ANZAC Day debated
ANZAC Day as
– the 1928
Mr. KERR [ James Stevingstone Kerr, Member for Enoggera, National United Country-National, Government Whip ]: “I desire to bring before the Committee a matter that comes under the jurisdiction of the Premier – that is, the question of ANZAC Day.”
OPPOSITION MEMBERS: “Hear, hear!”
Mr. KERR: “I do not want to make a long speech, but the hon. Member for Murrumba recently asked the Premier whether he would make a statement in regard to the attitude of the Government on the question. The reply of the hon. gentleman was ‘Yes’.
“I would like to know if the hon. gentleman is prepared at this stage to make a statement, as, if he is, it possibly will save a great deal of discussion. I for one will be quite prepared to resume my seat and listen to the statement. I have the support of every hon. Member of the Opposition whom I have consulted with regard to declaring ANZAC Day a national and sacred holiday.
“The eyes of the people, of every returned soldier, their relatives and the relatives of those soldiers who did not return, are focused on the question of declaring ANZAC Day a holiday throughout Queensland, at least.
“The Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia is one of the strongest organisations of its kind in Australia. In Queensland it has somewhere about 200 branches and a membership of 27,000. They have asked that the Government should introduce legislation to set ANZAC Day aside as a national and sacred holiday, like Christmas Day and Good Friday.”
The PREMIER [ William McCormack, Member for Cairns, Australian Labor Party ]: “You are speaking for the Opposition, you know.”
Mr. KERR: “I said I spoke for many members of the Opposition, if not all of them. Hon. Members can turn to ‘Hansard’, because I was very careful in stating my position.”
The PREMIER: “There is nothing wrong with it, if it is right but, if you are all agreed on it, the statement should come from your leader.”
Mr. KERR: “Our leader is not present.”
The PREMIER: “Your deputy-leader is present.”
Mr. KERR: “Our deputy-leader was consulted on this matter, and he asked me to make this speech. There are some seven or eight returned men in the Opposition, and it is no secret that they have very often consulted each other in the party in regard to matters concerning returned men. They are unanimous that ANZAC Day should be proclaimed a public holiday, as I suggest.
“The great strength of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia lies in the fact that it is a non-political body. Politicians who are members of the League have rightly refrained from going near the League, or from taking important positions in it, in order to strengthen the organisation.
“There is no question that many politicians would have taken important positions in the League but for that, because they are sincerely desirous of [ 12.30 p.m. ] assisting returned soldiers in every way. I want to say definitely that the league is weary of waiting for ANZAC Day to be proclaimed a national holiday. They have waited ten years, and are now using every effort that the strengthened position of the League is capable of putting forth to have the day recognised as sacred, at least, in Queensland. There are one or two aspects of the question that I propose to discuss.”
The PREMIER: “You thoroughly understand what was asked for?”
Mr. KERR: “Yes, and I shall deal with each point, leaving out what may be termed the sentimental part of the business.”
The PREMIER: “You understand what the holiday means?”
Mr. KERR: “We are all Australians first and Britishers next. There is no need for me to remind hon. Members what the sacrifice of 60,000 dead means to Australia; but I do say that some of the community are placing what they call the economic condition of things before sentiment – and where would the world get without sentiment?
“I am perfectly sincere when I say that the economic phase of the question is but a secondary consideration to the observance of a great national day to commemorate the memory of over 59,000 men who nobly gave their lives in the service of this country. I understand that a large number of chambers of commerce have sent resolutions to the Returned Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Imperial League in favour of observing this day.”
The SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC WORKS [ Michael (“Mick”) Joseph Kirwan, Member for Brisbane, Australian Labor Party ]: “How much did they subscribe to the Victoria Cross Heroes’ Fund?”
Mr. KERR: “I do not know what they subscribed.”
The SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC WORKS: “There has been more subscribed for lost dogs than for the men who won the highest honour that can be won in the British Army.”
Mr. KERR: “What is the hon. gentleman accusing the chambers of commerce of doing? The people of Australia stood four-square behind those who gave of their best for their country.”
The SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC WORKS: “They did not subscribe to the fund for Victoria Cross winners.”
Mr. KERR: “Apart altogether from any question of conscription, Australia made a greater sacrifice proportionately than any other part of the Empire. It has been said that, if this holiday is proclaimed a public one, those engaged in industry will have to be paid double time if they work on that day, and that those who do not work will nevertheless get a day’s pay if the day is officially proclaimed a national holiday. It is also said that hundreds of thousands of men who would get paid under these circumstances are not returned soldiers. It has been said that if returned men want a holiday for ANZAC Day they should be prepared to make a sacrifice for it.
“Whilst there may be some argument in that, I venture the opinion that if returned soldiers only were concerned they would willingly sacrifice the day’s pay. If the Premier can show me where a holiday is proclaimed under which returned soldiers only would sacrifice their pay, then I say let the same thing be done in this case also. After all if we can proclaim certain saints’ days as holidays and there are possibly far too many of them at present– surely can have one more day to commemorate fittingly the memory of our glorious dead!”
The PREMIER: “You do not want it in place of a saint’s day.”
Mr. KERR: “The Government have taken certain action to make this a close holiday as far as possible, but that has not been sufficient. The returned men have asked me to say that they are prepared to take a referendum on this question. If that were granted by the Government, I believe there would be an overwhelming vote in favour of ANZAC Day being proclaimed a holy day. Evidently there is some hesitation on the part of the Premier, who may say that this matter came up at the Premiers’ Conference.
“The arguments used at the Premiers’ Conference may be used in this House; but all the arguments in the world will have no force against the desire to proclaim ANZAC Day the national day of Australia, so that it will be kept by the future generations. We know that Australia is a nation in the making – a small nation certainly at present. We know perfectly well that federation was the birth of Australia; but what made Australia what it is to-day in the eyes of the people of the world? Was it not the sacrifices made by our soldiers? I do not think one member in this Chamber would deny the fact that great sacrifices were made by our soldiers; and out of the 365 days in the year surely we can set aside one day in recognition of that fact!”
A GOVERNMENT MEMBER: “The chambers of commerce do not favour it.”
Mr. KERR: “Surely that is no argument against it! There are arguments against it that one could think of, but I regard them as beneath our notice in dealing with this matter. If an unbiased vote were taken in this Chamber, I believe it would be carried unanimously; and what would happen here would happen outside.”
The PREMIER: “It would be carried merely on sentiment.”
Mr. KERR: “Can the hon. gentleman argue that sentiment should not be taken into consideration? If a certain thing was necessary, the Premier would not hesitate to bring it about even though it cost £10,000. He would not stop to think that at the end of the year he might get a deficit. He would do the thing because it was essential.
“I hope that I have been able to demonstrate that sentiment in this case has a solid foundation, and that it should prevail over all other considerations. ANZAC Day should be a national holiday and should be kept holy, similar to Christmas and Good Friday.”
Mr. KING [ Reginald Macdonnell King, Member for Logan, Nationalist United Country-National ]: “The Premier seemed to indicate that he thought the hon. Member for Enoggera was not speaking for the Opposition.”
The PREMIER: “I said it was a difficult question. It is not a party question.”
Mr. KING: “I want to set at rest any doubts in regard to my opinion and the opinion of the Opposition on this matter. I say we are right behind the hon. Member for Enoggera in his advocacy of the proclamation of ANZAC Day as a sacred holiday throughout Queensland.
“The Premier will remember that he received a deputation from the returned soldiers a little while ago, on which there were also representatives of the Chamber of Manufactures and the chambers of commerce, showing that all classes were in accord with the request.”
The PREMIER: “They were opposed to the proposal put forward.”
Mr. KING: “That may be; but I would like the hon. gentleman to adopt a broad standpoint and use his discretion in that respect.”
The PREMIER: “Have you thought what the cost will be?”
Mr. KING: “We can hear about that later. It will be well worth the cost.”
The PREMIER: “It will not be our people who will pay; it will be yours.”
