Conscription in Australia, or mandatory military service also known as national service, has a controversial history dating back to the first years of nationhood. Australia currently only has provision for conscription during times of war.
In 1909, the federal government of the then prime minister, Alfred Deakin, introduced legislation for a form of conscription for boys from 12 to 14 years of age and for youths from 18 to 20 years of age for the purposes of home defence. The legislation did not allow soldiers to be conscripted for overseas service. This legislation was passed through the combined support of the Protectionist Party and the Australian Labor Party. Following a visit and a report on Australia's defence readiness by Field Marshal Kitchener, the Australian Labor Party government instituted a system of compulsory military training for all males aged between 12 and 26 from 1 January 1911. 
John Barrett, in his study of boyhood conscription, Falling In, noted:
In 1911 there were approximately 350,000 boys of an age (10–17 years) to register for compulsory training up to the end of 1915. Since 'universal' was a misnomer, about half that number were exempted from training, or perhaps never registered, reducing the group to 175,000.
There was also extensive opposition to boyhood conscription resulting in, by July 1915, some 34,000 prosecutions and 7,000 detentions of trainees, parents, employers or other persons required to register.
Are you in favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military service, for the term of this War, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth?
A second plebiscite was held on 20 December 1917 and defeated by a greater margin. The question put to Australians was:
Are you in favour of the proposal of the Commonwealth Government for reinforcing the Commonwealth Forces overseas?
After the failure of the first plebiscite, Billy Hughes left the Australian Labor Party parliamentary caucus, taking with him most of the parliamentary party's talent. He promptly crossed the floor with about half of the parliamentary party, creating a new National Labor Party and surviving as prime minister by forming a conservative Nationalist government dependent for support on the Commonwealth Liberal Party. The remainder of the Labor Party, under their new leader Frank Tudor, then expelled Hughes and all who had followed him. Following the split, Labor stayed out of office for ten years.
After the first plebiscite the government used the War Precautions Act and the Unlawful Associations Act to arrest and prosecute anti-conscriptionists such as Tom Barker, editor of Direct Action and many other members of the Industrial Workers of the World and E. H. Coombe (who had three sons at the front) of the Daily Herald. The young John Curtin, at the time a member of the Victorian Socialist Party, was also arrested. Anti-conscriptionist publications (in one case, even when read into Hansard), were seized by government censors in police raids.
Other notable opponents to Conscription included the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Daniel Mannix, the Queensland Labor Premier Thomas Ryan, Vida Goldstein and the Women's Peace Army. Most trade unions actively opposed conscription. The County Cork born Archbishop Mannix stated that Ireland had been more wronged by Great Britain than Belgium had been by Germany.
Many people thought positively of conscription as a sign of loyalty to Britain and thought that it would also support those men who were already fighting. However, trade unions feared that their members might be replaced by cheaper foreign or female labour and opposed conscription. Some groups argued that the whole war was immoral, and it was unjust to force people to fight.
South Africa and India were the only other participating countries not to introduce conscription during the First World War.
The conscription issue deeply divided Australia with large meetings held both for and against. The women's vote was seen as important, with large women's meetings and campaign information from both sides aimed at women voters. The campaigning for the first plebiscite was launched by Hughes at a huge overflow meeting at the Sydney Town Hall where he outlined the Government's proposals. This was followed by a huge pro-conscription meeting at the Melbourne Town Hall on 21 September.
Anti-conscriptionists, especially in Melbourne, were also able to mobilise large crowds with a meeting filling the Exhibition Building on 20 September 1916; 30,000 people on the Yarra bank on Sunday, 15 October, and 25,000 the following week; a "parade of women promoted by the United Women's No-Conscription Committee – an immense crowd of about 60,000 people gathered at Swanston St between Guild Hall and Princes Bridge, and for upwards of an hour the street was a surging area of humanity". An anti-conscription stop work meeting called by five trade unions held on the Yarra Bank mid-week on 4 October attracted 15,000 people. It was passed on 21 September 1916 and mandatory registration and enrolment commenced while the first plebiscite campaign was underway. By 5 October The Age reported that of 11607 men examined, 4581 were found fit, approximately 40 percent.
