Wednesday, June 30, 2021
On the 28 October, 1916, Australians were asked to vote YES or NO in favour of, or against, military conscription.
The voting paper had only one question:
Are you in favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military service, for the term of this war, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth.YES or NO?
Many did not understand the wording.
Both sides mounted vehement campaigns, some scurrilous.
It should be noted that whilst all of the historical documentation refers to the ballot as a "referendum", it was not such in fact: it did not involve a proposal to amend the Constitution of Australia and therefore it had no legal force, it did not require approval in a majority of states, and residents of federal territories were able to vote.
Prime Minister Billy Hughes was aggressively in favour of conscription of young Australian men for overseas service during World War I. Although the Australian government already had powers sufficient to introduce overseas conscription, due to the controversial nature of conscription and a lack of clear parliamentary support, Hughes took the issue to a public vote to obtain symbolic, rather than legal, approval for the move.
The Yes vote appeared likely to be successful, with Hughes campaigning widely and often.
Opposition to conscription came from various bodies and for various reasons:
- That it was immoral to compel men to kill other men.
- That any military service should be voluntary.
- From trade unions fearful that the absence of men overseas would result in foreign workers carrying out their jobs in Australia.
Much of the propaganda against conscription sought to play upon the fears of several sections of the community – women would lose their sons and spouses, farmers' fields would fall fallow without sufficient labour, and workers would be replaced by cheap foreign labour in their absence.
Just about every influential public man in Australia supported the conscription campaign. All non-Catholic church heads published in support of the movement, as well as the Salvation Army, the newspapers, and many jurists. Upon the announcement of the campaign and the vote, most media outlets quickly took up the cause, with Norman Lindsay and David Low producing some of the most powerful images of the war with their posters in support of the 'yes' vote.
Anticipating that the referendum would pass, and desiring that as many men as possible be readied for service following its passage, Hughes issued a directive that severely undermined his popularity. Using pre-existing powers under the Defence Act, Hughes ordered all eligible men between 21 and 35 to report for military duty, to be examined for medical fitness, and then go into training camp. Exemption courts could grant a leave to individuals based on specified criteria such as ill-fitness, employment in certain industries, or conscientious objection. The Governor-General approved the declaration, and the call-up was announced, with all eligible men compelled to report.
One significant aspect of this measure was the compulsory fingerprinting of all those called up for enlistment. The reason was valid enough – there were problems with exemption certificates being fraudulently produced, or valid certificates being sold or reused by other individuals and fingerprinting was thought to be a solution to this problem. However, there was significant public backlash from this "October Surprise". The use of fingerprinting was almost solely associated with criminal activity and investigation, and was unnecessarily heavy-handed. Many resented this pre-emptive measure by Hughes, viewing it as an arrogant assumption about the result of the forthcoming vote.
Until that point, all indications seemed to favour a victory for the "Yes" vote, but thereafter, the momentum swung steadily towards 'No'.
On 25 October, 3 days before the plebiscite, at a meeting of the Commonwealth Executive Council, issued another decree. Although the meeting was poorly attended, Hughes tabled a proposal to authorise returning officers on polling day to ask voters who were men between ages 21 and 35 whether they had evaded the call-up and if they were in fact authorised to vote. If their answer was not satisfactory, their votes were not counted.
The proclamation of this new regulation was to be delayed until the very last possible moment before the poll but it was leaked and became public.
Hughes seems to have been completely unaware of how high-handed such an edict appeared to his fellow Cabinet members. The Executive Council rejected the proposal on that occasion. On 27 October, Hughes reconvened the Council, with the Governor-General present, and the Council approved the motion, although the Governor-General was not told about the rejection of the same proposal two days earlier. The edict was published in the Government Gazette that evening.
The fallout was swift. The edict became public and the government was threatened with collapse, with four of the nine members of the First Hughes Ministry having quit. The publicity about Hughes's peremptory move and its consequences was a disaster, coming on the eve of the poll. Hughes, distraught and overwrought, called the Governor-General at midnight, saying he had no one else to talk to.