Mr. KING: “We are content to take the risk. We are all of one opinion regarding the necessity for recognising Australia’s national day. When this deputation was arranged to wait on the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition was asked to associate himself with the deputation.
“Unfortunately, he had to be in Toowoomba, being chairman of a shire council which was concerned in some pending litigation; and he asked me if I would attend in his place just to associate the Opposition with the request being made. The Premier will remember that he objected to politicians being there.”
The PREMIER: “I did not think it was a party question.”
Mr. KING: “We wish to dissociate politics altogether from this matter.”
The PREMIER: “It is a curious fact that there are returned soldiers on this side as well as on the Opposition side; yet members on the Opposition side who are not returned soldiers were asked to go on the deputation. No hon. Member on this side was consulted or asked to go.”
Mr. KING: “Hon. Members on this side who were asked to attend, with the exception of Mr. Moore, who was the Leader of the Opposition, were returned men themselves.”
The PREMIER: “They asked the leader of the party to go?”
Mr. KING: “Yes; and, in the absence of the Leader of the Opposition, I acted as his deputy.”
The PREMIER: “They never asked the returned soldiers on this side to attend.”
Mr. KERR: “The hon. Member for Ithaca was asked, was be not?”
Mr. HANLON [ Edward (“Ned”) Michael Hanlon, Member for Ithaca, Australian Labor Party ]: “No.”
Mr. KING: “The hon. Member for Enoggera has plainly stated the case, and I do not want to say anything further about it. I want to explain why the hon. Member for Enoggera voiced the opinions of the Opposition on this occasion. I would draw the Premier’s attention to some remarks appearing in ‘The Whiz-Bang’, a paper published by returned soldiers:
‘ANZAC Day is Australia’s truly national day, and, no matter what class or creed, we should be unanimous in paying homage on this day to our 60,000 dead sons and to the birth of our nation.’
The PREMIER: “What do you mean exactly when you say you support the proposal? Do you want to place it in the same category as Christmas Day and Good Friday?”
Mr. KING: “Yes.”
The PREMIER: “With all that that means?”
Mr. KING: “Yes; I know what it means.”
The PREMIER: “I do not think you do.”
Mr. KING: “This matter has been brought up at several conferences, and the Government went as far as they could. I think they amended the Holidays Act.”
The PREMIER: “We went further than any other State.”
Mr. KING: “That is so. Since then there have been further conferences of local authorities, and time after time they have affirmed the desirability of going still further, and making ANZAC Day a sacred holiday. I trust that the Premier will see his way clear to do this, and we as an Opposition will support him in that action.”
Mr FRY [ James Porter Fry, Member for Kurilpa, Nationalist United Country-National ]: “I support the appeal which has been made for making ANZAC Day a public holiday. I think I had the honour of introducing the first deputation that waited on any Minister in Australia on this question.”
Mr. LLEWELYN [ Evan John Llewelyn, Member for Toowoomba, Australian Labor Party ]: “They generally go to places of enjoyment, races, or sports.”
Mr. FRY: “Call it a day of commemoration or what you like – it all depends on the opinion you have of the day – the angle from which you look at it. I introduced a deputation to Mr. Theodore, and after discussing the matter for some time, he said: ‘When the public demand it, no Government could resist’. That is so. The deputation on that occasion was not altogether unanimous as to whether they should have a day as a sports day or a close holiday of a religious nature. That led to the remark of Mr. Theodore, who was dealing with a deputation asking for something new.
“My viewpoint then was the same as that which I hold to-day – that is should be a close holiday of a religious nature – a day of commemoration or in memoriam – something more than a day set apart for sport. The Premier rightly asks whether we know what it is going to cost the community. I am not here today to consider what the commercial community think about it We have our own ideas as to what the nature of the day should be.
“It is not a party matter. In considering it all barriers break down. We are one party on the floor of this Chamber in the discussion of this question. We have to consider the value of the day from a national standpoint.
