Explaining the success of the Anti-conscription campaign
In assessing the key reasons for the anti-conscriptionists’ victory in the referenda, Bertha Walker noted several factors: the “good preliminary work before the actual issue arose” in the form of the opposition to “boy conscription”; the formation of a peace coalition in the form of the Australian Peace Alliance in the very first week of the war; trade union and Labor Party anti-conscriptionist anticipation and organizing work in anticipation of Hughes seeking to introduce conscription on his return from London in mid 2016; the “participation of women and young people” in the campaigning; and the selflessness and bravery of many individuals; and the strength that comes from unity in the context of the cooperation achieved between all the diverse strands of the anti-conscription movement.
In the case of the role of the early opposition to the boy-conscription scheme, it should be noted that this scheme was a universal one that touched families across the whole of Australia, and the opposition it generated and the arguments raised against it would have resonated strongly when it came to people thinking about their vote in the referenda. Further, as the anti-conscription campaign unfolded in the course of the war, the determination and channels of less formal communication of the unions, political parties and womens’ networks were crucial in overcoming and discrediting the crude forms of censorship imposed by the authorities under the War Precautions Act. Finally, the selflessness and bravery of the many anticonscriptionists who went to gaol for their stand, including the IWW Twelve, Tom Barker, John Curtin, Adela Pankhurst, Guido Baracchi, and many others, undoubtedly inspired many others in the movement and contributed to the final victory.