The No vote won a close contest, Hughes was expelled from the Union movement and his Labour Party membership was revoked. He remained defiant to the end. It was everyone else’s fault. Socialists, pacifists, Irish Catholics, saying “I did not leave the Labour Party. The Party left me.”
Hughes took what was left of his political support and joined the Conservatives. He formed a Nationalist coalition and won the 1917 election. Despite this he lost the 2nd Conscription plebiscite (by a larger majority, on the 20th December, 1917.)
By the way:
William “Billy” Morris Hughes (1862 – 1952), was an Australian politician who served as the 7th Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1915 to 1923. He is best known for leading the country during World War I, but his influence on national politics spanned several decades. Hughes was a member of federal parliament from Federation in 1901 until his death, the only person to have served for more than 50 years. He represented six political parties during his career, leading five, outlasting four, and being expelled from three.
At the age of 90 years, one month and three days, Hughes is the oldest person ever to have been a member of the Australian parliament. He had been a member of the House of Representatives for 51 years and seven months, beginning his service in the reign of Queen Victoria and ending it in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Including his service in the New South Wales colonial parliament before that, Hughes had spent a total of 58 years as an MP, and had never lost an election. His period of service remains a record in Australia. He was the last member of the original Australian Parliament elected in 1901 still serving in Parliament when he died.
‘The New Southern Cross’ by Claude Marquet
Norman Lindsay pro-conscription poster
Cartoon of Billy Hughes after the failed plebiscite, 1916, by Claude Marquet
Leaflet bearing a verse by W.R. Winspear and a cartoon by Claude Marquet, featuring an image a deeply worried woman casting a ‘Yes’ vote while Billy Hughes, Australia’s Labor prime minister and supporter of conscription, looks on gleefully.
Monday, June 28, 2021
An Otto original . . .
How Are You?
“How are you?” he asked,
I replied as I should,
With my usual “Good,
Thanks, I’m good.”
“How about you?” I queried.
To which he replied
“Not good, let me tell you,”
And I inwardly sighed.
Although it is couched
In terms of one caring,
A litany of complaints
Is not made for sharing.
Whether sick as a dog
Or Mallee bull fit,
People don't want to hear
How you’re feeling like shit.
It’s a greeting, an intro,
Not a dinkum concern,
When it comes to ailments
I’ve got plenty to burn.
When I ask “How are you?”
Don’t list all your stuff,
“Good thanks, and you?”
Is more than enough.
Sunday, June 27, 2021
Anthony Albanese, Leader of the Opposition, Australian Parliament:
Comment 2 days ago:
“Yesterday the government tabled a new vaccine rollout document that does not include a single target and instead refers to horizons. The government has not met a single one of its vaccine targets and the rollout is months behind. Is that why the government has now given up on vaccine targets and is talking about horizons? Does the prime minister accept that the horizon is something that you never reach?”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison in response:
So the horizon projections that the leader of the opposition mockingly referred to, Mr Speaker, were actually put together by Lieutenant General Frewen in command of ... Operation Covid Shield, Mr Speaker, those horizon projections were laid out to the National Cabinet earlier this week on Monday when I convened that meeting.
I can assure Australians and those in the chamber that when Lieutenant General Frewen was outlining those horizon projections, Mr Speaker, it was not met with the mocking tone that we just heard from the leader of the opposition. So I would invite the leader of the opposition to support the operation being led by Lieutenant General Frewen and try to refrain from his usually snarky responses.
(I thought it was actually an apt comment.)
Saturday, June 26, 2021
1925 was another major landmark in the Golden Age of Hollywood when the first movie with sound effects and music, called 'Don Juan', was made by Warner Brothers starring John Barrymore and Mary Astor.
Don Juan was the first feature-length film to utilize the Vitaphone sound-on-disc sound system with a synchronized musical score and sound effects, though it has no spoken dialogue. The film is inspired by Lord Byron's 1821 epic poem of the same name.