“Is it worthwhile? I say it is worthwhile from a national standpoint to have it regarded as a day round which the traditions of a nation will centre – because I view Australia as a nation destined to become one of the mightiest on the face of the Earth. We have the opportunity of saying whether we wish to recognise that day by taking two hours off and getting back to work; whether we are going to recognise it as a half-holiday; whether we are going to recognise it as a full holiday for sporting purposes; whether we are going to recognise it as a religious day; or whether we are going to recognise it at all.”
The PREMIER: “Would you favour recognising it as a day like Good Friday or Christmas Day?”
Mr. FRY: “I certainly would.”
The PREMIER: “You know what it means?”
Mr. FRY: “I would definitely make it a day such as Good Friday or Christmas Day. I am prepared to meet any attacks which may be made on me because of that opinion. I am not going to waver because it is going to cost the community £10,000.”
The PREMIER: “Oh!” [ There is a large portion not transcribed at this point. See pg1009. ]
Mr. MAXWELL [ James Francis Maxwell, Member for Toowong, Nationalist United Country-National ]: “I hope that ANZAC Day will be recognised as a sacred holiday, as requested by the hon. Member for Enoggera. In doing so, I would like to support the remarks of the hon. Member for Enoggera.”
The PREMIER: “You are very foolish in trying to make it a party question.”
Mr. MAXWELL: “I am not doing so. The duty of our soldiers was not a party question. I hope the hon. gentleman will not think that I am attempting to do so. I want to put something forward in which the hon. gentleman as well as myself is interested. He is associated with the leading representatives of the various business establishments, organisations, and churches in the metropolitan area on the ANZAC Commemoration Committee.
“I have been associated with that committee for a great number of years. It is only comparatively recently that the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee could be brought to consider the desirability of accepting the suggestion which has been made this morning.”
The PREMIER: “Can we take it that the business community want his holiday? That is one of the factors I have to consider – not the political factor.”
Mr. MAXWELL: “I appreciate the position of the hon. gentleman. I want to be honest and sincere in this matter. A resolution was unanimously carried at a meeting of the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee on Thursday, 17th November, 1927.
“The hon. gentleman may or may not have been there; but that is neither here nor there. It is ancient history that Queensland has led the way in the celebration of ANZAC Day. The celebration emanated in the mind of the late T.A. Ryan [ Thomas Augustine Ryan ], a very estimable friend of the late Hon. A.J. Thynne [ Andrew James Thynne ], and a personal friend of my own.
“Effect was given to his suggestion by a body of gentlemen, who established what is now called the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee, which is thoroughly representative of every section and calling in the metropolitan area. It was adopted by other States in Australia, and eventually at the seat of the Empire, where ANZAC Day is now celebrated.
“I am one of those who consider that it is not a day of rejoicing, that it is not a day of sport, but that it is a day of solemnity. It is a day on which we should pay honour and tribute to our honoured dead. The celebrations are carried out with solemnity throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and the question has now arisen of making it a sacred day.”
Mr. LLEWELYN: “Is it not true that race meetings are conducted on ANZAC Day in South Australia?”
Mr. MAXWELL: “I cannot help that. I do not subscribe to the day being observed in that manner.”
Mr. LLEWELYN: “Hear, hear!”
Mr. MAXWELL: “The Queensland Government recognise Christmas Day and Good Friday as sacred days. That carries with it the closure of hotels and the prevention of race meetings or anything of a nature that would tend to take away from the sacredness of those days.
“ANZAC Day should be a similar holy day. I know there was a time, as the Premier interjected this morning, when some people wanted to hold race meetings on that day – to make it a joyous holiday rather than a day of solemnity – but I am pleased that the majority of people took a different view.
“ANZAC Day should be placed in the same category as Good Friday and Christmas Day, and, irrespective of what South Australia or any other State may have done, we in Queensland should lead the way in perpetuation of ANZAC Day as a sacred holiday, just as we took the lead in introducing this day of commemoration.
“As I said earlier, an ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee has been in existence for a number of years. I do not know that any unions are represented on that committee; but I am aware that it is of a representative character, and includes representatives from the Employers’ Federation, the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Manufactures, etc., and the heads of churches, with the Premier as chairman.
