CANON AND GENERAL.
WOMEN’S POSITION IF
AT a well-attended meeting of the Queensland Recruiting Committee at Preston House last evening [ 7 September 1916 ] , Mr. A.J. Thynne, M.L.C., [ Andrew Joseph Thynne ] presiding, a report was submitted in which details were given of the work done since the last general meeting in March.
Lengthy reference was made in the report to the experiences in connection with the census cards and the work done generally in the way of recruiting.
Under the heading — “Our Duty Towards Conscription” — the report continued—
“Shortly after the last general meeting of this committee the demand for conscription began to be insistent, and committees were threatening to ‘down tools’ in several districts.
“Whereas we felt that the steady decline in recruiting under the voluntary system was forcing upon the country the need for more drastic measures, we realised that we were in existence simply because the voluntary system was the policy of the time, and we deemed it our duty to exhort committees by every means possible to redouble their efforts under the present system rather than embarrass the Government by advocating the policy which we deemed the Government might have good reasons for not instituting immediately.
“In order, however, to obtain the utmost possible data on this subject for the guidance of the Minister for Defence [ George Foster Pearce ] we took a referendum of the local committees on the subject, asking them to tell as nearly and impartially as possible what was the feeling of the men of military age in their particular district towards the question of conscription.
“We impressed upon them the necessity for an impartial answer being given also, asked them to keep their investigations confidential so that the voluntary recruiting system might not be prejudiced.
“The result of the referendum showed that 95 percent of the local committees affirmed that conscription was the desire of their men of military age.
“We have all along kept the Minister for Defence posted up with this information, and the Minister has taken the opportunity, on a number of occasions of thanking this committee for our work and also our endeavours to assist him in the difficult and trying position in which he found himself.
“Colonel Thynne visited Melbourne on one occasion and discussed recruiting matters generally with the Minister for Defence.
“On August 7 we wrote to the Minister for Defence pointing out that a unanimous view is held that we must have some further measures if we are to keep up the number of reinforcements that the military authorities demand of Queensland.
“The Minister replied thanking us for the trouble we had gone to in the matter.”
After dealing with the general decline in recruiting, the report stated:—
“The cry met with everywhere is ‘Why don’t you give us conscription?’
“At the last big representative conference that we held, a motion in favour of conscription was carried unanimously, the delegates even standing and cheering.
“At the first mention of the word conscription at the Stadium all the audience present seemed to cheer.
“It must be stated here, however, that in the general argument in favour of conscription there have been many other influences at work retarding enlistments.
“The German element, in many centres provides a constant source of trouble.
“Many men refuse to leave their homes with the knowledge that Germans or men of German origin are left behind.
“One recruiting committeeman stated that he could see only 10 homes from his front verandah, in a certain district, and that every one of the 10 was inhabited by a German family.
“At every gathering of committeemen we are met with the same demand, that enemy aliens should all be interned and that men of enemy parentage should be disfranchised [ sic ].
“We have passed this resolution from time to time along to headquarters, but nothing of a public character seems to have been done to allay the fears of Britishers resident in these German affected districts, of which there are many In Queensland.
“The problem of what to do with these semi-Germans is a very live one.
“Britishers, argue that it is not safe to recruit them, neither is it safe or fair for the Britishers to have to go away and fight and leave the semi-Germans in peace and prosperity.
“The whole matter is one for the Federal Government to deal with, and we can only trust to them to do what is right in regard to it.
“There seems to have been an organised campaign of lies in some districts, particularly the big industrial centres — lies that would have the effect of prejudicing recruiting if given widespread currency — apparently engineered through some particular source.
“The influence of the extreme section of trade unionists has also been a serious factor.
“It does not appear by any means that the majority of trade unionists have any desire to prejudice recruiting, but the influence of the noisy minority has been very considerable in the industrial centres.
“About the time of your last general meeting a regulation was introduced providing for the enlistment of men of enemy parentage upon the granting and endorsement of a certificate of loyalty signed by each of the five members of the local confidential committee of the district where the applicant resided.
“This did not admit a very great number of men into the forces by reason of the difficulty of always being able to get five men in any one locality to swear that the applicant was personally known to them to be loyal.
“Recently, however, this regulation has been slightly modified, and it is now possible for a man to secure admittance to the A.l.F. on a certificate of three of the local committeemen, provided the other two committeemen know nothing against the applicant.”
The chairman, in moving the adoption of the report, said there had been a slight improvement in recruiting during the previous day or two, but the number of volunteers still fell far short, of requirements.
The Committee, however, intended to persevere without relaxing their efforts in any way until the end of the month, and possibly when the public attention had been drawn to the seriousness of the situation, the response would be very much greater.
The trouble arose chiefly from the failure of the public to realise the gravity of the position, and while tho people were preoccupied with State politics and State affairs generally, it would be very difficult to get them to realise how serious the outlook was.
On the previous day, he had written to the Premier [ Thomas Joseph Ryan ], urging on hint the advisability of adjourning the State Parliament for a week or two for the purpose of giving the members of the legislature an opportunity of touring the country, and endeavouring to make the people generally see where their duty lay, and to realise the urgent need for reinforcements at the Front.
Writing that day (7th inst.) to the Minister for Defence, he had stated that the Committee had reliable information that in certain farming districts in Queensland which had been strongly in favour of conscription, there had been such a reaction that the majority now were against it.
