}1917{
Billy Hughes
Billy Hughes Nationalist Party

Delivered at Bendigo, Vic, March 27th, 1917

The election was held on 15 May, 1917. Andrew Fisher had resigned the prime ministership on 25 October, 1915 to become Australian High Commissioner in London. Fisher handed over the Labor leadership to Billy Hughes, who became prime minister after being in the federal parliament since 1901.

Hughes returned from visiting the troops in Britain and Europe convinced that Australia needed to introduce conscription of troops to boost its war effort. The conscription issue was highly controversial and split both the community and political parties.

He held a referendum on conscription which was defeated on 28 October, 1916. Hughes resigned from the Labor leadership on 14 November, 1916 and took a number of pro-conscription supporters with him and formed the Nationalist Party in alliance with the Liberal leader Joseph Cook in 1917.

Hughes contested the election as prime minister of the Nationalist Party and was opposed by the Labor Party’s Frank Tudor.

Billy Hughes, National Library of Australia
Billy Hughes, National Library of Australia

William Morris Hughes was born 25 September, 1862 and died 28 October, 1952. Hughes was the Prime Minister of Australia 27 October, 1915 to 9 February, 1923. Throughout his parliamentary career he was a member of the Labor Party 1901 to 1916, National Labor Party 1916 to 1917, Nationalist Party 1917 to 1929, Australian Party 1929 to 1931, United Australia Party 1931 to 1944 and Liberal Party 1944 to 1952. He represented the electorates of West Sydney, NSW 1901 to 1917, Bendigo, Vic 1917 to 1922, North Sydney, NSW 1922 to 1949 and Bradfield, NSW 1949 to 1952.

Elections contested

1917, 1919, and 1922

The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had a rousing reception when he opened the Win the War campaign at Bendigo on Tuesday, March 27. Long before the time for beginning the meeting the building was crowded in every part, and a large number of people failed to gain admittance. It is estimated that there were over 3,000 people present. When Mr. Hughes appeared on the platform he was enthusiastically cheered. The mayor of the city (Councillor Beebe) occupied the chair. Besides Mr. Hughes, there were on the platform the three Win the War Senate candidates (Liut. colonel Bolton, Mr. George Fairbairn, and Mr. W. Plain). The President of the Senate (Senator Givens), Senator Russell (Assistant Minister), Mr. John Thomson (whip of the Ministerial party), Mr. A. S. Rogers (Wannon), Mr. G. A. Maxwell (the Ministerial candidate for Fawkner), Mr. D. Smith, M.L.A., Sir John Quick, Mr. D. V. Lazarus, the mayor of Eaglehawk (Councillor Ralph), and Mrs. Witham, of Echuca, a former leading platform worker of the Labour Party.

The Mayor (Councillor Beebe) said that it was his pleasing duty as chairman of that magnificent meeting—the finest meeting ever held in the Bendigo electorate—to introduce the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Hughes). Mr. Hughes came as the standard-bearer of his party—the Win the War party. Mr. Hughes should be given a patient hearing. A most important issue was now agitating the minds of the public and it was a great compliment to Bendigo that Mr. Hughes should unfold his policy there.


Mr. Hughes, who was received with prolonged cheers, said:-

I did not anticipate when I last addressed the citizens of Bendigo in this place that I should within a few weeks stand before them as the head of a Government appealing to the people of the Commonwealth, and as candidate for the suffrages of the electors of Bendigo. But in these days events move so rapidly that although measured by time it is but a few weeks since I last spoke to you, the days have been so crowded with matters of much moment that a great space of time seems to have elapsed since I last stood on this platform.

Much has indeed happened in the interval. The Government which I then had the honour to lead has disappeared, and a new one, composed of men of different parties, but united on the war and all that is necessary to achieve victory, has taken its place. Circumstances made such a change necessary. Since I last stood here urging you and all my fellow citizens to lay aside their differences in order that Australia might more efficiently do her part in this great war, abundant proof has been afforded to all, save the wilfully blind, that there is among us a section upon whose ears such appeals fall like seed upon stony ground. Men are to be judged not only by words but by conduct: and there is but one way by which an Australian who loves his country can prove his patriotism in the great hour, when his country and all that free men value are in deadly peril, and that is by putting aside all differences of party, class, or creed, and, standing side by side with his fellow citizens, doing all within his power to overcome the enemy. It is quite clear that this section will not take that way. To them the integrity of the Empire counts for little: their sectional interests for everything. (Applause)

Caucus party tactics

Sir, the Government has appealed to the people of Australia because it found that in the face of the attitude of the Caucus party, effective government was impossible.

As it declined to retain office unless it could do that which our present circumstances imperatively demand, there remained only the course which we have taken. None other was indeed possible. The use which the Caucus party made of its majority in the Senate thwarted all attempts to carry on the Government of the country. When asked by the late Government, comprised wholly of Labour men, to grant such Supply as would enable members to take part in a recruiting campaign, they point-blank refused. They openly declared that the Government should not be allowed to go into recess; they boasted that by the use of the majority in the Senate they would prevent me going to the Imperial War Conference to represent Australia. Time after time they took the control of business out of the hands of the Government. Their every act and every utterance was characterised by a reckless and bitter hostility. All this of course was manifested long before the formation of the present Government. It is with great reluctance that the Government has taken this step of appealing to the electors. But the action of the Caucus party has unhappily made any other impossible. (Applause)

The Government proposed to extend the life of Parliament so that Australia should be represented at the Imperial War Conference, at which representatives from every part of the Empire are gathered. The Prime minister of every one of the self-governing dominions had been invited to take part in the deliberations of the Imperial War Cabinet to discuss the conduct of the war, the terms of peace, the future of the Pacific, and other great questions of absolutely vital importance to the welfare of the Commonwealth and of the Empire. It is surely not too much to say that at this great War Conference, held as it is under the dark shadow of a war which threatens every part of the Empire with destruction, Australia ought to be represented. What the British Government has created is in effect a real Empire War Council, in which for the first time in our history the voices of the self-governing dominions can be heard. The other dominions have all sent their representatives—their voices will be heard. The voice of Australia, this country whose sons have dyed the rocks and sand of Gallipoli and the great battlefields of France with their hearts' blood, will be silent. What a humiliation to every loyal Australian this is—that this country, whose sons by their valour and heroism destroyed the last German cruisers in the Indian Ocean, tore down the German flag from New Guinea, made the name of Australia honoured amongst the nations of the earth, should be the only dominion shut out from this great epoch-making conference; this gathering which will decide the future of the Pacific, that great ocean whose destiny is inseparably associated with ours: which will materially shape the conduct of the war; which will lay down the terms upon which peace will be made; which will decide upon what lines trade after the war is to be conducted and developed. What will our soldiers who have borne the heat and burden of the day, who have endured, fought, bled and sacrificed all things in order that the honour of Australia might be upheld—that victory might be achieved—say when they learn that their country is not to share in these vitally important deliberations? What do you, the electors, say? What can any loyal Australian say of a party calling itself Australian who thus deliberately inflicts this humiliation and injury upon Australia? The Government, I say, Sir, has appealed to the electors to elect a Parliament that represents and can give effect tothe desires of the Australian people to do their duty by the Empire. And I firmly believe that such a Parliament will be elected by the people.