“The committee has been carrying out the wishes of the citizens in taking certain action to perpetuate the memory of the men who made the great sacrifice; and it is pleasing to note that due to the efforts of the committee, ANZAC Day has been observed.
“That it should be observed as a day of solemnity goes without saying when we realise the number of those who made the great sacrifice. After having discussed the question on various occasions, this committee unanimously carried the following resolution on the 17th November last:
‘That the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee, having carefully considered the question of a holiday on ANZAC Day, are of the opinion that the time has arrived when ANZAC Day should be gazetted as a sacred and close industrial holiday to be observed in a similar manner to Christmas Day and Good Friday’.”
Mr. DASH [ John Dash, Member for Mundingburra, Australian Labor Party ]: “Did they say anything about payment on that day?”
Mr. MAXWELL: “The Premier will agree with me that that resolution was unanimously agreed to. We recognise that there are certain difficulties in the way, but those difficulties are not insurmountable, and can be overcome.”
The PREMIER: “Tell us how they can be overcome.”
Mr. MAXWELL: “I do not want to discuss details. I think the hon. gentleman realises that I am keeping away from politics.”
The PREMIER: “These are not political questions.”
Mr. MAXWELL: “I am taking the broad view. I am quite prepared to listen to what the Premier says, and we must give the hon. gentleman credit for putting forward his viewpoint.
“The question is not being discussed either by the Premier or by any Member of the Opposition from a political standpoint; the matter is too great to be viewed in that way.
“Undoubtedly there are some obstacles in the way; but those obstacles are not insurmountable, and the recognition of this day will undoubtedly give a very great amount of satisfaction not only to the people of Queensland but to the people of Australia.”
Mr. HANLON: “In the past the question of a holiday on ANZAC Day has been made a subject upon which to build a little bit of political propaganda and I have noticed in the past that the political propaganda that was made out of ANZAC Day being a public holiday and other subjects connected with the ex-soldiers was generally at its height immediately prior to an election.
“Perhaps it is a mere coincidence that the same subject is being raised immediately prior to an election on this occasion. I hope it is merely a coincidence.
“I just want to say that, as a returned soldier myself, I was somewhat surprised, when standing in the lobby of the House a few weeks ago, to watch the deputation which waited upon the Premier regarding an ANZAC Day holiday.
“To my mind it could by no means be termed a deputation representative of the returned soldiers. There were representatives there from various semi-political bodies, for, after all, the Chambers of Commerce and Chambers of Manufactures have proved themselves definitely in Queensland to be political bodies; there were also representatives of the Opposition who were not returned soldiers.
“No returned soldier on this side of the Chamber heard anything about that deputation or received an invitation to take part in it. Since I have been in this House no body of returned soldiers has communicated with me or sought my influence or assistance to secure an ANZAC Day holiday.
“I have not had any request from any body in Queensland to assist in the institution of an ANZAC Day holiday at all, consequently, when we see a request of this kind coming from a combined representative gathering of the Opposition and members of Chambers of Commerce and Chambers of Manufactures, one is justified in viewing it with a certain amount of suspicion.
“As for myself, I certainly would like to see some commemoration of ANZAC Day. I suppose I have quite as many friends lying over on the other side as any Member on the Opposition side of the Chamber and I certainly should like to see some system of perpetuating the memory of those who fell in the Great War. But this is the part of it that strikes me – the average returned soldier has no time for a close sacred holiday on ANZAC Day.”
Mr. GRIMSTONE [ Ernest Lancelot Grimstone, Member for Stanley, Country-National ]: “You are not in touch with them.”
Mr. HANLON: “Perhaps the hon. Member for Toowong or the hon. Member for Toombul is in touch with them.”
Mr. MAXWELL: “It was not I who interjected. It was the hon. Member for Stanley.”
Mr. HANLON: “The hon. Member for Stanley may be in touch with returned soldiers or with some of them; but, as a man who was born and has resided in this town all my life, except during the time I was at the war, I dare say I come in contact with as many returned soldiers as any Member of this House; and I say unhesitatingly that the average returned soldier has never been a gloomy individual. The average returned soldier takes anything but a pessimistic view of things.