He thought it would be a good thing to adopt a system of tribunals to adjudicate upon applications for exemption from military service.
In the appointment of such tribunals he considered that it would be wise to avoid the inclusion of extremists of any kind.
Another problem which would have to be forced was that of filling the vacancies in the industrial life of the community which would he caused by the calling up of large numbers of young men for training.
It had been estimated by Professor Gibson that by the middle of October there would be 15,000 young men in camp in Queensland, and the work which they were now doing in the community would have to be done by others.
Canon Garland [ David John Garland ] : The national organisation of women is the only solution. I advocated that 12 months ago.
Brigadier-General Lee laid stress on the urgent need for reinforcements, and said, if Australia failed to keep up the strength of her armies, she would be covered with ignominy.
Australians now had to decide whether they were going to be loyal or disloyal.
If they were loyal they would see that the men in the trenches were supported, and if they failed to do that they proved themselves disloyal.
The chairman said the question of the employment of women had been discussed that afternoon at a conference between three representatives of the National Council of Women and three members of the Recruiting Committee, and an effort would be made to arrive at some practicable scheme for utilising the services of the women of Queensland.
If 15,000 men were withdrawn from industrial activity suddenly there would be a huge demand for women workers in many spheres in which they had never been employed before.
Employers in many avocations would have to take women workers and make the host of them, training them gradually to do what was required of them.
There were, however, many occupations which were really superfluous, and, which would have to be dispensed with under war conditions.
Canon Garland seconded the motion for the adoption of the report.
He spoke of the completeness with which women’s labour had been organised in England where, he declared, all classes, from peeresses down to the poorest women, were working side by side in all sorts of capacities.
Archbishop Donaldson [ St Clair George Alfred Donaldson ] asserted that no one could truthfully say that voluntarism had not been given a full trial in Queensland, but it was equally certain that it had failed to achieve the purpose aimed at.
The cleavage that one saw growing made one tremble as to the future. He believed, however, that the Recruiting Committee was the hope of Queensland, and if it continued as it had been going hitherto it would do more than anything else to bridge the gulf and get over the existing difficulties.
What they had to do was to put themselves whole-heartedly behind the Federal Government.
Mr. Hughes [ William Morris Hughes ], who had inside knowledge, said there was nothing for it but some measure of conscription, and they must give him all the support they could in carrying out his policy.
It must be clearly understood, however, that whatever they might do now would not commit them to anything after the war.
There undoubtedly was a lot of opposition to conscription in the bush districts, but no thought it could be overcome.
In his opinion, the suggestion as to the appointment of tribunals, composed of moderate men to decide as to exemptions, was a good one.
The motion wan then carried.
THE STORM RISES.
Canon Garland moved,— “That this Committee pledges itself to support the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence in their efforts to obtain every man necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion, and places itself at their disposal in whatever way they desire.”
Mr. P.B. Macgregor [ Peter Balderston Macgregor ] pointed out that they had been constituted a sub-committee of the War Council, and were no longer a citizens’ committee.
Canon Garland said it was well to make it clear that they were prepared to go as far as the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence wished them to go and to continue to work in harmony with the military authorities.
Brigadier-General Lee [ George Leonard Lee ] : “Stop that nonsense. We don’t want any sugar. It’s no time for compliments. It’s a case of citizens doing their duty, so you had better stop that tripe.”
The Chairman endeavoured to soothe the ruffled feeling of the Commandant, but the latter declared that if Canon Garland did not stop talking nonsense he would leave the meeting.
Further attempts to mollify him had no better results, and he then left the room in high dudgeon, muttering something that sounded like “Snufflebuster”.
His final remark was: “Excuse me, but I would like to withdraw in consequence of the remarks of Canon Garland. Good evening, gentlemen.”
Canon Garland said there was only one way to get the required numbers of men and that was by conscription.
The Chairman deprecated a premature pronouncement on the part of the Committee in favour of conscription, and pointed out that the committee was bound to give a fair trial to the voluntary system up to the end of the present month.
Subsequently Canon Garland withdrew the motion.
Canon de Witt Batty [ Francis de Witt Batty ] advocated the appointment of a sub-committee to consider the reorganisation of industry in view of the probability of large numbers of male workers being withdrawn for war service, and the abolition of what might be regarded as unnecessary industries.
Possibly the Labour Bureau might be utilised connection with the matter.
Gibson pointed out that the Labour Bureau was already connected with the War Council, and said its machinery could probably be utilised.
What was wanted now was to get the public to realise that such a change in industrial conditions was really imminent, and not merely something which might happen in four or five months’ time.
A motion was carried instructing the executive to take such steps as might be necessary to secure industrial organisation with a view to releasing the greatest possible number of recruits for the Imperial Forces.
On the motion of Mr. A.D. Walsh [Alfred Degilbo Walsh ] , it was resolved that a deputation wait on the Premier to urge him to adjourn Parliament, so as to give the members an opportunity of assisting the recruiting movement.
— from page 6 of “The Daily Standard” (Brisbane) of 8 September 1916.
PICTURED ABOVE: A Queensland Recruiting Committee team pictured during a whistle-stop visit to a Queensland country town some time in 1915-1916. Canon Garland is seated at the centre of the group, surrounded by First AIF veterans. This image is from the State Library of Queensland Collection. Record No. 239375. Image number: APE-020-01-0002.