Appendix Thirteen: Denham’s Wartime Election Campaign Speech (19 MAY 1915)

 

On Wednesday evening, 19 May 1915, Premier Denham made his made his last campaign speech before his Oxley electorate at a packed meeting at the Junction Park Picture Palace. Three days later he was defeated in the Oxley seat with the loss of his government to Queensland's first majority Labor administration under T.J. Ryan.

What follows is the full reproduction of Denham’s speech from the report in The Brisbane Courier.

 

Mr. Denham, who was received with loud applause, said that within the past few weeks the civilised world had been horrified at the use by the enemies of the Allies of poisonous gases. They could not overcome our forces by fair means of warfare, so they, adopted those which violated all the rules of civilisation. We could combat and overcome on enemy that fought, worthily, but we could not fight gas. Likewise, during the current political campaign, the Opposition, unable to combat the Liberal forces by fair means, had during the past few weeks endeavoured to do so by the emission of quantities of poisonous gases.  

A Voice: "Too hot. Too hot.”

Mr. Denham: The gas became too hot today, and I am bound to refer to it.  

A Voice : You advertised in a local German paper.

Mr. Denham : There would not be anything very seriously wrong if I had done it, but I have not done it. (Hear, hear.) The matter had been brought under his notice that day, and after lunch he telephoned to the proprietor of the newspaper in question, and asked who had authorised or was responsible for the insertion of the advertisement, and he replied that he had put the matter in entirely on his own initiative, and no one had authorised it. (Applause.) "I asked him," continued the Premier, 'Why did you do it '!' and he replied that there had been issued two pamphlets reflecting on this countrymen and he had made these advertisements as a counter-blast." He (the Premier) had always refrained from doing anything that would arouse racial feeling. We had in Queensland many members of the German nation who had been invited to settle among us: had proved law-abiding citizens, and had married amongst us, and to arouse racial feeling here would be perhaps to divide household and create dimension in families. (Hear, hear.) That would be disastrous. As long as these people respected the laws of the land and honoured the King, there was no reason why they should be severed by any kind of strife. Misrepresentations had been employed throughout the campaign by the Labour Party --misrepresentation which had been unmasked by the Liberals, and the Opposition driven from trench to trench. The Opposition had found that they could not fight and defeat the Government with fair weapons, and now they said, "We will pour out poisonous gasses and lies, and endeavour to arouse bitter racial feeling."

A Voice : What about your son-in-law?

Mr. Denham: It was stated some months ago that my own wife was of German extraction. If she were I would have loved her all the same. (Hear, hear.) But she is not of German extraction she was born in Somerset, in England, and all her people before her. (Applause.) Then the liars, still hoping to arouse racial feeling said that my daughter had married a German. That was absolutely untrue. As a matter of fact my daughter married a Canadian, and today, if there still is life in his body, he is in his place fighting for the Allies in the trenches in Flanders. (Applause.) The only son he had, continued the Premier, was aboard a British torpedo destroyer in the North Sea, which only lately had chased and participated in the sinking of German warships which had ruthlessly sent several of our boats to the bottom, while of four nephews, three were fighting under the British flag. (Applause.) In addition to this, it had, as Chief Secretary, fallen to his lot to forward several thousand pounds to aid the Belgians in their distress, and again, on Tuesday, when he learned that provision was required in Brisbane for the accommodation of a number of our wounded, he had at once placed at the disposal of the military authorities the Immigration Depot -- the best and only building available for the purpose of affording them the best shelter attention, and protection the State could give. (Applause.) With these facts existent, was it fair play in journalism or in political campaigning to perpetrate and circulate such untruths as these -- untruths calculated to arouse amongst us bitter racial enmity? So long as he had the power to lift his hand it was at the service of his King and country, and would never rest satisfied until full reparation had been given to Belgium and to France, and victory and freedom gained for the Allies, and the hosts of militarism shattered. They were not quarrelling with the Germans, but rather with Prussian militarism and oppression. He regretted exceedingly having to mention this matter. He had most carefully avoided trenching on matters likely to cause racial feeling and domestic division, but he was compelled now to speak, for never had a more villainous fabrication been propounded. He had told Mr Monzel that he must at once write to the city Press, placing the full facts before them, and this he had done. He thought that they would agree that now he had every right to refer to matters bearing on this subject. (Hear, hear.) He had this information: That the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Ryan) was married to a German lady. But what mattered that if he loved her ? But the people responsible for the fabrication would do that which would create dissension. Who was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Theodore)? According to what the secretary of his own organisation at Chillagoe told the people, Mr. Theodore's father was a Romanian born in Galatz, What kind of a hybrid man was that? (Laughter) Again, the only two German candidates for Parliament this election were both associated with the Labour Party, and Mr.  Appel, who had always been proud to sail under the flag of the Kaiser, in March, said that he was a Huguenot. His point was this: What did it matter so long as a man was a law abiding and loyal subject, and so long as he could stand before the public and make known his views? For himself, rather than create such antipathy and such feeling among the citizens, already sorely tried, and to cause mischief between husbands and wives he would prefer to lose his seat and office. But this campaign throughout had been one of misrepresentation, exclusively on the part of Labour.

Amid some interjection, with which, however, he dealt in an effective manner, the Premier again reviewed the administration of, and the enactments brought into being by the Liberal Party, pointing to the augmented measures directly affecting and benefiting not only the workers but the primary producers and every other section of the community. He again dealt trenchantly with the butter question. It was a dire misfortune that the war and the drought had come together.  

A Voice : And the middleman.

Mr. Denham: Mr Jones is the greatest middleman in the city of Brisbane. If you want to vote for a middleman vote for Jones, but if you want to vote for a man whose aim is to develop Queensland in the fullest and truest degree you will vote for Denham. (Applause.) He pointed to the fact that Queensland was still the cheapest State in which to live; remarked on the efficacy of the Industrial Peace Act, for in three years there had been but four strikes, while in New South Wales there were 237, involving a loss in wages of hundreds of thousands sterling; expressed his opposition to monopolies, and urged his bearers to vote Liberal, and so help maintain the prosperity of the State. (Cheers.)

 

REFERENCES


 

"Villainous Fabrications." Labour Liars Answered. Mr. Denham's Effective Reply. Interesting Statement about Labour Leaders.  The Brisbane Courier. Thursday 20 May 1915, p. 4.