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Australian Labor Government 1916 Conscription Referendum Campaign: Referendum Bullets (1916)

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More Anzacs

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

Billy Hughes’ words, appealing to the general public for a ‘yes’ vote in the 1916 referendum on conscription, are superimposed on First World War images. The typical silent film format of title card followed by image (which begins the film) has been replaced, for dramatic effect, by title card superimposed on image.

Curator’s notes

This segment is representative of the ‘no holds barred’ approach of Billy Hughes’ appeal to the public for a ‘yes’ vote in the 1916 conscription referendum. His words refer to ‘scabs’ and ‘shirkers’ threatening the lives of the Anzacs. In the next breath (title card) he invokes the names of such First World War heroes as Nurse Edith Cavell, General Joseph Joffre and Captain Charles Fryatt, and mourns the sinking of the Lusitania and the mass deaths in Belgium. The words emulate the footage of Hughes himself as he speaks and passionately gestures to camera.

At the beginning of the film (prior to the clip) a title card reads, 'Since I cannot personally visit every centre, I take this method of appealing to the whole of Australia …’. Like many politicians of his time, Hughes began his career speaking on soap boxes and street corners. Mass media technology was still very new and Hughes would have been more at home arguing his case to the electorate in person. While the Hughes style sits rather uneasily in the motion picture format, the film nevertheless provides a valuable insight into political propaganda in the era at the dawn of mass media technology.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions. All rights are reserved.

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  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

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