Who is to govern?

At this election the people have to decide by whom they will be governed—under what banner they will stand, what policy they desire. The two parties seeking the suffrages of the people are as far asunder as night from day on matters vital to the welfare of the country. Their ideals are distinct—their outlook, their objective. The party that I have the honour to lead stands openly and freely for the Empire. Its members are proud to be citizens of the greatest confederation of free men and women that the world has ever seen. They recognise their great obligation to Britain; they recognise that they owe all their liberties, their free institution of government, their peaceful and happy occupation of this great island continent to the protection that Britain has given us ever since the first British colony was established here. They recognise that they cannot be true citizens of Australia and at the same time be hostile to or indifferent to the fate of Britain.

Sir, we believe in the British Empire because it stands for liberty; because it has given us all that we have; because it has protected us all our lives; because it now protects us; because we know that without its protection in this war we should long ago have become a German colony; that our lot would have been that of Belgium. We are for the Empire because the Empire is at once our sword and our shield. It is the greatest guarantee of the world's peace, of true civilisation. We are for the Empire because we are true to Australia, to liberty, to ourselves. And because of this, we do not now ask whether a man is Labour or Liberal, but only whether he is an Australian, prepared to put Australia first and sweep all sectional interests aside. This is where we stand. What of our opponents? Sir, I shall not insult the intelligence of the electors by dwelling upon that which is obvious to all who are not wilfully blind. It is, I say, unfortunately only too true that many of those who are opposed to us do not share these views. Some are violently hostile to Britain, sneering at the Empire and all that it stands for; some, their vision clouded by gross misrepresentation and lies, think it possible to be loyal to Australia, yet indifferent if not hostile to the fate of the Empire.

'Red flag of revolution'

Some openly revile everything we hold sacred and dear, declaring themselves as having no God, no country, no flag, save the red flag of revolution. Some mistakenly put sectional interests before those of the country in which they live—the country to which they owe everything. The party then who oppose us is made up for the most part of men either hostile to or luke-warm on the war, indifferent to the Empire or openly opposed to it, men clamouring for premature peace, men who forget that their first duty is to Australia, who put other interests before that of their country. And this party is absolutely controlled by men who are not seeking the suffrages of people—by secret executives of persons not responsible to the electors. And these men, who are really the Caucus party, since they control it, are almost, without exception against the Empire, in favour of premature peace, caring for nothing but their own selfish and narrow interests.

Among all of these sections that make up the forces behind the Caucus party not one stands for the spirit of Australian patriotism, of Australian nationality.

They have no constructive policy upon which they can stand, for they are not masters of their own actions; they are indeed incapable of carrying any such policy into effect. They appeal to all that is narrow, mean, and selfish; they come to destroy, not to build up; they preach a gospel of discord between all classes and sections; they chant a hymn of hate against myself.

Sir, let us be perfectly frank on the matter—between all these and us there is a great gulf fixed. If the people want to be governed by such men, let them declare it; but at least they shall not do so without knowing what it is these men stand for. We place the war first, and everything else after. (Cheers) We believe that it is not only the duty of Australia to stand by the Empire 'to the last man and the last shilling' if need be, but that in no other way is it possible for Australia to be saved. (Cheers)

Since I last spoke to you events have moved with giant strides. The fury of the titanic conflict has, indeed, so far from abating, gathered fresh strength with every passing day, until now at this very moment the whole world threatens to be engulfed. America is trembling on the verge of war. Even China seems likely to be drawn into the struggle. We are today, so far from having won our way out of the maelstrom of war into the calm, smooth waters of peace, in the very vortex of its awful fury.

Crisis in the war

I said then, and I repeat now, in plain words, that we have come to the crisis in this great war; to the point when both combatants are girding their loins for the last, the decisive, round. Upon the issue Australia's fortunes literally hang.

Now I do not use these words loosely by way of hyperbole, but in all earnestness, meaning that the present safety and future welfare of Australia and of every man, woman and child not of enemy origin within its gates depend absolutely upon Germany's military power being completely crushed. Mark that I say 'Germany's military power', not 'the people of Germany'. This being the position in which we find ourselves, what is our duty as citizens of the freest democracy in the world, thus called upon to fight for our lives and liberty! There can be no doubt as to what it is in the minds of my loyal Australian. (Hear hear)

Since I spoke to you on this platform there has been a retirement by the Germans on the Western Front. I do not wish to underestimate its value. But we should not delude ourselves into believing it to be other than what it is—a strategic retirement dictated by military reasons. It may be followed by a great victory by the Allies; but in itself, it is no more than I have said, a retirement which we are no more entitled to call a defeat than were the Germans to so regard the glorious retreat from Mons by the British army or the evacuation of Gallipoli by the Australian and Allied forces.

The fact is that the two opposing forces are preparing for the greatest battle ever seen on this earth; they are manoevring for position, strengthening the weak links in the chain of their forces, getting ready for the supreme hour of trial. The submarine menace is more deadly than ever.

We have come to the crisis in this war. The need for men has not lessened; the need for Australia playing her part as becomes a nation of free people is not affected by recent events.

Happily the casualties suffered by the Australian divisions during the winter months have been extremely light, not more indeed than 20 per cent of what was anticipated, so that we are for the time being in a much better position as far as men are concerned than was contemplated. Yet if the war continues for many months the need for men will be acute.

A woman in the gallery:

Why don't you go to the war? (Laughter)

The Chairman:

I understand the committee reserved the gallery for ladies (Renewed laughter)

Conscription policy

The people of Australia have decided that they will not resort to compulsion to fill the ranks of the Australian divisions at the front. The Government accepts the verdict of the people as given on October 28 last. It will not enforce nor attempt to enforce conscription, either by regulation or statute, during the life of the forthcoming Parliament. If, however, national safety demands it, the question will again be referred to the people. That is the policy of the Government on the great question. It is clear and definite.

The Government accepts the verdict of the electors on October 28, and appeals to the patriotism of the people to uphold the honour of Australia by maintaining the Australian divisions at their full fighting strength by voluntary enlistment.

