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The peace


Vision Audio
Opening titles read "The Peace"
Title reads "Agreeing to the Peace"  


Overlay: The signing of the treaty of peace at Versailles, 28 June 1919, Joseph Finnemore, 1919, Australian War Memorial

Oil painting of a large group of men gathered in a long, opulent room. There are several rows of long tables covered in red clothes and man signing a document in the middle of the room.

Image zooms out from a portrait of Billy Hughes in the crowd.

The Paris Peace Conference was very significant in the development of Australia's role internationally because it was the first conference at which Australia and the other dominions in the British Empire had their own representation. Hughes was a reasonably, and in fact in some ways very, active member of the Paris Peace Conference. But he acted without much reference even to his own Cabinet let alone to the Australian Parliament.
Interview And so for the Parliament it was an opportunity to reflect on what the significance of this treaty was, particularly to speculate what the implications of the creation of the League of Nations might be for Australian and British security in the future. But there was no option but to accept and approve the Treaty for all its limitations.
Interview And when the British Government agreed to the armistice in 1918, within the framework of the 14 Points, Hughes felt deeply betrayed and so his speech to Parliament, when he returned to Australia in 1919, was one that really said that the peace that had been negotiated at Paris was not a good peace for Australia and I think the debate in Australia reflected his concern, his sense of disappointment with the terms of the peace and perhaps a lot of really, a lack of understanding about what were the implications of the creation of the League of Nations for Australia in the future.

Title reads "Outcomes of the War for Australia"

1 minute 49 seconds



Overlay: Acting Prime Minister William Watt's moving of an address to King George V on the signing of the Armistice, Canberra, 13 November 1918, 1918, National Library of Australia, PIC/15811

Black and white photograph of the federal parliament is session in the Victorian Parliament building.

Hughes was particularly disappointed that he had failed in Paris to get the full costs of the war to Australia repaid by Germany. And one of the main preoccupations of the Australia Parliament during the World War I was how to raise the money to cover the ever increasing costs of the war and Hughes had hoped he would be able to really, as the phrase of the time went, "squeeze Germany until the pips squeak" and get the costs of not just the conduct of the war but the pensions and all the medical care for the soldiers who had been wounded during the war, covered by the defeated Central Powers and as it happened he was not able to get anything like the reparations that he aimed for.
Interview His other supposed achievement at Paris was to secure control of that part of New Guinea which had been a German colony in 1914. One of the first thing that Australia forces did in 1914 after the declaration of war was to occupy the north-eastern part of New Guinea, which was a German colony, and Hughes was determined that Australia would not relinquish control of that, he felt it was absolutely essential to Australia's security after the war. But he was only able to gain control of that German New Guinea as a mandate of the League of Nations. He had hoped that it would be completely within Australia's control but Australia kept control of the New Guinea mandate through the League of the Nations in the inter-war years.
Interview Apart from that really there wasn't a lot you could really say Australia had gained for the 60 000 or more dead that Hughes claimed to speak for at Paris.

Title reads "Australia's Place after the War"

3 minutes 45 seconds

Interview Well, during World War I the phrase that we now hear very often, that the war was 'the birth of the Australian nation' did become a popular one. Many people felt that, particularly at Gallipoli but also on the Western Front and in Palestine, Australians had proved themselves worthy sons of Empire; that proved that they were as good in fighting as any other army engaged in World War I. And so this undoubtedly fed a sense of new pride, a sense that Australians although part of the British Empire were distinctive, they had their own character, they had their own qualities that differentiated them from, and of course in the Australian mythology, made them better than the British.
Interview But I think we have to see a difference between that sense of national pride and what actually the status of Australia as a nation was. The whole question of Australia's constitutional relationship with Britain didn't change during the war. And so you have this rather unusual situation where Australian's do have a sense of what we might call national pride but they still see themselves as Imperial citizens. And just as they had in 1914, many Australians didn't see any problem with being Australians, and very proud of that, but also being very loyal to Britain. It is what we might call a dual sense of nationalism.
Interview I think Australia was profoundly divided by the experience of fighting World War I. That was really manifest in the conscription debates, which tore both the nation and local communities apart. The major effect of the conscription debates was to split the Labor Party, that had long term effects on federal politics, it was really a generation before Labor came back to power with any confidence at the federal level, and of course the conscription debates didn't cause but inflamed a very bitter divide in Australia between Catholics and Protestants, that was one of the more poisonous legacies of the conscription debates. So, I think you have to argue that Australia was deeply harmed in terms of its political culture and its social fabric by World War I, as well as of course the harm that was caused by the loss of so many young men's lives, and the wounding of so many other men.
Title reads "Impact of the War on the Parliament" 6 minutes 21 seconds  


Overlay: Fisher Ministry, 17.9.14 to 27.10.15, c1914, National Library of Australia, PIC/6627

Oval black and white portraits of six men mounted on a cream board. Each is labelled with the man's name.


Portrait of W.M. (Billy) Hughes

The most obvious impact of the war on the Parliamentary system, while the war was actually being waged, was the transfer of day-to-day power from the Parliament to the Executive, particularly through the War Precautions Act. So you find a lot of the most important issues, what we would think of the most important issues of the war, are not being decided by Parliament, they are being decided either by the Cabinet or by Hughes, or in the case of where Australians fought, by the British High Command and the British Government.
Interview Yes, there had been some shift towards the federal government, particularly in the areas of regulating the economy and in financial management of the war. One of the issues that people don't really consider much today is how the war was to be paid for and in World War I, and indeed after World War I, Australian governments at the federal and state level looked to borrow significant amounts of money from either the London money market or the American money market. And one of the things that happened during the war was the federal government took a much stronger role in that area of public loans
Interview As a result of the Unlawful Associations Act, the War Precautions Act and the growth of intelligence organisations you see a level of intervention into people's rights which was much greater than what had previously existed. And after the war the War Precautions Act's powers were used to deport people who had been interned during the war. So I think you can see a level of intrusion in people's liberties that was more significant than before.