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Queensland Parliament remembers the Centenary of Armistice - 1918 to 2018

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November 2018 marks the centenary of the signing of the Armistice - the historic agreement that led to the end of the First World War. The Queensland Parliament will commemorate this anniversary by remembering the role of the Parliament during WWI and the 38 former Members of Parliament who served during the war.

 

Following the British Empire’s declaration of war with Germany on 4 August 1914, both houses of the Queensland Parliament immediately began to plan war effort support.

In a telegram to the Prime Minister read in the Legislative Assembly, Premier Digby Denham pledged ‘in this crisis Queensland unreservedly places all her resources at the service of the Commonwealth and mother country’.

(Queensland Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 117 page 525)

 

Senior Minister without a Portfolio Hon. Andrew Henry Barlow, on a more sombre note, declared to the Legislative Council:

“The business of every one of us to is avoid jingoism and panic…I believe we are engaged in a righteous cause, as war has practically been forced on us, and I am sure that the people will not give way either to senseless jingoism or to unwarranted panic.

(Queensland Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 117 page 525)

 

Within a week, war related legislation was introduced in Parliament. The Meat Supply for Imperial Uses Act of 1914 was passed securing all cattle, sheep and pigs bred for export for the use of the Imperial Government for the duration of the war.  The controversial Control of Trade Act of 1914 received assent on 26 August 1914, which allowed the government to set maximum prices for food and other items.

Despite increasing social and political fractures, the Queensland Government saw its role not only to support the war effort, but also to keep social conflict to a minimum, to provide reasonable living and working conditions for its citizens and to look after the welfare of returned soldiers and families of soldiers who had died.

 

In September 1915, the new Ryan Labor Government established the Queensland War Council (consisting of ministers, mayors and industry leaders) to coordinate the funding and initiatives for the employment and the settlement of returned soldiers and to provide assistance to the families of those killed.

 

Legislation was introduced to ensure ‘fair’ prices for the consumer via the Sugar Acquisition Act of 1915 and later via the regulatory State Enterprises Act of 1918 covering butcher shops, sawmills, coal mines and insurance offices.

 

Legislation regulated the many patriotic funds that were established during the war (e.g. the Patriotic Funds Administration Act of 1916). Revenue was also raised through ‘super taxes’ applicable to those with incomes over 200 pounds a year and property with an unimproved value of 2,500 pounds or more.

 

Although no state legislation was enacted regarding conscription, the Ryan Government campaigned fiercely against the federal referenda held in 1916 and 1917, arguing instead for voluntary enlistment. Copies of an anti-conscription speech by Premier Ryan were censored by Prime Minister Billy Hughes, leading to a confrontation between federal and state police at the Government Printing Office in George Street, Brisbane.

A number of measures to safeguard soldiers’ interests were also introduced: including the protection of electoral status while they were in service (Elections Act of 1915), reducing death and property taxes payable by relatives (Succession and Probate Duties Acts Amendment Act 1915) and allowing an agent to make application for selection of land on a soldier's behalf (Land Act Amendment Act 1916), and providing land and financial assistance for the settlement of discharged soldiers (Discharged Soldiers’ Settlement Act 1917).

 

Queensland Parliament saw a number of its former and current members enlisting to serve in the war effort from 1914 to 1918. A number of soldiers also entered Parliament after their return to civilian life when the Great War ended. These 38 men were from differing backgrounds and areas of the state. Some soldiers went on to become premiers and ministers, while others contributed to far reaching economic, social and political reforms that shaped the state’s direction and future prosperity.

 

Lest we forget.