Don Juan stars John Barrymore as the hand-kissing womanizer. The film has the most kisses in film history, with Barrymore kissing (all together) Mary Astor and Estelle Taylor 127 times. Don Juan plants 191 kisses on various females during the course of the film, an average of one every 53 seconds.
Although this was the first feature film with a Vitaphone soundtrack (therefore being the first film with a completely synchronized soundtrack), it is not the first sound film. The first sound film can be dated back to 1895; the process was re-discovered and improved by a French company (using a gramophone) in 1910. In 1913 Thomas A. Edison announced that all the problems of sound films were solved, and showed what he called "the first sound film." As in the earlier efforts, Nursery Favourites (1913) had a gramophone that appeared to synchronize with the film. There was one problem: the film was projected at the wrong speed, and the soundtrack was slowed down inadvertently. This problem happened all too often, and a frustrated Edison abandoned his process.
In 1921 D.W. Griffith employed various experts to film a sound introduction for his film Dream Street (1921), which still exists, and the performance went off without a hitch. Griffith soon stopped using sound because he thought it was financial suicide, stating, "Only 5% of the world speaks English, so why should I lose 95% of my audience?"
By 1925 sound had arrived in the form of radio, and it was inevitable that film would follow. Movie studios tried various innovations to keep audiences coming (Technicolor, wide screen, etc.). Warner Brothers, then a lesser film company, bought the old Brooklyn-based Vitagraph Studios and its all-important network of 34 film exchanges (the film distribution network vital to each studio) in 1925 and laid out plans to become a dominant force in the film industry. Sam Warner, one of the four Warner brothers, felt the future was in sound and convinced his skeptical older brother Harry M. Warner (the money man) to throw their lot in with Western Electric's 16" disc-based recording system, forming the Vitaphone Corp. on April 20, 1926, as 70% stockholders.
The Vitaphone process solved the synchronization problem electromechanically, corresponding the projection speed with the recorded disc by utilizing the same motor for both devices. While cumbersome in both recording (editing was impossible) and playback (discs were fragile), Vitaphone represented the peak of technological innovation, albeit briefly.
Don Juan, the first Warner Bros. feature to utilize the Vitaphone process, debuted in a gala premiere on August 6, 1926,
Warner's The Jazz Singer (1927) would become a monster hit 13 months later, solidly proving the public's interest in sound.
However, there were several sound systems then in development and none were interchangeable; the major studios like MGM and Paramount adopted a wait-and-see attitude that persisted well into 1929. The most practical, Fox's Movietone (sound on film) system, eventually won out and Warners abandoned recorded discs in 1930 but kept the Vitaphone trademark before the public well into the 1940s.
Which is a segue to an item about John Barrymore that has previously appeared in Bytes and is worth another airing . . .
The story of Errol Flynn and the corpse of John Barrymore has been denied as true by some, maintained to be true by others including Errol Flynn and Raoul Walsh. The following account of that story is from the website "13th Floor" at:
The eyepatch covers up his lost eye, the result of a car crash.
