Treatment of returned soldiers [re. returned soldiers and elections, 22 September 1920]

[Editor: This untitled article, about returned soldiers and elections, was published in The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld.), 22 September 1920.]

[Treatment of returned soldiers]

At Mr. Elphinstone’s meeting on Monday, Brigadier-General Wilson asked the electors to look into the past history of the Labour party so far as its treatment of returned soldiers is concerned. Excellent advice, which we trust will be acted upon wherever the necessity for action may arise.

But let the electors do more than look into the Labour party’s treatment of returned soldiers: let the electors look into the Labour party’s treatment of the soldiers while they were still fighting in France and Flanders and Palestine, risking their lives, and were uncheered by victory, though undismayed by defeat. Let the electors refresh their memory as to what the Labour party did and didn’t in the dark months when the issue of the stupendous struggle was still in doubt and there was a heart-searching appeal for reinforcements.

Let the electors ask for the findings and comments of the Queensland Labour Convention early in 1918 and for the endorsement of these findings and comments by the Perth Conference later in the year when the Gemans were making their last and most desperate rush for victory. Let the electors remember what was the attitude of the Brisbane Industrial Council towards Australia’s participation in the war. Let the electors demand that Labour’s encouragement or discouragement of recruiting in the later stages shall be faithfully reported to them.

Labour’s talk now to and about the returned soldiers on the eve of the choosing of a new Legislative Assembly, when Labour is frantically anxious to somehow get a new lease of power from the electors, is not of so much importance as what it did and didn’t when our boys were standing gallantly side by side with the boys of Britain, France, Belgium, and the United States in the grimmest months of the war, when Germany finally broke down under the impact of the Allies, and liberty and justice triumphed over the most malignant of all aggressions and Australia’s future was saved.

What was Labour’s attitude then? What did it do? What did it say? Did it hearten the boys with messages that would gladden them and, if such a thing was possible, stiffen their valour? Or did it, in effect, slacken in zeal, to put the fact very mildly, in critical days? Who was it that talked about the impossibility of winning the war and wanted the fighting stopped and peace sought by negotiation? Who devised a white-feather policy? Who was it that offered counsel that, if accepted, would have covered Australia with everlasting humiliation? This is the thing that matters now and always.

The boys are being cared for generously by the party which stood to them unflinchingly. The boys are free — they fought for the preservation of the freedom — to vote for any candidate or party or policy they please, but when returned soldiers are expected to vote for the Labour party and policy, let the whole story of Labour and the war be brought into the controversy.

F. W. Ward, 97 Queen street, Brisbane.

The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld.), 22 September 1920, p. 4

Also published in:
The Week (Brisbane, Qld.), 24 September 1920, p. 14 (under the title “Treatment of returned soldiers”)

Editor’s notes:
Elphinstone = Augustus Cecil Elphinstone (1874-1964), businessman and politician, Member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland 1918-1929 (born in England, lived in Australia 1892-1894, 1912-1964)

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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