The radicalising effect of the November 1964 conscription announcement

On November 10, 1964 Prime Minister Robert Menzies introduced a scheme for the conscription of twenty-year-old men, and put through legislation obliging conscripts to serve overseas.  I recall being shocked and outraged.  Nothing in my previous secure and sheltered middle-class life had prepared me for this horror. The very thought of being dragged against my will to fight and die on some overseas battlefield filled me with dread.  The injustice of having our life chances subject to a lottery (especially when we nineteen-year-olds could not yet vote) enraged me.  Friends, current events, and my reading, had politicized me.  This one particular government measure radicalized me.  I was radicalized overnight.  Conscription represented a personal and existential threat. I was determined to resist and my lyrical output immediately reflected this, as these extracts demonstrate:

Conscription is an evil thing – it makes the mothers cry
To see their sons go off to war on some far field to die
And under some far rising sun in God’s far distant lands
A mother cries and weeps for sons killed at Australia’s hands
They’ll put me in a Melbourne jail - treason as my crime
But if I took part in a war I’d have no peace of mind6
All you politicians it’s your war not mine
So I think it’s your turn to fight it
If you want a good soldier don’t worry the young
For they’ll soon be marching against it7

Several weeks later I was still mulling over the issue:

There’s a troopship that sails on a wild winter’s night
Loaded with men all willing to fight
The troopship she sails on a wild stormy sea
That gun ship is one ship that will never get me
For I am not playing for any one side
And I’m not a victim of national pride
I’m tender and gentle and peaceful and tame
And I’m not a part of your patriot game8

Sometime in the same month (December) I wrote ‘you can buy my life for the price of a marble – but I’m not for sale, I know I’d rather die in jail’.   At around the same time I wrote two other songs on the theme of conscription – a satirical song about the CMF (‘You don’t have to go to war, you don’t have to fear your death, but still can play with guns and things, in the mighty CMF’) and a song about conscription in Cromwell’s time.