It appeals to the manhood of Australia to strike a blow for this their country. It appeals to every lover of liberty who is fit to take his place in the ranks to go and stand by the side of those heroic men whose glorious deeds gain them fresh laurels every passing day. It appeals to every loyal Australian not to let the supreme sacrifice made by the thousands of young Australian lads who have offered up their lives on the altar of their country be in vain. (Great cheering)

I have said that this Government is composed of men of diverse party creeds, who have united to win the war. As you know, I have been all my public life a member of the Labour Party. I have fought its battles all over Australia, and in this very place, where I appeared in the interests of the gentleman who does me the honour to oppose me in this election. (Laughter) Before the war I was a strong party man, and fought in my party's interests. When war broke out I put party aside and remembered only that Australia and the Empire were fighting a life-and-death struggle. (Great cheering)

Let us first then go back to the genesis of the late Parliament, which sprang into being amidst the very flames of conflict. It was a war Parliament. It was elected after this mighty world war had raged a full month. It was elected by a people resolute to prosecute the war with the utmost vigour, and to do all things necessary to aid the Empire in that purpose. Every member stood and was elected on this policy. Not one would have been elected had he dared to advocate a policy other than that. The members of the Labour Party were all elected on and pledged to that policy.

Labour's pledge

Mr. Fisher, the then leader of the party, speaking at Colac, pledged Australia's 'last man and last shilling' in this great struggle. These words, which have become historic, are surely sufficiently sweeping; but the more deliberate terminology of the Labour manifesto, if possible, pledged the Labour Party and every member of it still more definitely to a policy running the gamut of all things necessary to achieve victory. It said:

Our interests and our very existence are bound up with those of the Empire. In time of war, half measures are worse than none. If returned with a majority we shall pursue with the utmost vigour and determination every course necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth and the Empire in any and every contingency. Regarding as we do such a policy as the first duty of the government at this juncture, electors may give their support to the Labour Party with the utmost confidence. And this we say, further, that whatever the verdict of the people, we shall not waver from the position taken up by Mr. Fisher on behalf of our party, viz., that in this hour of peril there are no parties, so far as the defence of the Commonwealth and Empire are concerned, and that the Opposition will co-operate with the Government, and stand behind them as one man. The position then is that if the electors give us a majority we shall expect Mr. Cook and his supporters to stand behind us. On the other hand, if Mr. Cook has a majority, we shall stand behind him in all things necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth and the Empire.

Who can read these words and doubt that the Labour Party was elected to prosecute the war with every ounce of energy, sparing neither men nor money? Who can doubt that Labour was pledged to a policy subordinating all things to the war, to a policy that boldly declared that

In this hour of peril there are no parties.

Who can doubt that Labour was chosen because the electors believed that the party would give effect to this policy? Who can doubt that but for this belief not one of that party would have been elected? This, then, was the contract made by the Labour party in 1914 with the electors. Upon it they were elected. Every member of the present Caucus party was pledged to pursue with the utmost vigour every course necessary for the defence of the Empire in every contingency. Not one of the men who now denounce me would have been elected had the electors had thought he was against the war or against the Empire. (Loud cheers) What is their attitude towards the war today?

Who can read that spineless, emasculated thing issued yesterday, bombastically paraded as the Labour manifesto, and doubt that the attitude of the Caucus party towards the war is at best lukewarm.

They regard the Empire and all that relates to it as a mere side issue.

A Voice:

Shame!

Mr. Hughes:

They care only for their narrow sectional interest.

Labour and the referendum

Now let us turn to a review of the circumstance responsible for the position in August last. Upon Mr. Fisher's acceptance of the High Commissionership in September, 1915, I was unanimously elected leader of the Labour Party. I had been, as most of you know, a member of every Labour Ministry from the first in 1904, and I think it will be admitted even by my enemies that I was chosen as leader because it was thought I was the best man for the position. (Loud cheers) Well, after my return from Great Britain I found that recruiting had fallen—we were not getting one-half the necessary quota—while the Empire's demand for men had greatly increased. The position in which the Empire and her allies then stood was grave in the extreme. The British Army Council took the step, absolutely unprecedented in the history of the Empire, of requesting the Government to maintain the five Australian divisions at their full strength. There had been desperate fighting at Pozieres, and the losses amongst the Australian forces were very heavy, there being nearly 20,000 casualties for September 1916. The outlook was black, the need for men most acute.

I have already referred to the attitude of certain sections of the party of which I was leader. Notwithstanding that, every member of them had been elected to prosecute the war with vigour, to recognise no party during the war, and that none would have been elected unless it had been clearly understood that they intended to do things. As time passed it became evident that certain influences were at work which caused some to become openly hostile and others to become lukewarm to the war. I had to face the position. I was elected to prosecute the war with vigour, to do all things necessary to help the Empire. I was the leader of a party every member of which was elected to do these things. I was a leader to whom the people of Australia looked to see them through this war. (Loud cheers) I faced the position; I did not create it. I wished then, and wish now, that circumstances had been different; but as the leader of a great party, elected to do what was necessary to be done in the interests of Australia and the Empire, I should have been a poor craven if I had turned aside from the clear path of duty. (Loud and prolonged cheering)

Compulsory service inside the Commonwealth had long been the law. It was one of the main planks of the Labour platform. The referendum is also a plank, perhaps the basic one, of that platform. Those of us who put the war first, who stood by the pledge given to the electors in Mr. Fisher's manifesto, saw but one way by which their country and their party could be saved.

As Labour men and democrats, we submitted the question of compulsory overseas service to the electors. For this we have been expelled, denounced as traitors, vilified, covered with venomous and cowardly abuse. What is our offence, our crime?

Why were we expelled?

Not because we had broken any pledges made to the party or to the electors…

A voice:

You were doing your duty. (Loud applause)

…Not because we had violated any plank of the platform; not for anything we said during the conscription campaign; not for the so-called regulation at the referendum. All these things are afterthoughts, excuses; they happened after our expulsion! We were expelled because we dared to speak and act as our consciences dictated. We were expelled, not because we voted against any plank of the Labour platform, but because in the gravest crisis in which the Commonwealth and the Empire have ever been involved we preferred to stand for national rather than party interests. In short, we were expelled because we did not break the pledge that the Labour Party gave to the electors on September 5, 1914. (Loud applause) We were bound by those pledges, by our conscience, and by our duty to our country—(Loud appaluse)—rather than to that junta which has shown itself manifestly disloyl to the Empire and to Australia. (Loud applause) The pledge was that the Labour Party would:

pursue with the utmost vigour and determination every course necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth and the Empire in any and every contingency.