It’s one of the oddest and creepiest tales to emerge from the decadence of old Hollywood and key players in celebrity grave robbing have gone on the record to confirm the gruesome tale of a corpse partying after its time on Earth was long done.Silent movie legend John Barrymore who starred in the 1920 version of JEKYLL & HYDE was a hard drinking boisterous prankster who survived the transition from silent to talkies. He was the eldest of a famous family of thespians including Lionel and Ethel Barrymore and his granddaughter is Drew Barrymore.Barrymore was drinking buddies with a bunch of Tinsel Town boozers including ROBIN HOOD swashbuckling lothario Errol Flynn, W. C. Fields, and director Raoul Walsh – among other such notables. They called themselves the Bundy Drive Gang and specialized in irreverent high-brow carousing – intellectual boozehounds that delighted in pranking one another. They made Sinatra’s Rat Pack seem a bunch of choirboys when it came to excessive boozing and whoring.One long standing account of their escapades was Flynn’s involvement in the post-mortem adventures of longtime pal John Barrymore’s corpse. Bereft over the death of their ringleader in all times debauched, Barrymore’s pals lifted “The Great Profile” from the mortuary and took the corpse into to Flynn’s house for a macabre “farewell party” which may very well have been the inspiration for the 1980s flick WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S.In his memoir MY WICKED, WICKED WAYS, Flynn recalled the horrifying tale. When his mentor and drinking buddy Barrymore died suddenly from pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver on May 29, 1942, Flynn was so overcome with loss and grief he dove head first into an uncontrollable bender, drowning his sorrows at LA’s famed Cock and Bull Bar with THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON director Raoul Walsh.While Flynn was still chug-a-lugging, Walsh excused himself, saying he was too upset to continue the wake and slipped out. Walsh hopped in his car and paid a quick visit to the Pierce Brothers mortuary which was where the late Barrymore lay in state. After a bankroll exchanged hands, Walsh bribed the parlor director, retrieved the departed, dumped him in the car and drove back to Flynn’s mansion. Walsh awoke Fynn’s groggy butler to help bring the stiff inside.“Mr. Barrymore’s drunk – so lend me a hand,” he recalled, telling the groggy butler. “I think he’s dead,” the butler snapped.“You’ve seen him like this before,” Walsh insisted, “So help lend me a hand.“All right – but he looks dead to me!'”Walsh and the butler dragged Barrymore inside, carefully positioning the cadaver on Flynn’s expansive couch – looking for all the world as if he were simply passed-out.Walsh ordered the butler to get the SVENGALI star some coffee to sober him up. The sight of a passed out Barrymore on the couch was nothing new to Flynn’s butler so off he went.After draining the bar dry at the Cock and Bull, a highly intoxicated Flynn wobbly staggered home. At first, Flynn didn’t notice anything unusual when he entered.“He sat down in his favourite chair and was talking about something or other, when the butler came back in saying ‘Here’s Mr. Barrymore’s coffee,'” Walsh recalled.“And with that, Flynn saw Jack and ran out of the house screaming. He hid behind a bush in the yard, yelling, “Get him out of here! You are going to get us all of us put in San Quentin!’“Well, I took Jack back to the funeral home and the mortician asked me where I’d taken him” Walsh recalled. I said "We went to Errol Flynn’s."“You did?! he said. ‘Why, if I’d have known you were going to take him up there, I would have put a better suit on him!'”Yet, according to an official Barrymore biographer, there was only one visitor to the funeral parlour, a well-known prostitute “who knelt and prayed and continued on her way in silence.” Gene Fowler, a member of the Bundy Drive Gang claimed he and his son were the only ones who stood vigil with Barrymore’s corpse with nary a drunken movie director nor painted lady in sight.
In Richard Schickel’s 1973 documentary THE MEN WHO MADE THE MOVIES, Walsh went on the record again, confirming Errol Flynn’s account of the body snatch heist and practical joke.
Friday, June 25, 2021
Another end of week and things continue going to shit around us. Will we ever be rid of this COVID plague?
Observing the health restrictions and regulations is one thing, remaining positive is another.
Here is my contribution to the latter but, as always, there is a warning that risqué content follows.
Stay safe and well, readers.
SOME HUMOUR . . .
A politician was sitting in his office when the phone rang.
He picked it up, said little, smiled widely, said "Thank you," and hung up the phone.
He picked the phone back up to call his mother. "Mum, it’s me," he said. "I won the election!"
"Honestly?" she said in response to the news.
"Does it really matter how I did it?" he replied.
What Is the difference between stabbing a man and killing a pig?
One is assaulting with intent to kill; the other is killing with intent to salt.
Orville Wright: "Dick cave?"
Wilbur Wright: “Definitely not.”
Orville: “Weiner hole?”
Wilbur: “Dude, no.”
Wilbur: (sighs) “Okay, fine.”
Before his inauguration, George W. Bush was invited to take a tour of the White House.
