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The Australian debates about conscription for overseas service in World War I were unique. Conscription was adopted by almost all other countries fighting the war, including Britain, Canada and New Zealand. Australia was the only country to put the issue to popular vote, and to reject conscription, if only by narrow margins. Why was Australia different? Why did the Hughes government fail where other governments has succeeded? And what was the impact of the defeat of conscription on Australia’s war effort and its later political culture?