When Australia, the Empire, and liberty were threatened with destruction, we acted as Australians who stood loyally by the Empire, as lovers of liberty, prepared to sacrifice all things for country and liberty. I was expelled because I chose to tread the narrow path of duty. It has proved a hard and bitter one. I was under no illusions as to the consequences of my action. I knew that it meant ostracism, breaking with an organisation to which I had devoted my life, incurring the bitter, implacable hatred of a powerful section of the community. I knew that I risked not only my position as leader, but my very existence as a public man. I saw quite clearly that I was turning my back upon a safe, easy, and profitable path which the unremitting efforts of years had cleared for me. I had but to temporise, to pose as the patriot, and to drug my conscience, and all would have been well for me. I should have been in an impregnable position.

The country waited upon my word. I was quite free to hold my tongue, to pretend to listen to the voice of the junta rather than the voice of duty, to bend the knee as these gentlemen have done.

A voice:

You could not. (Loud and prolonged applause)

I should have been the unchallengeable leader of a great party, and have remained so for years. I could have prolonged the life of Parliament, and these very men who denounced me the other day would have welcomed me with open arms. My position would have been safe for myself, but what of Australia?

Voices:

Ah! Ah! (Loud applause)

Power, ease, assured position were before me. I had but to hold my tongue, to temporise, to sandbag my conscience, to obey the junta as the majority of the party have done, and for me all would have been well. As you know, I did not do this. I could not do it.

I should have despised myself, and all loyal Australians would have despised me if I had sold my country for a mess of pottage. (Loud and long applause)

Labour record

I have been all my life an advocate of the cause of Labour. I have striven with all my strength to serve its interests. My efforts have not been barren, but have borne much fruit. I invite all those who venomously denounce me to show their record of things done for Labour and for Australia generally, and let the people match them with mine. I invite the electors to contrast the records of the Labour men who stand with me in Federal and State spheres—such men as Spence, J. C. Watson, Lamond, Pearce, Givens, Holman, Lynch, Vaughan, Thomas, Earle, and others—with those of our opponents. On the political and industrial fields of battle I and the men who now stand with me have ever been in the forefront of the fray. We fought for Labour when every man's hand was against it, when many of those men who now denounce me were its bitter opponents. We did not come into the Labour movement, as many of these camp-followers of Labour have done, to make something out of it, but when to be a Labour man was to be a pariah, a political leper. Through all its vicissitudes I have been its faithfull adherent. To it I have given the best that is in me. I and my friends believe in the cause of the people. We have served their cause all our lives. We are working for it now, and I believe that the great mass of the people of Australia believe that the course we have taken and intend to pursue to the end is not only the right way to save the country and help the Empire, but also the right way to save democracy and the Labour movement. I am glad to say that every day, from all parts of Australia, abundant proofs that the people approve the course that I have taken and are prepared to support this Government are coming to hand. And these are not confined to citizens outside industrial unionism, but include very many of the most stalwart of the supporters of organised Labour. Whole unions have come over to our side en masse, and I am confident that those unionists of Australia who put loyalty to Australia and the Empire first, who love liberty and hate tyranny, and who see what is plain to everyone not blind, namely, that the great organisation of Labour has been captured by a narrow-minded, disloyal section, who wish to serve their own selfish purposes, will support the cause for which I stand. Sir, I stand here tonight as the leader of all that is best in the Labour movement of Australia. The men who stand with me, whose names have been watchwords in the camp of Labour, for years, have given their whole lives to the cause of Labour, and are comrades in this great fight by whose side any Labour man might be proud to stand.

Win-the-War ministry

Let me say a word about the present Government, for whom I now speak. It springs from the loins of war. It is composed of men of varying shades of political opinion who in this, the gravest crisis in the history of their country and of the Empire, put their country before party. Its purpose is to do whatever is necessary to enable Australia to aid the Empire to win the war. It is a War Government. Recognising that the foundations of our national existence are in grave danger. It deems it imperative that party differences should be forgotten in order that we may face the enemy with a united front. In this dark hour, when liberty and the British Empire are locked in death-grips with Prussian military despotism, when every Briton, Frenchman, Russian, Italian, Belgian, stand side by side in defence of country and liberty, we who yesterday were in the party camps of Labour and Liberalism now forget all things save that we are Australians, and that Australia and all that we hold dear are in grave danger. But the Caucus party stands sullenly aloof, as if the war had not changed all things, as if united action were not imperative. Why, I say, did not that party accept the invitation to join hands with us and with the Liberals to form a National Government, in which all parties should be represented, so that the full force of the nation should be behind its war policy? They cannot deny that if they had done so the interests of Labour would have been insured, for, with both sections thus brought together, Labour would have had a substantial majority in such a Government. Why? Sir, hatred of myself is the explanation: the junta cares nothing whether the rights of Labour are protected or not. It cares only to satisfy its blind, furious anger against a man who has refused to serve its narrow, selfish, sectional purpose. Because they wish to crush me they have turned their backs on this magnificent opportunity to show the world that the Labour party is worthy to be a National party. (Loud applause)

That party will go down to all time as the party that failed Australia in her hour of need. (Tumultuous applause) I do not stand here to apologise for the fact that the men hitherto divided by political opinions have been drawn into intimate association by this war. Our attitude needs neither apology nor explanation. To any man in whose breast the spirit of patriotism is not dead, our attitude is the only one possible. you have been told—you will be told ad nauseum—by those who, in order to retain their seats, speak as the junta directs, that the interests of Labour are not safe in our hands, that the workers of Australia, in order to protect themselves, must support the Caucus party; that the Commonwealth War Government is not to be trusted to look after the interests of the worker. As I shall deal later in the campaign at greater length with this point, I need only treat it here in a general way. First let us ask ourselves what precisely the Caucus party means by this cry. They mean that a government in which Liberals are included will destroy Labour legislation and those safeguards which Labour has created to protect its interests, transfer taxation from the shoulders of the rich and place it upon those of the masses. They mean, in short, that the Policy of the War Government will destroy the fruits of the policy of the Labour Governments which preceded it. That it will abandon the war time profits and the old-age pensions; that it will repeal such measures as the maternity bonus, that it will destroy the principle of preference to unionists. That shortly is what they mean. Now let me shortly answer their charges.

