Our forgotten Aussie hero

When the Great War, known as World War I, was over, formation of the League of Nations and the Peace Treaty at Versailles (a suburb of Paris) was underway.

Billy Hughes, the Australian Prime Minister, was determined to be there but sailing time to England was at least six weeks and still he had to get to Paris.

Hughes knew the League of Nations proposals were being planned for Japan to have jurisdiction over all German possessions in the Pacific. His arrival may have been late but he would have none of it.

He shouted that the Australian Navy had captured Rabaul (the capital of Germany’s Pacific empire) as early as 1914 and he represented 600,000 Australian war-time casualties.

Australia was already governing Papua (South New Guinea) in a manner fitting the regulations of the League of Nations and Australia had every right to have jurisdiction over the rest of New Guinea.

Hughes boldly announced that Australia suffered more war casualties than the United States which in turn had President Woodrow Wilson calling him  a 'little pestiferous varmint'.

His histrionics, however, had the League of Nations committing German possessions north of the equator to Japan and those south of the equator to the Anzac pair with Australia apportioned German New Guinea and their New Guinea islands.

Japan quit the League in 1932, began to build a naval, air and military base at Truk Lagoon matching that of the Americans in Pearl Harbour.

By December 1941, Australia and Japan were at war and within seven weeks Japan had overwhelmed the Australians defending Rabaul which the Australian Government held as a mandate for the League of Nations. 

Four months later, in May 1942, the Japanese were planning to invade Port Moresby by sea but were thwarted in the Battle of the Coral Sea. In the following September they attempted to take Port Moresby by land via the Kokoda Track. Again they were thwarted.

William Maurice Hughes, 'Billy' or as he was affectionately known, 'The Little Digger', was the Labor Prime Minister from 1915 to 1918 and Prime Minister of the Nationalist Party until 1923. He continued to serve in the Federal Parliament until 1952.

At the 50th jubilee dinner he was praised for sitting in every parliament since Federation and that he had served in every party except the Country Party. To this Billy replied, "I had to draw the line somewhere". 

Where would you rank William Maurice Hughes as prime minister? He was Australia's seventh PM and Australia has had 30. Over to you.