16 December 1917
- Prime Minister Hughes outlines the terms of the conscription referendum on 20 December
PROCLAMATION – REINFORCEMENTS REFERENDUM
The recent reverses in Russia and Italy have created a situation so grave as to threaten the very existence of Australia and the Empire, and have imposed a tremendous added responsibility upon the English-speaking peoples.
Until America has marshalled her great resources the chief burden of the war must rest upon the British Empire. Every part must do its share. Australia must maintain her five divisions in Europe and her forces in Palestine and elsewhere at their full strength. To do this 7,000 men per month are necessary.
Voluntary recruiting, though given every opportunity, has proved itself quite inadequate to raise this number. National safety imperatively demands that Australia should do her duty.
The Government therefore asks the electors to give it power to raise 7,000 men per month in the terms of the following proposal:
1. Voluntary enlistment is to continue.
2. The number of reinforcements required is 7,000 per month.
3. Compulsory reinforcements will be called up by ballot to the extent to which voluntary enlistment fails to supply this number.
4. The ballot will be from among single men only, between the ages of 20 and 44 years (including widowers and divorcees without children dependent upon them).
5. The following will be exempt:
(a) Married men;
(b) Persons who are physically unfit for service;
(c) Judges of Federal and State courts, and police, special, and stipendiary magistrates;
(d) Ministers of religion;
(e) Persons whose employment in any particular industry is declared by the prescribed authority to be necessary for the supply of food and material essential for the war;
(f) Persons whose religious belief does not allow them to bear arms; but this exemption will only exempt them from combatant service;
6. The Government will prescribe the industries essential to the prosecution of the war and the national welfare of Australia, and a special tribunal will determine the amount of labour necessary for their effective operation.
7. Where a family is or has been represented in the Australian Imperial Force by the father or a son, or by a brother, one eligible son, or brother (as the case may be), shall be exempt.
8. Eligible males of families which now are or have been represented at the front shall not be balloted for until after eligible males of families not so represented have been called up.
9. All ballots shall be so conducted that families will contribute as nearly as practicable pro rata, and that in no case shall the sole remaining eligible member of a family which is or has been so represented be called up for service. Males under the age of 20 will be exempt, in addition to the one eligible male over that age.
10. In determining the pro rata contribution, regard shall be had to all members of the family who have joined the Australian Imperial Force, irrespective of age.
11. Ballots will be taken by States, on the basis of the proportional number of eligible persons in each State.
12. The tribunals for deciding exemptions will be constituted by magistrates specially appointed; and an appeal will lie to a Supreme Court Judge.
This is the proposal of the Government upon which the electors are asked to vote on 20th December.
The power asked for is definite and limited. It applies only to single men, and widowers and divorcees without dependents, between 20 and 44 years of age.The Government gives the electors a definite pledge:
(1) That the power here asked for will be limited to the period of the war.
(2) That the limits of the power will not be exceeded.
(3) That the total reinforcements, including volunteers, will not exceed 7,000 per month.
(4) That the: number of divisions will not be increased.
(5) That if through any cause fewer men than 7,000 are needed for reinforcements in any month only the number actually required will be called up or enlisted.
(6) That married men will be exempt.
(7) That other classes or persons exempted under the proposal will not be called up.
(8) That sufficient labour to carry on the necessary industries of the country, including the rural industries, will be exempted.
WM Hughes, Prime Minister