After drinking several glasses of water, he asked President Clinton if he could use the bathroom in the Oval Office. He was astonished to see that the President had a solid gold urinal installed. That night, George W. told his wife, Laura, about the urinal.
“Just think,” he said, “when I’m President, I’ll have my own personal gold urinal!”
Laura had lunch with Hillary Clinton on her tour of the White House and told her how impressed George had been with his discovery of the President’s private bathroom and gold urinal.
“Bill doesn’t have a gold urinal,” Hillary told Laura, “but that explains who peed in Bill’s saxophone.”
A race of aliens visits earth one day. They come in peace and surprisingly, they speak English. Obviously, all of the heads of government and religious leaders want to speak to the aliens so they set up a meeting with our new visitors.
When it's the Pope's turn, he asks: "Do you know about our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?"
"You mean JC?", responds the alien. "Yeah, we know him! He's the greatest, isn't he? He swings by every year to make sure that we are doing ok".
Surprised, the Pope follows up with: "He visits every year?! It's been over two millennia and we're still waiting for his SECOND coming!"
The alien sees that the Pope has become irate at this fact and starts trying to rationalise.
"Maybe he likes our chocolate better than yours?" The Pope retorts "Chocolates? What are you talking about? What does that have to do with anything?"
The alien says "Yeah, when he first visited our planet we gave him a huge box of chocolates! Why? What did you guys do?"
LIMERICK OF THE WEEK:
I have previously acknowledged being indebted to my father in law Noel for bringing to my attention a classic limerick that embodies all the great features of the art: ribald, risqué, politically incorrect and witty –
There was a young sheik of Algiers
Who said to his harem, "My dears.
You may think this odd of me,
But I'm tired of sodomy,
Tonight’s for straight fucking." (Loud cheers!)
So, with nothing better to do, I tried to think of a variation whilst still maintaining the elegance, dignity and literary merit of the original.
Here is my contribution:
There was an old sheik of Algiers
Who said to his harem, "My dears.
You may think this odd of me,
But I’m getting quite doddery
So my son will take over.” (Loud cheers!)
A lawyer married a woman who had previously divorced 10 husbands.
On their wedding night, she told her new husband, "Please be gentle, I'm still a virgin."
"What?" said the puzzled groom. "How can that be if you've been married 10 times?"
"Well . . .
Husband #1 was a sales representative. He kept telling me how great it was going to be.
Husband #2 was in software services. He was never really sure how it was supposed to function, but he said he'd look into it and get back to me.
Husband #3 was from field services. He said everything checked out diagnostically, but he just couldn't get the system up.
Husband #4 was in telemarketing. Even though he knew he had the order, he didn't know when he would be able to deliver.
Husband #5 was an engineer. He understood the basic process, but wanted three years to research, implement, and design a new state-of-the-art method.
Husband #6 was from finance and administration. He thought he knew how, but he wasn't sure whether it was his job or not.
Husband #7 was in marketing. Although he had a nice product, he was never sure how to position it.
Husband #8 was a psychologist. All he ever did was talk about it.
Husband #9 was a gynaecologist. All he did was look at it.
Husband #10 was a stamp collector. All he ever did was... God! I miss him!
But now that I've married you, I'm really excited!"
"Good," said the new husband, "but, why?"
"You're a lawyer. This time I know I'm going to get screwed!"
My wife - its difficult to say what she does for a living.
She sells seashells on the seashore.
How do you milk sheep?
Release new iPhone
Don’t call me a “trash picker” …
I prefer to be called a discardiologist.
Dads are like boomerangs
They say if you play the new Justin Bieber song backwards, you will hear a Satanic message. But that's not the worst part
...if you play it forwards, you'll hear the new Justin Bieber song.
French kids are kind..
But German kids are kinder
Robin walks into the garage in the bat cave to test drive the batmobile.
He jumps into the batmobile and tries to get it started but it won’t work.
So Robin goes to find Batman to help him.
Robin explains to Batman that the batmobile isn't working.
"Check the battery" says Batman.
"What’s a tery?" Robin asks, confused.