Labour History

At the Birth of Anzac: Labor, Andrew Fisher and Australia’s Offer of an Expeditionary Force to Britain in 1914

Labour History (2014), 106, (1), 19–41.


On Monday 3 August 1914, the government of Joseph Cook authorised a cable to London offering an expeditionary force. The leaders of the Labor Party voiced no criticism. This article explores the background to Labor’s acquiescence. In the context of a looming federal election, a number of factors came into play. As the international crisis opened, Liberals alleged that Labor would jeopardise Australia’s security. Labor had been prominent in supporting Irish Home Rule in 1914, inviting charges of disloyalty. Andrew Fisher had been hurt politically by such charges in the recent past. The Labor leaders Fisher and Pearce were also aware that they had authorised planning for an expeditionary force when in office, 1910–13. Since the Boer War, Labor had retreated from suggestions that Australia might shun an imperial war. Instead, in fear of Asia, Labor preached absolute loyalty to Britain and the internationalist spirit remained weak in Labor’s ranks.

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Newton, Douglas