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.
..ineffective as a sparrow twittering in a thunderstorm.
The following is an extract from C.E.W Beans Official Histories1
In all parts of the country there were disturbances at meetings held to support or oppose the the policy of the Government. In some constituencies it was impossible for some speakers to secure a hearing , and it required no small amount of courage. and determination to face the angry crowds who surged into the halls where one human voice. endeavoring to develop an argument, was as ineffective as a sparrow twittering during a thunderstorm. On both sides there were outbreaks of violence, some of which were serious enough to be termed “riots” in the chronicles of the day…
The result of the election ensured that the conscription issue was dead and buried in Australia (for the 14-18 conflict anyway.)
The Blood Vote: Divisions at the Front, and at Home.
The Blood Vote: Mosman votes, YES
Articles by Jeff Kildea, Adjunct Professor Irish Studies, UNSW.
1 AUSTRALIA DURING THE WAR [Nov.-Dec, 1917] SECOND CONSCRIPTION REFERENDUM p417