Second World War - overview

Page 5 – Opposition to war

Wartime restrictions

The Second World War saw an unprecedented expansion of government control over the lives of New Zealanders. Under the pragmatic leadership of Prime Minister Peter Fraser, the Labour government introduced military conscription, industrial 'manpowering' and a comprehensive economic stabilisation system.

Censorship and pacifism

Most New Zealanders wholeheartedly supported the war effort, and dissent was muted. There was, however, a darker side to the government's wartime leadership: strict censorship was imposed; 'enemy aliens' were interned; and (although their treatment was much more humane than during the First World War) over 800 conscientious objectors were sent to detention camps.

Leading pacifists were arrested and gaoled for speaking out against the war. In 1941, after speaking at Wellington's Pigeon Park in defiance of a ban on pacifist meetings, Archie Barrington was arrested and sentenced to a year's imprisonment with hard labour. The following year Ormond Burton, a Methodist minister and decorated First World War veteran, was gaoled for 2 ½ years for publishing a 'subversive' document—a Christian Pacifist Society bulletin.