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The Conscription Censorship Battles – “The Light on the Hill” – Ross McMullin

August 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Australian Labor Party, Democracy, History, Journalism, Newspapers, Political Communication, Politics, The Media, WW1

Late in 1917, (Billy) Hughes plunged Australia further into discord with a second conscription referendum…. Hughes main opponent was Ryan, who emerged as a national figure after several celebrated clashes with the increasingly agitated Prime Minister. When Ryan exposed flaws in the conscriptionists’ arithmetic which again weakened their claim that voluntary recruiting had failed, his argument as published was flagrantly distorted by the censorship. To counter this, (Red Ted) Theodore and McCormack suggested circulating their uncensored views in the Queensland Hansard. Ryan duly outlined his banned arguments in the Assembly, and for good measure Theodore read the text of some heavily censored pamphlets. Theodore and McCormack instructed the Queensland Government printer to highlight the previously censored portions in heavy black type and to print 10 000 extra copies. The Queensland censor endeavoured to prevent publication, but was rebuffed by the government printer. Then Hughes intervened, authorising uniformed soldiers to raid the printing office and seize all copies; the censor prevented any published reference to this unprecedented action. Ryan’s rejoined was the distribution of 50000 copies of a special government gazette which outlined the remarkable incident and ensured that it received maximum publicity despite censorship.

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