A sham charge

First I say that it is obviously a sham charge. All this talk about the dangers to be apprehended from the presence of Liberals in the present Government is palpably insincere. All they say about the present Government they said about the last, which was comprised wholly of Labour men. They denounced me then; they denounce me now. They said I had betrayed the workers when I brought in the Referendum Bill long before I had said one word in the conscription campaign. They denounced me then when I was their leader when my only offence was that, having the power to introduce conscription by regulation and bludgeon the country into accepting it by force, I acted as a true Democrat and resorted to one of the main planks of the Labour platform—that great charter and guarantee of rule by the people—the referendum. They did this because they were bidden to do so by their masters, the secret juntas, who told them plainly that if they dared to disobey their seats would be forfeited. They told them that plainly, not in any roundabout way, not by hints, but by plain, definite statements. During the conscription campaign men who were my followers, men who had beslavered me but a few weeks before with fulsome adulation, covered me with abuse, charged me with having been bribed to bring in conscription, as now they charge me with having bribed others to serve my own purpose.

A voice:

It has not hurt you very much. (Laughter and cheers)

That is the first answer to the charge that the present Government is not to be trusted to do justice to the workers. It is itself a fairly complete one. The next is no less convincing. These very men who denounce the presence of Mr. Cook and his followers in the Government which I have the honour to lead were not only willing that he should form a Government to replace the Hughes Labour Government, but approached him quietly and gave him positive assurances that if he did so they—these Caucus champions of the workers!—would support him and his Government. (Cheers and laughter) They cannot deny it. Anything so long as they can carry out the instructions of the junta and wreak their vengeance upon me. They cannot deny it. In any case their denial will not serve them; it can be proved. Yet now the very men who were prepared to support a Liberal Government, with all Liberals in it, are trying to persuade the workers that the present Government—half of which is composed of Labour men—are not to be entrusted with power, as the interests of the masses are not safe in their hands. What canting, hypocritical humbug this is! That is the second answer to their charge. It is in itself overwhelming, but there is a third, and it is final and conclusive.

Labour legislation safe

This Government does not come to destroy Labour legislation, or under the cover of the war take advantage of the workers. It is a Government formed to deal with the war—to win the war. It is non-party, not merely in name but in very deed. And so I say it will not touch one stone in the temple of Labour legislation. It will not touch the maternity allowances, old-age pensions, or any other acts brought in by Labour Governments. These men who have joined hands with me are not seeking to take advantage of the war to deal a partisan blow. This is a non-partisan Government., We put the war first, and we do not pull down one party's work under the pretence that we are non-party. We are non-party. We are Australian. We are men inspired by a sincere desire to serve our country. (Loud cheers) Under the Caucus party's system of government laid down by the recent conferences, the men who rule—or would rule if they had a majority in the Parliament—are not members of Parliament at all, not men elected by the people.

Secret inner council

They are men of whom the people know nothing. A number of obscure persons sit in secret conclave and issue instructions to the members of the Caucus party, and upon these instructions the Caucus acts. Now see what this means. In plain English it means this, that you are buying a pig in a poke, and the pig may turn out to be not even a very poor pig but a dead rat. (Laughter) You will be told that the Labour platform and the Labour party are the same as they always were. Nothing can be further from the truth. There is no more resemblance between the Caucus party as it is today and the Labour party as it was than there is between slavery and freedom. Under things as they were, the selected candidate of the Labour Party stood on a platform which he knew and accepted, and which the electors knew and could judge whether it suited them or not. This platform could not be altered during the life of the Parliament by Labour conference, executive or Caucus. It was a solemn contract entered into between the electors and the man elected, and nothing could add to it, take from it, or amend it in any way. For example, if the platform upon which a member of the Labour party was elected contained a plank providing for an exemption of £5,000 under the Federal land tax, the elector who voted for the Labour candidate knew that not only his own member, but the whole of the Labour party, would vote against any attempt to lower that exemption during the life of the Parliament.

That was the Labour party as it used to be. But things are very different now. Then every Labour man was a man—not as he is now, a marionette whose strings are pulled by the executive, or a phonograph repeating the decision of the junta. Now the outside executives absolutely control every act, every word, of the Labour members. It does not matter what the LAbour candidate promises, it does not matter what platform he stands on, he must do whatever the executives tell him to do. If he says on the public platform that he is in favour of retaining the £5,000 exemption on the land tax, and the junta tells him, as they probably will, to vote against it, he will have to do so. All this is amply proved by the recent acts of the outside executives, both in regard to conscription and other matters. The executives regard the member as a servant to be ordered about at will. The Worker of March 1, in a paragraph entitled A tighter hold on the politician, says:

But Labour will continue to tighten the hold. It has learnt the lessons taught by bitter experience. It was decreed that politicians are merelyvthe legislative executive servants of the workers, and that the servants must not become the masters, or imagine themselves to be the masters. W. M. Hughes does not permit his private secretary to dictate Hughes's programme, neither does Holman take his orders from his under-strappers. Nor does the Tory press allow its employees to decide its policy. And the Labour movement is not going to be an exception to this sound rule. Selecting its servants, it has the right to instruct those servants as it thinks fit. And with the wisdom of experience it is going to exercise that right—a bit more severely than hitherto. (Laughter)

Do you think that men who would vote against their solemn convictions when the life and death of Australia were at stake would hesitate to vote against a twopenny-halfpenny pledge like that? And what an abject and humiliating admission was that made by Senator Stewart last week in the Senate. Senator Stewart was amongst the most ardent of conscriptionists; in and out of season he advocated it. He believed in the principle; he believed that it was absolutely vital, and that it would be applied; he supported me in the party room; yet he votes and works against it! Why? Because, in his own words, 'he had to obey the junta.' Why, sir, men calling themselves free have stood up in that Caucus room just before I left it, their inclinations, their convictions, and their conscience all urging them to support the policy I put forward, yet declaring that because the executive had decided otherwise they must obey, for they recognised them as their masters. Great heaven sir, that any man, a representative of this free democracy, should so humiliate himself as to call such men as comprise these juntas his masters!

Men, money, products

It is our duty to help the Empire in this struggle. It is indeed imperative to do so, for only by helping the Empire can we save Australia. As I have said, there are many ways in which we can help the Empire—with men, with money, with our products. As to men, now that the people have decided against compulsion, the call of duty, of patriotism, of Australia, of Empire, must reach the ears of all our young men. Let them go forth and strike a blow for the land that has bred them. Let them draw the sword in defence of those liberties with which this country has so richly endowed them. (Applause) Now let me turn to other means by which Australia can aid the Empire. This war is not as other wars, merely between the armed forces of the belligerents; it is a war between nations. Every man and woman is or ought to be a fighter, struggling for his or her life. Every resource of the Empire, the service of every man and woman able to do some useful work, are needed in order that we should be victorious. Now, the most effective means by which Australia can help the Empire, apart from sending men to fight, is to send from her great storehouse metals for munitions and products to feed and clothe the Imperial and Allied armies and the people of Britain.