The Age noted, in the article "Influence of the IWW", that "the great bulk of the opposition to conscription is centred in Victoria". Many meetings in inner Melbourne and Sydney were disrupted by anti-conscriptionists with speakers being howled down from the audience in what The Age described as "disgraceful exhibition" and "disorderly scenes".
The issue deeply divided the Labor Party, with ministers such as Hughes and George Pearce, vigorously arguing the need for conscription for Australia to help the Allies win the war. They were supported by many within the party, including Labor's first prime minister, Chris Watson and the NSW Labor Premier, William Holman. Hughes denounced anti-conscriptionists as traitors and a climate of bitter sectarianism (with most Roman Catholics opposing conscription and most others supporting it) developed.
By the end of the war in November 1918, a total of 416,809 men had voluntarily enlisted in the Army, representing 38.7 percent of the white male population aged between 18 and 44.
On 1 November 1929, the mandatory service provisions of the Defence Act were suspended and after 18 years conscription for home defence had come to an end.
In 1939, at the start of World War II, all unmarried men aged 21 were to be called up for three months' military training. These men could serve only in Australia or its territories. Conscription was effectively introduced in mid-1942, when all men aged 18–35, and single men aged 35–45, were required to join the Citizens Military Forces (CMF). Volunteers with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) scorned CMF conscripts as "chocolate soldiers", or "chockos", because they were believed to melt under the conditions of battle. Or it might be an allusion to George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man, where Bluntschli filled his backpack with chocolate bars rather than ammunition. However, several CMF Militia units fought under difficult conditions and suffered extremely high casualties during 1942, in slowing the Japanese advance on the Kokoda Track in New Guinea (at the time an Australian territory).
The Papuan campaign of 1942 led to a significant reform in the composition of the Australian Army. During the campaign, the restriction banning CMF personnel from serving outside of Australian territory hampered military planning and caused tensions between the AIF and CMF. In late 1942 and early 1943 Prime Minister John Curtin overcame opposition within the Australian Labor Party to extending the geographic boundaries in which conscripts could serve to include most of the South West Pacific and the necessary legislation was passed in January 1943. The 11th Brigade was the only CMF formation to serve outside of Australian territory, however, when it formed part of Merauke Force in the Netherlands East Indies during 1943 and 1944.
In 1951, during the Korean War, national service was introduced under the National Service Act (1951). All Australian males aged 18 had to register for 176 days training (ninety-nine days full-time) and two years in the CMF. Later the obligation was 140 days of training (seventy-seven days full-time) and three years of service in the CMF. The regular military forces were kept as voluntary. In 1957 the system was changed to emphasise skill rather than numbers. The system was ended in 1959.
In 1964 compulsory national service for 20-year-old males was introduced under the National Service Act (1964). The selection of conscripts was made by a sortition or lottery draw based on date of birth, and conscripts were obligated to give two years' continuous full-time service, followed by a further three years on the active reserve list. The full-time service requirement was reduced to 18 months in October 1971.
The Defence Act was amended May 1964 to provide that national servicemen could be obliged to serve overseas, a provision that had been applied only once before—during World War II. The 1964 amendments applied only to the permanent military forces and excluded the Citizen Military Forces. In 1965, the Defence Act was again amended to require the CMF to serve overseas which was not included in the 1964 amendments. In March 1966, the government announced that national servicemen would be sent to South Vietnam to fight in units of the Australian Regular Army and for secondment to American forces. Requirements for overseas service were detailed by the Minister for the Army, Malcolm Fraser, on 13 May 1966. Men who wished to avoid national service could join the Citizen Military Forces and serve only inside Australia, claim a student deferment, or attempt a conscientious objection application. To be exempted on the basis of conscientious objection, an applicant needed to demonstrate his moral objection to "all" wars in court and be legalised as a pacifist. This meant that the rate of success for conscientious objection applications was generally low.
During the late 1960s, domestic opposition to the Vietnam War and conscription grew in Australia. In 1965 a group of concerned Australian women formed the anti-conscription organisation Save Our Sons, which was established in Sydney with other branches later formed in Wollongong, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Newcastle and Adelaide. The movement protested against conscription of Australians to fight in the Vietnam War and made the plight of men under 21 (who were not eligible to vote at that time) a focus of their campaign. In 1970, five Save-Our-Sons women were jailed in Melbourne for handing out anti-conscription pamphlets whilst on government property. The group, which included Jean Maclean, Irene Miller and Jo Maclaine-Ross, was dubbed "The Fairlea Five" after Fairlea women's prison in which they were incarcerated. Barbara Miller is understood to be related to the decorated conscript Simon Anderson who mysteriously disappeared in 1970.
