four senators, half nominated by the Government and half by the Opposition. The Federal Parliamentary War Committee focussed only on issues referred to it by the Government and dealt mainly with recruitment and matters facing returned soldiers.

    Hughes took over as Prime Minister, retaining the portfolio of Attorney-General and increasing the size of his ministry to nine. Hughes pushed on with his earlier attempts to amend the Constitution in the six areas of trade and commerce section 51 i , corporations section 51 xx , industrial matters section 51 xxxv , and to empower the Parliament to make laws with respect to railway disputes, trusts and the nationalisation of monopolies.

    A polling date was set for December to hold a prices referendum. However, he was persuaded that war was not the right time to seek approval from the population for such wide-ranging powers.

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    Instead, he sought and received agreement from the state premiers five of whom were Labor to refer the necessary powers from the states to the Commonwealth as allowed for under section 51 xxxvii of the Constitution. Hughes recalled Parliament to reinstate the referendum Bills but time ran out before he departed via North America for London near the end of January leaving Pearce in charge. Despite these failed attempts to amend the Constitution, in June the High Court dismissed a challenge to the War Precautions Act and its regulations, thereby giving the defence powers under section 51 of the Constitution a very wide interpretation.

    Table 6 gives further details of the number of days the House of Representatives sat each year from to He also visited the Western Front in France. Hughes returned to Australia reinforced in his conviction that military conscription was necessary if Australia and the Commonwealth were to be protected and if responsibility was to be shared equitably. He told Parliament at the end of August In view of certain urgent and grave communications from the War Council of Great Britain, and of the present state of the war, and the duty of Australia in regard thereto, and as a result of long and earnest deliberation, the Government have arrived at the conclusion that the voluntary system of recruiting cannot be relied upon to supply that steady stream of reinforcements necessary to maintain the Australian Expeditionary Forces at their full strength.

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    The number of reinforcements required for next month is 32,, and subsequently 16, a month. The number of recruits for June was 6,; July, 6,; and up to 23rd August, 4,; or a total of 16, The most recent list for eleven days shows the number of casualties to be 6, These figures speak for themselves. They show that the position which confronts the Government, the Parliament, and the people, is that while it is our clear duty to keep the number of our Forces up to their full strength, the stream of recruits under the voluntary system has fallen to less than one-third of what is necessary.

    Hughes was initially inclined to bring about conscription through an Act of Parliament as had been done in Britain and New Zealand.

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