“No man is less inclined than the returned soldier to weep on account of past events. He is the most optimistic and happiest individual I have come across; but I recognise that, in deference to the relatives of those who died at the Front – in deference to the bereaved mothers, sisters, and friends of the soldiers who died at the Front – it would be inappropriate to continue to commemorate ANZAC Day as a day of pleasure.
“We all recognise that; but, in the ordinary nature of things, a day of mourning cannot exist for any great length of time in Australia – with the passing of the relatives of the men who died at the Front, the day of mourning must also pass away. It is not an Australian characteristic to perpetuate gloomy thoughts, draw long faces, or continuously mourn.
“After going into the matter broadly, I think the best celebration of ANZAC Day is carried out in Queensland and Victoria. In both those States some homage is paid to the memory of those who died, and their relatives are able to attend church parades and services.
“Every possible opportunity is given to returned men to get off their work to attend these parades and services, the hotels are closed, and race meetings are prohibited. This form of observance only takes place in Queensland and Victoria, which for the time being, are controlled by Labour Governments.
“In the other States ANZAC Day is not observed as a close and sacred holiday, and, as the Premier interjected, Mr. Bavin [ Sir Thomas (“Tom”) Rainsford Bavin ], the Premier of New South Wales, holds the view that returned soldiers themselves want a day of rejoicing, sport and pleasure. As the celebration of ANZAC Day in Queensland in the form carried out meets with the wishes of the majority of the returned soldiers, there is no necessity for Queensland to depart from the present procedure unless other States fall into line – and there is little prospect of that.
“The Premier of Queensland, when attending the Premiers’ Conference, moved that the conference should give some uniform recognition to ANZAC Day, but the proposal was turned down.
“I do not think it is possible for Queensland to do more than it has done. As a returned soldier, I have been very well satisfied with the way in which ANZAC Day has been recognised in Queensland and the great majority of returned soldiers with whom I come in contact share the same view.”
The PREMIER: “The subject raised by the hon. Member for Enoggera has been the basis of an organised effort throughout this State. I do not know who is responsible for that organisation. but I do know that the resolutions which have been carried in every centre and by chambers of commerce and other bodies are the result of a definite organisation emanating from some source – it may be returned soldiers. I would ask the Member for Enoggera whether the returned soldiers have sponsored that agitation and organisation.”
Mr. KERR: “Yes.”
The PREMIER: “Of course, they have a perfect right to do that. I wondered whether they had any control over chambers of commerce, but they may have been exercising their power over business people, or suggesting to business people that they should come into line.”
Mr. KERR: “Very often men in the sub-branches of the League are members of chambers of commerce.”
The PREMIER: “I know that retail business people have been placed in a difficult position, because some were willing to close and others were not. The ones who closed were placed at a disadvantage through being closed. Others followed the people who closed, to get custom from soldiers who wanted a holiday, and in some towns they have urged uniform action to place all on the same footing. Neither Queensland nor the Labour Government in Queensland have anything to be ashamed of in regard to their method of dealing with this particular day.
“We were the only State in the Commonwealth which honoured the original undertaking agreed to by all the States that this day should, within certain limits, be made a national and sacred holiday. We carried out the distinct letter of that decision, and converted it into law in this State.
“Since then Victoria has come into line with Queensland, but in no other State of the Commonwealth has the original agreement been carried out. For that reason, the returned soldier has no grievance against any Labour Government in the Commonwealth for ignoring this day that he chooses to honour.
“In this agitation the soldiers themselves have taken a part; but the hon. Member for Enoggera says one thing the hon. Member for Ithaca says another. It would of course, be difficult for anybody to say off-hand what the majority of soldiers desire in regard to the sacredness or otherwise of this day. In the other States they make no secret of their decision – they do not want it as a sacred holiday – and they have tested the question in those States.
“If the soldiers only are responsible for this agitation, and it has no political significance, it seems remarkable to me that the Queensland soldiers should be different from the soldiers in other portions of the Commonwealth in regard to the solemnity of the observance of the day.”