Young men who were subject to the conscription lottery also formed their own anti-conscription organisation, the Youth Campaign Against Conscription. Like Save Our Sons, it spread to other states – New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. It was the YCAC that imported the concept of draft-card burning from the United States, and ushered in a new form of resistance to conscription – active non-compliance. Instead of merely not registering (passive non-compliance with the National Service Scheme), these young conscripts actively demonstrated their distaste for the government's actions by destroying their registration cards. Unlike in the United States, this was not an illegal act, so its importance remained symbolic.
There were several high-profile controversies caused by the government's heavy-handed treatment of conscientious objectors, including William White and Simon Townsend (who later became a well-known TV personality). In 1969 the Gorton administration was severely embarrassed by a renowned This Day Tonight story in which a conscientious objector, who had been on the run from police for several months, was interviewed live in the studio by journalist Richard Carleton, who then posed awkward questions to the Army minister about why TDT had been able to locate the man within hours and bring him to the studio when the federal police had been unable to capture him, and the event was made even more embarrassing for the government because the man was able to leave the studio before police arrived to arrest him.
By 1969 public opinion was turning against the war. A Gallup Poll in August showed that 55 percent of those surveyed favoured bringing Australian troops home, and only 40 percent favoured them staying. This was the first poll to show less than 50% approval for the government's policy, and all polls after August 1969 were to reveal a majority in favour of bringing the troops home. In October, during his policy speech for the 1969 federal elections, Opposition leader Gough Whitlam declared that, if elected, the ALP would make sure that all Australian troops in Vietnam would be home 'by Christmas'.
At around this time, too, opposition to conscription became more radical. Active non-compliers began to call themselves "draft resisters". Instead of waiting to be called up, draft resisters wrote letters to the Minister for National Service detailing their intention not to comply with conscription. Under law, this immediately rendered them liable for service. A number of these young men formed a draft resisters' union, active in at least two states – New South Wales and Victoria. They included men such as Bob Scates and Michael Hamel-Green. They went underground while maintaining a public presence, appearing at protests and being spirited away by the crowd before they could be arrested.
Australian government cabinet documents released by Australian National Archives in 2001 show that in 1970 the conservative Government was initially concerned about the growth of conscientious objection and outright opposition to the National Service Act. Reportedly, federal cabinet considered instituting an option of alternative civilian work program for conscientious objectors in an attempt to reduce the numbers of objectors going to jail. This was never instituted, but was widely rumoured at the time. Such work would have been menial labouring jobs in remote locations such as north and western Queensland, western New South Wales and northern South Australia.
The documents reveal that draft resistance and draft dodging never posed a threat to the number of conscripts required, but the public opposition by draft resisters such as John Zarb, Michael Matteson and Robert Martin did have an increasingly political effect.
Conscription ended in December 1972 and the remaining seven men in Australian prisons for refusing conscription were freed in mid-to-late December 1972. 63,735 national servicemen served in the Army, of which 15,381 were deployed to Vietnam. Approximately 200 were killed.
The 1916 Australian plebiscite was held on 28 October 1916. It was the first non-binding Australian plebiscite, and contained one question concerning military service. This plebiscite was held due to Prime Minister Billy Hughes' desire to conscript young Australian men for overseas service during World War I. It was conducted under the Military Service Referendum Act 1916.It was a plebiscite rather than a referendum because the Australian government already had powers sufficient to introduce overseas conscription. However, due to the controversial nature of the measure and a lack of clear parliamentary support, Hughes took the issue to a public vote to obtain symbolic, rather than legal, sanction for the move. The plebiscite sparked a divisive debate that split the public and the Labor Party in the process, and resulted in a close but clear rejection of the measure. After the re-election of Hughes in the 1917 election, a 1917 plebiscite was carried dealing with the same issue softening the conditions of conscription, and with the same result.1916 VFL season
The 1916 Victorian Football League season was the 20th season of the elite Australian rules football competition.
