Peter Fraser, seditious utterances

Peter Fraser, seditious utterances

Peter Fraser
Labourer and union leader, born 1884, Scotland
Tried: 23 December 1916, Wellington Magistrate’s Court
Charge: Seditious utterances
Sentence: One year’s imprisonment

The government’s limited tolerance for dissent disappeared completely after the introduction of conscription in August 1916, and on 4 December 1916 it issued War Regulations banning ‘seditious utterances’ in the public sphere. The regulations targeted those publicly opposing conscription, particularly the union leaders who were holding public meetings and publishing protests. On 20 December, Wellington detectives Cox, Mason and Carney arrested Social Democratic Party secretary Peter Fraser and ex-president Thomas Brindle for making seditious (anti-conscription) remarks at a public meeting 10 days earlier. On 22 December the Wellington magistrate sentenced both men to one year’s imprisonment. Fraser subsequently became a leading figure in the New Zealand Labour Party, serving as New Zealand prime minister from 1940 until 1949. His government was responsible for the introduction of military conscription during the Second World War.

Sources: Police Gazette, 1918, p. 39; Evening Post, 21 December 1916, p. 7; Michael Bassett with Michael King, Tomorrow comes the song: a life of Peter Fraser, Penguin, Auckland, 2000, pp. 72-3

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