By 1917, prime minister Billy Hughes had copped so many rotten eggs over his political career that he’d taken to carrying a pistol for protection. That year, at a railway station in south west Queensland, he was calling for wartime conscription when an egg flew from the crowd and knocked his hat clean off his head. Luckily for protesters Bart and Pat Brosnan, he’d accidentally left his weapon on the train.
The impact of this egg in Australia’s history cannot be overestimated. When local police refused to arrest the brothers responsible, stating that Hughes did not have jurisdiction, Hughes created a new federal police force under Commonwealth control. The egg was a rallying cry that made national headlines, and arguably helped in the defeat of Hughes’ conscription plebiscite. When Pat Brosnan was asked why he threw the egg, he said simply that he “did not want to be conscripted”.