The 1916 season of the VFL saw just four teams competing, due to World War I. This led to the anomaly of Fitzroy having the distinction of winning both the wooden spoon and the premiership in the same year, finishing 4th out of 4 but progressing through to the Grand Final in the final four finals system and winning that match.1917 Australian conscription referendum
The 1917 Australian plebiscite was held on 20 December 1917. It contained just the one question.
Are you in favour of the proposal of the Commonwealth Government for reinforcing the Australian Imperial Force overseas?Australian Army
The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) commands the ADF, the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army (CA). The CA is therefore subordinate to the CDF, but is also directly responsible to the Minister for Defence. Although Australian soldiers have been involved in a number of minor and major conflicts throughout its history, only in World War II has Australian territory come under direct attack.Australian Labor Party split
Australian Labor Party split may refer to:
Australian Labor Party split of 1916, which followed a disagreement on proposed conscription in Australia during World War I
Australian Labor Party split of 1931, which followed from disagreement regarding how the party was handling the Australian Great Depression
Australian Labor Party split of 1955, which involved a disagreement over the party's position toward communismAustralian Labor Party split of 1916
The Australian Labor Party split of 1916 occurred following severe disagreement within the Australian Labor Party over the issue of proposed World War I conscription in Australia. Labor Prime Minister of Australia Billy Hughes had, by 1916, become an enthusiastic supporter of conscription as a means to boost Australia's contribution to the war effort. On 30 August 1916, he announced plans for a referendum on the issue (the Australian plebiscite, 1916), and introduced enabling legislation into parliament on 14 September, which passed only with the support of the opposition. Six of Hughes' ministers resigned in protest at the move, and the New South Wales state branch of the Labor Party expelled Hughes. The referendum saw an intense campaign in which Labor figures vehemently advocated on each side of the argument, although the "no" campaign narrowly won on 14 November. In the wake of the referendum defeat, the caucus moved to expel Hughes on 14 November; instead, he and 23 supporters resigned and formed the National Labor Party. Frank Tudor was elected leader of the rump party. Hughes was recommissioned as Prime Minister, heading a minority government supported by the opposition Commonwealth Liberal Party; the two parties then merged as the Nationalist Party of Australia and won the 1917 federal election. The Nationalist Party served as the main conservative party of Australia until 1931, and the split resulted in many early Labor figures ending their careers on the political right.The split had different impacts in different states. In Queensland there was no significant split at all, with the state Labor Party having experienced the loss of many early members a decade earlier when William Kidston led a breakaway group out in 1907. During the war Premier T. J. Ryan made strong efforts to minimise losses. Only one member of the state parliament, John Adamson, left the party and initially there was no attempt to create an alternate vehicle at the state level. However in October 1919 Adamson was part of the formation of a National Labor Party for ex-Labor supporters that used the name. It had no electoral success and soon disappeared.Charles McDonald (Australian politician)
Charles McDonald (25 August 1860 – 13 November 1925) was an Australian politician who served in the House of Representatives from 1901 until his death, representing the Labor Party. He was Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1910 to 1913 and from 1914 to 1917. Before entering federal politics, McDonald had served in the Queensland Legislative Assembly from 1893 to 1901.Compulsory military training in New Zealand
Compulsory military training (CMT), a form of conscription, was practised for males in New Zealand between 1909 and 1972. Prior to and after this period military training in New Zealand has been voluntary.Conscription disturbance at the Brisbane School of Arts
On 9 July 1917, a disturbance broke out at the Brisbane School of Arts, when a meeting of the Women's Compulsory Service Petition League was interrupted by activists from the Women's Peace Army, with the confrontation degenerating into violence and mayhem.Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act 1943
The Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act (1943) was federal Australian law passed on 26 January 1943 which extended the area in which the Militia were obliged to serve from Australia and its territories to the South-Western Pacific Zone (SWPZ), a triangle bounded by the equator and the 110th and 159th meridians of longitude, for the duration of the war and up to six months of Australia ceasing to be involved in hostilities.Draft-card burning
Draft-card burning was a symbol of protest performed by thousands of young men in the US and Australia in the 1960s and early 1970s. The first draft-card burners were American men taking part in the opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War. The first well-publicized protest was in December 1963, with a 22-year old conscientious objector, Eugene Keyes, setting fire to his card on Christmas Day in Champaign, Illinois. In May 1964, a larger demonstration, with about 50 people in Union Square, New York, was organized by the War Resisters League chaired by David McReynolds.By May 1965 it was happening with greater frequency around the US. To limit this kind of protest, in August 1965, the United States Congress enacted a law to broaden draft card violations to punish anyone who "knowingly destroys, knowingly mutilates" his draft card. Subsequently, 46 men were indicted for burning their draft cards at various rallies, and four major court cases were heard. One of them, United States v. O'Brien, was argued before the Supreme Court. The act of draft card burning was defended as a symbolic form of free speech, a constitutional right guaranteed by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court decided against the draft card burners; it determined that the federal law was justified and that it was unrelated to the freedom of speech.