Mr. KERR: “You are not suggesting that it is political, are you?”
The PREMIER: “I shall deal with that aspect later. Up to a point I do not believe that anybody would be as foolish as to associate himself with it politically.”
Mr. KERR: “Quite right.”
The PREMIER: “But the deputation astounded me. I have already told the returned soldiers on that deputation what I think of their action in bringing along non-soldier members of the Opposition to state their case. When they wrote to me they said that the deputation would be a deputation from returned soldiers’ associations.”
Mr. KERR: “And kindred bodies. I think.”
The PREMIER: “Well, and kindred bodies – I think they said soldiers’ associations. I had no objection to the hon. Member – I said so at the time – or any other soldier Members being present; but let me say right here that the hon. Member for Bowen and other members on this side who lost their boys at the Front had just as much right to accompany such a deputation as the hon. Member for Enoggera.”
Mr. KERR: “I was not there.”
The PREMIER: “They had as much right as any returned soldier to be there and I did the only thing that it was possible to do. I refused to meet the deputation until the political element was excluded from it.
“The different States of the Commonwealth have adopted different methods of dealing with ANZAC Day. Queensland and Victoria have gone further in regard to the solemnity of the day than other States. New South Wales closes the hotels for a few hours. Everybody knows what operates in New South Wales. In South Australia they allow sports – they permit it to be a day of cheerfulness, with all sorts of pleasures and racing. The only restriction is that the profits from such sources have to go for the benefit of disabled soldiers.
“Quite a good case can be made out for a day of that kind. Mr Butler [ Sir Richard Butler ] made out a very good case for it. Neither he nor his Government were going to be persuaded into altering the method of observing ANZAC Day in South Australia.
“Mr. Bavin said he would not alter the method in New South Wales. I thought we might be able to get some uniform system of observance – probably not going as far as the soldiers or those who were speaking for the soldiers were desirous of going – but at least getting some uniformity, so that the day might be honoured similarly – from one end of the Commonwealth to the other.
“Although I am not a religious person myself, I believe that we have done something from which we should not depart – that is, we keep it as a sacred holiday. I think that while the relatives of those who lost their lives in the war are alive public sentiment in Australia will lean towards making the day a sacred day.
“I do not think that the soldiers themselves care twopence. I know the men as well as the hon. Member for Enoggera. I know the psychology of the Australian. Out of regard, no doubt, for his mate who was killed, he is prepared to sink any opinions he has and make it a sacred holiday.”
Mr. KERR: “That is the whole thing.”
The PREMIER: “So far so good. I promised the soldiers’ organisation that I would consult with the other States. I did it, and Mr. Hogan [ Edmond (“Ned”) John Hogan ], the Premier of Victoria supported the proposal. The position of Mr. Hogan is something like my own.
“The people of Victoria had gone a considerable distance in the direction of making the day what the soldiers wanted it to be, and naturally he was able to adopt the same attitude as was adopted in Queensland.
“We tried to obtain uniformity by consulting with the other States, but we failed. I was not able to secure any uniformity. I was not able really to get any consideration of the question because the view implanted in the people of two States was definitely and determinedly that ANZAC Day should be recognised in the way in which they had decided, and they had come to that conclusion without reference to any of the other States. Consequently, nothing was done.
“To do what the soldiers ask is a pretty big thing. That is why I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition whether his party as a party has investigated the effect of making ANZAC Day a day like Good Friday or Christmas Day. Throughout the Christian world, Good Friday and Christmas have a special significance.
“I might say, without hurting the feelings of the soldiers, that those two days have a much greater significance to mankind than ANZAC Day or any day based on war. That must necessarily be so, because the whole of Christendom recognise the clay of the Birth of the Redeemer and the day of His Crucifixion; and it is a tall order to ask that ANZAC Day be placed on a similar footing.
“The economic and industrial effects of placing it on a similar footing have certainly never been inquired into by the hon. Member for Logan, who got up and so sentimentally agreed that it should be made a day similar to Good Friday and Christmas Day. One has only to realise what it means to the whole community and to the soldiers themselves.
