Sir John Quick lecture 2017: Bigotry, referenda, plebiscites, polls and conscription

Join us for this year’s Sir John Quick lecture by the Honorable Howard Nathan.

October 2017 marks the centenary of one of the most horrendous times in Australian history. More young men were slaughtered at this time than ever since. The country was rent by the most bitter and bigoted conscription for military service campaign imaginable. Bendigo was the focus of much of this bigotry, not least because the Prime Minister at the time, W.M. Hughes aka Billy, was the local member and Archbishop Daniel Mannix lectured from the nearest proximate town within his diocese, Castlemaine, to confront him.

This lecture focuses on the constitutional issues arising from the conscription referenda, although they were in fact plebiscites, and passes comment upon the recent public opinion poll concerning marriage. It concludes these surveys undermine our parliamentary representative system of government and have unintended consequences. The constitutional history and results of both plebiscites and referenda since Federation are outlined.

Returning to bigotry, Bendigo illustrated the vileness complicit in usurping the parliamentary process and abdicating it in favour of the transitory illusion of direct public participation. This community, and indeed the whole nation, was divided by their clergies between Protestants and Catholics. Fortunately, most of their adherents ignored their imprecations and the ‘no’ vote on conscription increased in the time between the two referenda.
Finally, optimism and common sense prevailed and Australia continues on its path of creating a decent and prosperous society.

Thursday 5 October
The Capital, View Street, Bendigo
RSVP by Monday 2 October – bookings are essential.

Book your tickets today!