In Australia following the 1966 troop increases directed by Prime Minister Harold Holt, conscription notices were burned at mass demonstrations against Australian involvement in Vietnam. In June 1968, the government reacted by strengthening penalties for infractions of the Menzies Government 1964 National Service Act, including the burning of registration cards. War protest ceased in 1972 when Australia's new Labor government withdrew troops from Vietnam and abolished conscription.
From 1965 to 1973, very few men in the US were convicted of burning their draft cards. Some 25,000 others went unpunished. Before 1965, the act of burning a draft card was already prohibited by US statute—the registrant was required to carry the card at all times, and any destruction of it was thus against the law. Also, it was entirely possible for a young man to destroy his draft card and still answer his country's call to service by appearing at an induction center and serving in the military. And it was possible for a registrant to faithfully keep his card on his person but fail to appear when called. The draft card was not an essential part of the government's ability to draft men into the military. Thus draft-card burning was an act of war resistance more than it was draft resistance.The image of draft card burning was a powerful one, influential in American politics and culture. It appeared in magazines, newspapers and on television, signaling a political divide between those who backed the US government and its military goals and those who were against any US involvement in Vietnam. Richard Nixon ran for president in 1968 on a platform based partly on putting an end to the draft, in order to undercut protesters making use of the symbolic act. As president, Nixon ended the draft in 1973, rendering unnecessary the symbolic act of draft-card burning.Frank Tudor
Francis Gwynne Tudor (29 January 1866 – 10 January 1922) was an Australian politician who served as the leader of the Australian Labor Party from 1916 until his death. He had previously been a government minister under Andrew Fisher and Billy Hughes.
Tudor was born in Melbourne to Welsh immigrant parents. He left school at a young age to enter the workforce, serving an apprenticeship in the felt hat industry and later studying his trade for periods in England and the United States. He became involved in trade unionism in England, and after returning to Australia served as president of the Felt Hatters' Union. Tudor was elected president of the Victorian Trades Hall Council in 1900. The following year, he was elected to the new federal parliament as a representative of the Labor Party. He was chosen as the parliamentary party's first whip, and held that position until entering cabinet in 1908.
Tudor served as Minister for Trade and Customs from 1908 to 1909, 1910 to 1913, and 1914 to 1916, in the governments of Andrew Fisher and Billy Hughes. He remained loyal to the Labor Party during the split over conscription in 1916, and was elected party leader after Hughes' expulsion. He replaced Joseph Cook as leader of the opposition upon the formation of the third Hughes Ministry in February 1917. Tudor led Labor to the 1917 and 1919 federal elections, on both occasions suffering heavy defeats. His death in office at the age of 55 came after a long period of ill health. He was the first leader of a major Australian political party to die in office, and was accorded a state funeral.National Labor Party
The National Labor Party was formed by Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes in 1916 following the 1916 Labor split on the issue of World War I conscription in Australia. Hughes had taken over as leader of the Australian Labor Party and Prime Minister of Australia when anti-conscriptionist Andrew Fisher resigned in 1915. He formed the new party for himself and his followers after he was expelled from the ALP a month after the 1916 plebiscite on conscription in Australia. Hughes held a pro-conscription stance in relation to World War I.National Service Act 1951
The National Service Act (1951) was Australian federal legislation providing for the compulsory call-up of males turning 18 on or after 1 November 1950, for service training of 176 days. Trainees were required to remain on the Reserve of the Commonwealth Military Forces (CMF) for five years from initial call up. Men could nominate the service in which they wished to be trained. Those nominating the Navy or the Air Force were considered only if they volunteered for service outside Australia. The first call-up notice was issued on 12 April 1951.
