The Dissenters!

Ben Strange was very critical of anyone who he perceived as showing decent against the war effort, including foreign governments who were staying neutral during the war, ‘slackers’ and any union who through industrial action threatened the war effort.

During the conscription referendum debate many unions campaigned against conscription making them a target for conscription supports like Strange. His strong criticism of unions and his perception that many of their actions and socialist beliefs went against the ‘national interest’ continued throughout his career.

‘At Last’ Western Mail April 7, 1916. Ben Strange was happy to direct his dislike for ‘un-patriotic’ unions towards Great Britain; when in April 2016 it was reported that six union leaders who were campaigning against the workforce being ‘diluted’, with women and semi-skilled labor, at Glasgow munitions factories were to be ‘deported’ (forced to live in Edinburgh) for threatening the production of war materials.

‘German Allies ‘Western Mail 24 December,, 1915. Ben Strange was always ready to attack unions as being unpatriotic. In this cartoon he is targeting the Melbourne Trades Hall Council for advising its members to ignore the recruitment cards sent out by the Government. Strange summed up his belief with the cation ‘His Imperial Frightfulness: “Gentlemen of the Melbourne Trades Hall, words can hardly express our thanks to you for your kind support in this the hour of Germany’s need.”’

In the OLP Labour "Market"

Western Mail 24 April 1918

Regarding the position of the Australian Labour Federation in relation to recruiting, the secretary (Mr A. McCallum) said that the attitude of the body he represented was practically one of “Your move next.” They were now waiting for the State Government to take action in relation to the matters which were indicated by the Labour delegates at the conference as being obstacles to recruiting.

The Hustler: ‘Gentlemen how much am I offered for this magnificent volume of Labour patriotism? – It’s your move next!”

In April 1918 a conference was held to try and increase recruitment levels in Australia so the Australian Army in Europe could be brought up to strength, after suffering severe casualties. Union delegates argued that by the Federal Government overturning many of its restrictive war-time declarations that targeted unions, it would be easier to gather community support for a new recruiting campaign. Following the meeting Alex McCullum, general secretary of the Western Australian Parliamentary Labor Party (also known as the Official Labor Party or O.L.P), called for the Western Australian Government to overturn laws requiring workers applying for jobs at the Fremantle Warf to produce recruitment rejection certificates.

Many local newspapers, including the Western Mail, criticized McCullum, believing that he was using the April conferences decision to put the interests of local unions and the O.L.P ahead of the nation and the war effort in Europe.

The Deciding Factor

Western Mail 20 November 1919

The R.S.A.: Stick to it Billy – You’re nearer Heaven than he is, and he’ll not rise much if I can help it."

Following the end of the war tension emerged between some unions and the Returned Serviceman’s Association (R.S.A), today the Returned Services League, over employment opportunities. Many unions believed industrial jobs should be restricted to union members while the R.S.A believed any returning servicemen should be given first priority. In the 1919 Federal election the R.S.A campaigned for the return of the government lead by William ‘Billy’ Hughes (figure on right of seesaw) as it had policies supportive of returned servicemen.