“The hon. Member for Kurilpa thought that some way could be devised for making it a sacred day. That is what we have done; but that is not what is wanted. The public servants are paid, and in some instances returned soldiers employed by private people are paid. At least, they are allowed to get off for a few hours to attend church parades, and no wages are deducted.”
Mr KERR: “Quite a number do that.”
The PREMIER: “Some do not do it.”
Mr H.J. RYAN: “The majority do not.”
The PREMIER: “Some members of a deputation who would urge that I should do something in this matter would be the very first to squeal if I carried out what the soldiers desired. Let us examine what it means, and then realise what we are asked to do. Good Friday and Christmas Day are days for which all workers are paid special rates.
“Do hon. Members opposite realise what it would mean to the State to add another day to those two days? We have quite a number of people in Queensland who earn their daily bread – ”
Mr. SIZER [ Hubert Ebenezer Sizer, Member for Sandgate, Nationalist United Country-National ]: “When they get the chance.”
The PREMIER: “In other cases men work from day to day for a living – ”
Mr. SIZER: “When they get the chance.”
The PREMIER: “The hon. gentleman has not done much for quite a while except make speeches.”
Mr. KERR: “That is pretty hard at times.”
The PREMIER: “The hon. Member for Sandgate will get all he brings to me; I have made up my mind about that. I do not care whether ‘Hansard’ reports exactly what I say or not. (Laughter.) All those people would have to be paid if we made it a sacred day.
“What would that mean to our State? What would it mean to the employers of labour? What does it mean to the Crown itself? Has the hon. Member for Enoggera or any hon. Member of the Opposition worked out what it would cost?”
Mr. KERR: “The employees of the Crown could make up the lost time in a week.”
The PREMIER: “That is all right in regard to office men; but what about the great mass of labouring men? Are you going to knock them off, and not give them a day’s pay? What is going to happen to the thousands of men engaged on the construction of main roads and railways?
Mr. SWAYNE [ Edward Bowdich Swayne, Member for Mirani, Country-National ]:
“You give them a holiday on election day, and pay them for it.”
The PREMIER: “Above all, what is going to happen to the employees engaged in our sewerage work, our local authorities, and the hundreds of thousands of men who are working for daily wages? There is no problem at all in regard to the man in the office, because he can make up his day’s work the next day.”
Mr. KING: “The local authorities are asking for this day.”
The PREMIER: “Everyone is asking for it, like the hon. gentleman has asked for it without knowing its effect.”
Mr. KERR: “What nonsense!”
The PREMIER: “I put it to the members of the Opposition that they have never considered this phase of the question.”
Mr. KERR: “Of course they know of it.”
The PREMIER: “The members of the deputation said they were not agreeable to its being made a sacred public holiday. I asked each member of the deputation in the room, in turn, as to whether knowing what such a holiday would mean they were agreeable, and they said they were not.”
Mr. KERR: “Did you ask Mr. Mighell [ Sir Norman Rupert Mighell ], the President of the League [ The Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia ]?”
The PREMIER: “He is a solicitor and employs nobody. He is president of the association.”
Mr. KERR: “He did not go with the deputation as a solicitor but as president of the association.”
The PREMIER: “He went there as a solicitor, too, to get what he wanted.”
Mr. KERR: “What is the good of bringing in the solicitor business?”
The PREMIER: “I am bringing in the Chamber of Manufactures and other bodies whose members are employers of labour. Mr. Norman Mighell is president of the organisation, and naturally he desires ANZAC Day to be proclaimed a sacred holiday. I have no grievance against him on that account.”
– from pages 1008 and 1011 of “Hansard” for the Queensland Legislative Assembly of Friday, 28 September 1928.
[ Reproduced with permission. ]
PICTURED ABOVE: Queensland’s Parliament House…in September 1928 the State’s elected representatives were at odds over whether ANZAC Day should remain a “close” public holiday, on a legislative par with Christmas Day and Good Friday, and whether a blanket observance was what Returned Servicemen desired and Queensland could afford.