Sir, I have said this war is a war between armies. The question of food supplies is absolutely vital. Upon an ample supply of food all depends. If Germany falls she will fall because she can no longer feed her people. Though her legions stand like a granite wall against the furious attacks of the Allies, yet their valour will avail nothing unless the 120,000,000 people in the Central Empires can be fed. And what is true of Germany is not less true of Britain.

Unless her 45,000,000 are fed from oversea nothing can save her: though she pile munitions high, though the roar of her great guns burst the heavens, though the fury of her attacks tear large gaps in the ranks of the enemy, unless the 45,000,000 in Britain are fed, victory will glide from her nervous hand. The blockade of Germany by the British Fleet and the submarine campaign by Germany are daggers aimed at the very heart of Germany and Britain. Which shall strike first! That is the question. Upon the answer hang our destiny and that of the civilised world. Australia's duty in this great crisis is obvious; we must make available in increasing quantities the products necessary to enable the Empire and its allies to win the war. Freight is a vital factor, but over that we have no control. Over the food supplies which will save the Empire, if they can but be safely carried oversea, we have full control. Let us then endeavour by organised efforts to increase our food and general products to help the Empire in this war and during the period of reconstruction which will follow on the heels of war; and at the same time we shall greatly develop this our glorious heritage. (Applause)

Wheat pool operations

Now, having started what we must do, let me declare the policy of the Government on the matter. Almost from the inception of the war it became apparent that without Government action grave, if not fatal, consequences would result to the producers through the dislocation of industry and commerce, particularly freight, caused by the war. The Government of which I was a member dealt in drastic fashion with the German cancer which had eaten into our industrial life in the base metal industry and in other directions. (Cheers) At my suggestion the Government stepped in and organised freight, and threw all its weight behind the wheat pool scheme. After two years' experience it may be fairly said that the action of the Government has been of the greatest possible benefit to the farmers. Never in the history of Australia have they received so much for their wheat as during this great war. Under the Wheat Board the farmer has received all that his wheat produced, less actual expenses of handling. The middleman has been eliminated, handling charges and commissions have been reduced to the minimum.

Further, under this scheme all farmers, great and small, fare alike. For the first time in his life the poor struggling farmer has been able to get the benefit of market prices, which he was formerly never able to do, since he was forced to sell to the speculator, who gave a price much below the market rate. The Wheat Board has now decided in fvour of a farmers' representative on the board. (Cheers)

Since the Wheat Board came into existence we have sold 6,100,000 tons, that is, 228,000,000 bushels of wheat at an average price of 4/9 1-3 l.o.b. Of this 2,014,000 tons have been actually sent overseas and 3,185,000 tons sold but not yet shipped. The farmer has received for wheat sold and actually delivered to the buyer overseas and here £27,271,000, and for wheat sold but not delivered he has received an additional £13,823,000. The British Government, as is well known, has bought altogether 3,600,000 tons, that is, 112,000,000 bushels of 1915-16 and 1916-17 wheat for 4/9 a bushel t.o.b. This transaction is easily the biggest wheat deal in the world. The greater part of this wheat has not yet been shipped. For this wheat the farmer has already received £14,000,000, and the balance will be paid as soon as the money is available from the British Government. Payment will not depend upon the shipment of wheat from Australia. (Cheers) This will mean great things not only to the men on the land, but to the people in the cities. It is evident that without the organisation of the Wheat Pool the farmers would have been in a very different position. It is not too much to say, in fact, that without the Wheat Pool the wheat-growing industry would have been almost ruined. But for the organisation of freight, which the Commonwealth controlled, the farmer would have received anything from 1/ to 2/ less for all wheat sold c.i.f. than he has done. Entirely owing to Government action wheat freights from Australia were kept down from 59/ to 90/ a ton less than freights from places at a corresponding distance from Europe. The Government freight scheme, to the success of which the Commonwealth fleet of steamers contributed materially, enabled the Australian farmer—12,000 miles distant from Britain—to get freight as cheaply as the Argentine farmer, not one-half the distance.

The Government guarantee

The general effect of the wheat pool and the freight arrangement has been to greatly encourage wheat-growing. The great difficulty under which the producer in Australia has always laboured is to find an assured market at a remunerative price for his products. And this brings me to the point I wish to make. An assured market for the producer is absolutely essential if we wish to develop this country. Great quantities of food products are now, and are going to be for some time after the war, vital to the Empire. After the war there are going to be great opportunities for Australia to supply the world with her products and the Government has adopted a policy which it believes will do a great deal to enable Australia to take advantage of those great opportunities. (Cheers) The Commonwealth, which seeks above all things to help the Empire, and at the same time develop Australia, has decided upon a policy which will encourage the farmer to increase this acreage under cultivation, and it will apply this policy to all forms of primary and secondary industries. Dealing with wheat, it has, acting in conjunction with the wheat-growing States, already guaranteed a minimum of 4/ a bushel f.o.b. for the next season's (1917-18) wheat crop. It now extends that guarantee to the 1918-19 crop. (Cheers)

Farmers, therefore, who have already received payment for the 1915-16 crop and portion of the 1916-17, and have the remainder guaranteed, can get to work straight away on new and old ground with the positive assurance that, come peace or war, slump in the market, scarcity of freight, or what not, they are assured of at least 4/ a bushel f.o.b. for their wheat crops for 1917-18 and 1918-19.

This, I think, will put great heart into our farmers. They know that for every bushel they produce, no matter what the world's markets are, and never mind whether ships come to Australia, it is going to be a great thing for the farmers. (Cheers) They will get their land under cultivation, and many men, returned soldiers and others, will be encouraged to go on the land now that they know a certain and remunerative market is assured to them.

Markets and prices

Time will not now permit me to speak of what has been done to tear out the cancer of German trade in Australia, to organise and develop the great base metal industry, or to go into the application of the Government policy to meat and other products, and to industries generally. But I want to tell the meat producers of Australia that the Government, recognising the vital importance of the matter both from the point of view of feeding the Empire and developing Australia, will take such action as will ensure that the channels and agencies through which Australian meat finds its way to the markets of the world, including refrigerated tonnage and selling agencies, are controlled in their interests, so that they too will have an assured market as far as human effort can guarantee it. (Cheers) As you know, sir, scarcity of freights and the recently imposed prohibition of imports into Britain has seriously affected the producers of several of our primary products. The overseas markets are thus wholly closed or seriously affected and the Government, in order to protect the producer from loss and the consumer from exploitation, has adopted a policy of appointing boards to regulate prices and find markets. This is being done with hides and leather, tallow, hops, apples, and dried fruits. On all these boards the producer will have direct representation. The Government will regulate prices in any industry where such action is necessary to protect the producer from loss and the consumer from exploitation.

