At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 the leaders and most members of the Australian political parties were enthusiastic in their support of Britain and the Empire. Andrew Fisher, Prime Minister and Leader of the federal Labor Party, famously pledged 'our last man and our last shilling to see this War brought to a successful conclusion'.1 At first, only eight Labor members of the federal parliament, including King O'Malley and Frank Anstey, dissented. Outside Parliament a similar minority opposed the war on Marxist or Christian socialist grounds.2 Among other critics, Henry Boote, editor of the Australian Worker, attacked wartime profiteering, and the increasing casualty lists from the Western front modified the earlier ardour. The suppression by the British army of the 1916 Irish Easter uprising further reduced enthusiasm for Empire. By October 1916, these currents had come together to produce a majority opposition to the first conscription referendum.3



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