With recruitment falling in 1917, Hughes called for a 2nd plebiscite on conscription. This campaign was as bitterly divisive as the 1916 plebiscite. On December 20th the nation voted. The answer was; No, again.
Billy Hughes ended up with egg on his face, literally.
The Australian Worker Dec.6, 1917, reported
He made a stop at the little country town of Warwick, where he found, the anti-conscriptionists firmly entrenched with plenty of ammunition in the way of over-ripe eggs, etc. Immediately he commenced to address the hostile gathering, his headgear was knocked off by an ancient specimen of hen-fruit, the aroma of which guaranteed him a wide space within a few seconds…
Hughes, apparently forgetting that he was the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth set out on a tirade of abuse, and referred to people present as I.W.W.-ites, Sinn Feiners, and pro-Germans, and suggested, that Sinn Feiners were in the police, and threatened to deal with them.
The result of the election ensured that the conscription issue was dead and buried in Australia (for the 14-18 conflict anyway.) For a more comprehensive coverage – of the 1916 plebiscite – please read my previous article ‘The Blood Vote’
Articles by Jeff Kildea, Adjunct Professor Irish Studies, UNSW.