Pools and consumers

One point of great importance in this connection may be emphasised before I pass on to other matters. I mean the effect of the policy of encouraging the development of Australian resources on the consumer. We have fixed the price of wheat sold for local consumption at 4/9 a bushel. This means a cheap loaf. By the policy of the Government in guaranteeing a minimum price for wheat that cheap loaf is assured for the next three years. (Cheers) This will surely be good news for the community as a whole. We have fixed the price of sugar at 3½d. per lb, and at the same time given the producer much more than ever he received before in his life. (Cheers) Surely that is a sound national policy, which protects producer and consumer alike, and at the same time develops the resources of Australia and ensures the food supply of Britain. (Cheers) To show what this policy has done for Australia it is interesting to contrast the price of staple commodities in Australia today with those in Britain and elsewhere. The prices of staple commodities in Australia today offer a striking contrast to those obtaining in Britain and elsewhere. Bread here is 6½d. to 7d a 4lb loaf; in Britain it is 1/. Sugar here is 3½d. per lb; in London it is 7d.

Industrial organisation

Let me turn for a moment to a matter of utmost possible importance. I mean the Government policy towards Australian industries in general. The secret of Germany's success in commerce and industry before the war, her tremendous strength during the war, springs from organisation on a national basis. And we, too, must organise, and adopt her system, not only to win the war, but to retain the fruits of victory when won. To develop our great resources we must organise. It is to this work of organisation and development of our national resources to win the war, and to grapple with the problems that peace will bring in its train that the Government's policy is directed. (Cheers)

Tariff and industry

Our attitude on the tariff as a means of encouraging industry has been already stated by me in a Ministerial statement recently made in Parliament. It is the intention of the Government to develop Australian production and industry, and to proceed with such amendments to the present tariff as may be necessary to attain this end. While alteration of the present tariff cannot now be made, the Government is pledged to deal with the matter directly circumstances make it possible. (Cheers) The Government will also push on with the policy of the late Administration, and seek the aid of science for the development of industry. Time will not enable me to deal this evening with this matter, which is of vital importance; but I do not hesitate to declare that only by enlisting the aid of science can we hope to develop the great resources of Australia, and enable it to hold its own in competition with the world. I shall during the campaign take opportunity of dealing more in detail with the policy of the Government in regard to encouragement of Australian industries, but I have thought it necessary to state it now in general terms.

Repatriation problem

It has been said many times that this war is not as other wars; and this is very true. It is certainly not less true that, great as the task is that the war imposes upon the community, the problems after the war will be not less difficult. These affect the national, industrial, and political spheres. They must be faced and solved in the right spirit. Australia will find the aftermath of this war even more terrible than the war itself. Amongst these problems is the repatriation of our soldiers. We owe to those who have borne the brunt of battle more than the nation can ever adequately repay. (Cheers) They who stepped forth voluntarily in the hour of their country's need have carried themselves nobly and acquitted themselves well. These men, who went out with Australia's honour in their keeping, have covered her name with glory. They went forth willingly to do their duty to Australia; Australia must be equally ready to do its duty to them. It is the intention of the Government, so far as is humanly possible, to see that the debt is paid in full. Complete reparation can never be made, for their sacrifices are beyond price. But we can at least make certain that the maimed are not left to struggle on unaided, nor the grieving widow tortured by the cruel pinch of want. whatever may be just in the criticism of the past, there must be no room for criticism in the future. We owe it to ourselves as a nation that the accidents of war shall not entirely rob our soldiers of their efficiency as citizens, nor add one tittle to their burdens as individuals. The Government intends to apply itself vigorously to the task which lies before it. The widows and dependents of those who have fallen will be provided for; the unemployable will be generously pensioned, and the maimed will be settled in occupations for which they are fitted. (Cheers) The Commonwealth Government undertakes the full responsibility for the welfare of the returned soldiers, and is now completing the machinery necessary to ensure it. It has agreed with the States upon a scheme of land settlement, and is now dealing with the various other phases of repatriation of the soldier. The Government scheme will provide for direct representation of the soldiers themselves, so that the returned men will have a voice in the working of the scheme, and the Government the benefit of their advice and co-operation. The financial obligations of the land settlement and general repatriation proposals to which the Commonwealth is committed involve a considerable amount of money, which has been estimated at £32,000,000, of which £22,000,000 is required for land settlement, and £10,000,000 for other forms of repatriation. The Government proposes to raise the £22,000,000 by loans, and the remaining £10,000,000 by a tax upon incomes spread over a series of years. It hopes to ensure that close and intimate interest in the repatriation of the soldier which is essential to the process of the scheme by also appealing for voluntary contributions in money and kind.

Population and defence

A word here on immigration, a matter of vital interest to Australia. We have a continent in which 100,000,000 people could live in ease. We have a population of barely 5,000,000. If we are to hold this great and rich country it is abundantly clear that we must people it with men who are prepared to fight for it. (Loud cheers) The Government has already agreed with the States that the same facilities offered to the returned Australian soldiers for land settlement shall be given to British soldiers. The men who are fighting the battles of the Empire are the kind of men we want in Australia. The Government is anxious about this for nothing is more certain that if we are to hold this country we must have a numerous population prepared to defend us. We are never going to hold this country with 5,000,000 people—never. We must have the numbers, and they must be strong and virile men. (Loud cheers) The Government is anxious to co-operate with the States in securing a steady stream of immigrants after the war in order that it may settle a virile population upon the lands of Australia. We do not want them in the great cities. We want them on the land. We must offer them facilities. We must encourage people to settle on the land and to work the land. For this reason we have guranteed the minimum price for wheat. For this reason we are arranging to spend £22,000,000 in settling soldiers on the land.

Taxation

This war, which has brought dreadful ruin and disaster to other lands, which has left poor Belgium a blackened and ruined waste, has passed us by unscathed. But although happily we have escaped its awful horrors, yet the war has imposed upon us great burdens which daily grow heavier. The taxation which the people have to pay has been considerably increased. We have already incurred debts for war purposes falling not far short of £130,000,000. To this, of course, must be added other obligations, as, for example, those arising out of the repatriation of our soldiers. We are defraying a considerable portion of the extraordinary expenditure arising out of the war from revenue, and as you know have lately increased the rate of income tax by 25 per cent. Wealth has its duties and its responsibilities in this great struggle as well as manhood, and I feel sure that no loyal Australian will complain because he is calledupon to contribute his fair share of welath towards helping the Commonwealth and the Empire to achieve decisive victory. The wealthy classes of Britain have set a splendid example to the world, and are cheerfully pouring out, not only their money, but their blood for their country. And in this, as in other things, Australia will not lag behind. It is only right that we should do our duty by those who have done their duty so heroicially by us; that every man should contribute his fair share towards this war; and that no man should make a profit at his country's expense. The Government intends to proceed with the War Time Profits Bill. Every consideration will be given to new businesses, to exceptional industries, and to individual cases where hardship would arise, but the principle that no man is entitled to make undue profits in war time is sound, equitable and will be applied. (Cheers) Our circumstances compel a wise and prudent economy in expenditure, and the Government will exercise the utmost care in this direction. As I have already said, it will not seek to create unemployment for the purpose of economic conscription, seeking rather to rely upon the patriotic spirit of the people than their necessities. I think it is necessary to make that statement in view of the first signs of this dense miasmsa of lies which is rising again in this campaign as it was raised in the referendum campaign.