Between 1951 and 1959 over 500,000 men registered, 52 intakes were organised and some 227,000 men were trained.
In 1957 National Service with the Navy and the Air Force was discontinued. Registration remained compulsory but the intake to the Army was cut to almost a third (12,000 trainees) by instituting a ballot for selection. On 24 November 1959 Cabinet decided that National Service call-ups should be terminated and that arrangements for the January 1960 intake would be cancelledNational Service Act 1964
The National Service Act (1964), was an Australian federal law, passed on 24 November 1964, which required 20-year-old males to serve in the Army for a period of twenty-four months of continuous service (reduced to eighteen months in 1971) followed by three years in the Reserve. The Defence Act was amended in May 1965 to provide that conscripts could be obliged to serve overseas, and in March 1966 Prime Minister Harold Holt announced that National Servicemen would be sent to Vietnam to fight in units of the Australian Regular Army.
On 5 November 1964 Cabinet decided to introduce a compulsory selective National Service scheme. In announcing this decision to Parliament, Prime Minister Robert Menzies referred to 'aggressive Communism', developments in Asia such as 'recent Indonesian policies and actions' and a 'deterioration in our strategic position' as being influential in the decision being reached (see Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives, 25th Parliament, 1st Session, pp. 2517–2724). The Government had concluded that Australia had inadequate defence manpower and aimed to increase the strength of the Army to 33,000 by the end of 1966 by introducing national service.
Between 1965 and December 1972 over 800,000 men registered for National Service. Some 63,000 were conscripted and over 19,000 served in Vietnam. Although registration was compulsory, a process of selection by ballot determined who would be called up. Two ballots were conducted each year. The ballots selected several dates in the selected period and all males with corresponding birthdays were called up for national service. The ballot was conducted using a lottery barrel and marbles representing birthdays.
Conscription ended as one of the first acts of the newly elected Whitlam Labor Government in December 1972.Raid on the Queensland Government Printing Office
In November 1917, the Australian government conducted a raid on the Government Printing Office in Brisbane, with the aim of confiscating copies of Hansard that covered debates in the Queensland Parliament where anti-conscription sentiments had been aired.Waterside Workers' Federation of Australia
The Waterside Workers' Federation of Australia (WWF) was an Australian trade union that existed from 1902 to 1993. After a period of negotiations between other Australian maritime unions, it was federated in 1902 and first federally registered in 1907; its first general president was Billy Hughes.
In 1993 the WWF merged with the Seamen's Union of Australia to form the Maritime Union of Australia.Women's Compulsory Service Petition League
The Women's Compulsory Service Petition League, originally the Women's Compulsory and All Loyal League and the Women's Compulsory Service League was a pro-conscription organisation active in Brisbane during the First World War. Formed primarily by the female relatives of soldiers who had enlisted and were fighting or had been killed in action, they tried to persuade men to enlist, and they campaigned for the immediate introduction of the conscription of all able-bodied men in order to reinforce the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) fighting in France. Their main methods of applying pressure were through organising petitions, and holding public meetings. The League was in strident opposition to organisations such as the Women's Peace Army, who either opposed conscription or were philosophically opposed to war altogether.World War I conscription in Australia
During the second half of World War One, the First Australian Imperial Force experienced a shortage of men as the number of men volunteering to fight overseas declined and the casualty rate increased. At the time, military service within the Commonwealth of Australia and its territories was compulsory for Australian men, but that requirement did not extend to conflict outside of Australia. In 1916, Prime Minister Billy Hughes called a plebiscite to determine public support for extending conscription to include military service outside the Commonwealth for the duration of the war. The referendum, held on 28 October 1916, narrowly rejected the proposal. A second plebiscite, held a year later on 20 December 1917, also failed (by a slightly larger margin) to gain a majority.The referenda caused significant debate and division in Australian society, and within the government. Hughes called the first referendum against the advice of his own Labor government, which led to the Labor party splitting, with Hughes and others forming a new National Labor Party.