Regulation of imports

The Government intends to follow the example of Great Britain in regard to the regulation of the importation of luxuries during war time. Such a policy seems to be dictated both by common prudence and circumstances in which we now find ourselves. It is obvious on the face of it that to send money out of this country and out of the Empire at a time when every atom of wealth is essential is a suicidal policy. While recognising how intricate the ramifications of the proposal are, and how carefully and closely each particular item must be dealt with, the Government intends to give effect to that policy, so that we may keep the wealth of the country within the country and the Empire, make available for loan and other purposes money which otherwise would be dissipated in unnecessary expenditure, and, at the same time, encourage, as far as is humanly possible, the industries of Australia, and increase the opportunities of employment for our own citizens. It is obvious that in so complex a matter we must proceed with great care. To prohibit the importation of luxuries, and so give employment to 10 people, and at the same time, throw 250 out of work, would be folly. THe question is most difficult, but, having due regard to all its difficulties and complexities, the Government will endeavour to achieve the end I have mentioned. (Cheers)

Mr. Hughes and Bendigo

And now a brief word on myself as a candidate for the suffrages of the electors of Bendigo. (Loud and prolonged cheering) I have come here to contest this election as a result of a general and widespread desire of electors of both political parties that I should do so. (Loud cheers) Several electorates of the Commonwealth had done me the great honour of inviting me to stand as a candidate. I have come to the people of Bendigo, and now seek their suffrage. There is perhaps something not unfitting in the fact that I, who belong to one branch of the great Celtic family, the Welsh, should come to this place where so many of the people belong to another branch of the Celtic family, the Cornish, and where the Cornish people have left so many marks of their energy, and of that spirit which has made the Cornish people so prominent in many ways throughout the world. We are bound together, not only by the bonds of racial kinship, but by the bonds of loyalty to the Empire. (Loud cheers) I am glad that in this great war, which means life and death to us, the men of the Celtic strain, Cornish and Welsh, are doing their share. As what I am and what I stand for are both well enough known, I need say nothing more now than this—if the electors of Bendigo do me the honour of electing me I will do my very utmost to serve them and my country faithfully and well. (Loud cheers)

Election issue

Sir, the issues at this election are beyond compare the most important ever submitted to the people of this country. They go to the very roots of our material, political, and industrial existence. The Empire, looking on with expectant eyes, awaits the verdict of the people of Australia, in order that it may know whether Australia is for or against the Empire and all that the Empire stands for. Upon the verdict of the electors will depend the future of Australia. sir, I have no doubt what that verdict will be. The New South Wales elections have sounded the knell of doom in the ears of the juntas. They see in the result of the appeal to the people in that State the writing on the wall. But, sir, we must not rest upon our ears. do not let us drown in a sea of over-confidence. The forces that oppose us are powerful; their methods are insidious. They will work unceasingly; let us do likewise. And let every elector remember that this is a fight not only for supremacy in one House, but in both. We must win the Senate. Electors of Australia, be true to yourselves, to Australia and to the Empire.

Do not forget you must work with all the energy at your command, not only to return the candidate of the National Party for the House of Representatives, but also the three National Senate candidates in this state. You must work for the return of Bolton, Fairbairn and Plain.

Let us determine that not an effort shall be spared so that on May 5, it shall be seen that Australia does stand for the Empire and all that it means. (Loud cheers) This is a fight for the Senate as well as the House of Representatives, and I am glad to see the three Victorian Senate candidates—Messrs. Plain and Fairbairn and Colonel Bolton—on the platform. (Loud cheers) They fairly represent that party to which we belong. They are drawn from different sections of society, who before this war were as far asunder as the Poles, but who are now cleaving together aas brothers in the interest of the Empire. Mr. Plain is an Australian, Mr. Fairbairn is an Australian; and Colonel Bolton has fought for Australia. (Great cheering) Each of these men, in fact, has fought for Australia in his own way. As Colonel Bolton fought for Australia on Gallipoli so do you now unsheathe your sword. See that you arouse the apathetic electors. See that you meet every lie that is uttered. See that there is not one liar who is not pierced by the javelin of truth. If you do that we shall win not only in this State, but throughout Australia, a mighty victory. I hope that the electors will remember that this is a fight not only for the House of Representatives, but for the Senate. Unless we win in five States we shall not have the majority that we ought to have. There is a great fight before us, but we are a great party, and we are spurred on by enthusiasm. We believe we are right, and we are going to win. (Loud cheers)

Plain speaking

This is no time for kid gloves or beating about the bush. It is the time for plain speaking. It is a fight to a finish. It is no time for mealy-mouthed speaking. We must say what we believe in this fight. You must do your duty the same as the men who are fighting your battles, and if you do it half as well we shall win the greatest victory ever known in Australia. (Great cheering) The Government has appealed to the electors. Its policy is before them. The issues are clear. The electors are to choose between us and the Caucus party. We stand for the Empire; for prosecution of the war to a decisive victory. We are against a premature peace. We are for a lasting peace. That is only to be snatched from the jaw of Prussian militarism dy a decisive victory. We stand for Empire and all that it means. We are against anarchy. (Loud applause) We are for arbitration against strikes. We stand for the encouragement and development of our great national resources, and the encouragement of our industries. We stand for a fair deal for all men, irrespective of class. That is the policy on which the Government stands. By that policy we shall stand or fall. I appeal to every loyal Australian to vote for it. (Loud and continued applause)

Mr. Hughes, replying to a question, said that he was in favour of preferential voting.

A voice:

If the National Government is returned will it be in favour of repealing the Daylight Saving Bill?

Mr. Hughes:

I think that will expire by effluxion of time. (Laughter) I have brought it in, and there was nobody who had one word to say against it, and now there does not seem to be anybody who has anything to say for it. (Laughter) We are back now under the old time and, speaking for myself, I shall break no blood-vessels if it does not come in again.

The meeting concluded with hearty cheers for the Prime minister and the Senate candidates.