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Research Guides


Land of Opportunity: Australia's post-war reconstruction


Constitutional and administrative change

In September 1942 Sir Robert Garran, who had been secretary of the committee that drafted the Australian Constitution in 1897–98, wrote to the Attorney-General about a draft bill to seek additional powers for the Commonwealth. He told HV Evatt that, in his opinion, the Commonwealth's legislative powers had proved to be inadequate even before the war and, without a substantial amendment of the Constitution, national reconstruction would be impossible. He summarised four possible forms of amendment and then proposed that a new section be added to the Constitution giving the Commonwealth power to make laws relating to post-war reconstruction. Acutely aware of the problems of judicial interpretation, he suggested that the section define precisely the various activities, such as housing, encompassed by 'reconstruction'.

Attempts to extend constitutional powers

On 1 October 1942 Evatt introduced in Parliament a Bill to seek powers needed to carry into effect Australia's war aims and post-war reconstruction. It listed a number of specific powers, as well as a power to legislate on the four freedoms of the Atlantic Charter. While Robert Menzies acknowledged the need for greater Commonwealth powers, Opposition members criticised this as vague in detail and in accord with the unification policy of the government. A few days later, John Curtin announced that a convention of 24 delegates, representing the governments and oppositions of the Commonwealth and each state, would meet to consider the Bill. Evatt decided that a book should be compiled for the use of the convention and summoned a group of officials and lawyers to assist him. As well as officials of the Attorney-General's Department, they included Garran, Kenneth Bailey, Geoffrey Sawer, John Barry, Frank Louat, Douglas Copland, Paul Hasluck, Gerald Firth, LF Crisp, RI Downing and HC Coombs. It was agreed that the book would include chapters on the war organisation of Australia, the aftermath of World War I, promises and commitments made during the war, the objectives of reconstruction, and questions and answers. Some weeks of frantic activity followed, as chapters were drafted, circulated, criticised and brought together into a single volume. The handbook, entitled Post War Reconstruction: the case for greater Commonwealth powers, was completed just in time for the Constitutional Convention, which met in Canberra on 24 November. 

At the convention, Evatt introduced a new draft of the Bill, modifying the powers sought for post-war reconstruction. It specified 13 specific subject matters and also contained constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion, speech and the press. The Bill met with considerable opposition, especially from non-Labor delegates. However, a compromise was reached when Robert Cosgrove, the Tasmanian premier, moved that instead of a referendum the powers be referred by the states to the Commonwealth for a period of seven years after an armistice (later amended to five years). A drafting committee was appointed, comprising Evatt, WM Hughes and the six premiers, and they achieved a surprising degree of unanimity in defining the powers. There were some major changes from the original Bill, with housing and the encouragement of population omitted, and transport and social services defined much more narrowly. The new 14 powers were: (i) the reinstatement and advancement of members of the forces, (ii) employment and unemployment, (iii) organised marketing of commodities, (iv) uniform company legislation, (v) trusts, combines and monopolies, (vi) profiteering and prices, (vii) production and distribution of goods (with qualifications), (viii) control of overseas exchange and investment, (ix) air transport, (x) uniformity of railway gauges, (xi) national works (with qualifications), (xii) national health in cooperation with the states, (xiii) family allowances, (xiv) Aboriginal people. The Bill was accepted after a short debate and the convention ended on 2 December.

Almost immediately, the validity of the model bill was questioned by officials and counsel in Victoria and South Australia. Only New South Wales and Queensland passed the legislation without amendment. In South Australia and Western Australia it was passed with significant amendments, while in Tasmania it was rejected by the Legislative Council. The Victorian Parliament passed the bill on condition that all the other states did the same. By the middle of 1943 it was apparent that the attempt to secure additional powers for a limited period had failed. However, the Commonwealth Government took no action until after the federal election on 21 August 1943.

A few days after the Labor Party was returned to power, officers in a number of departments began to reconsider a referendum on post-war reconstruction powers. In particular, several staff in the Department of Post War Reconstruction drew up lists of powers not covered by the 1942 model bill. Some subjects, such as education and town planning, were discussed and then discarded. Finally, Coombs reported to Chifley that there were serious gaps in the model bill, including control of the use and tenure of land, transport, housing, control of investment, and international agreements. He also raised the matter of the repeal of Section 92 of the Constitution. He acknowledged that such a long list was likely to lead to confusion and wondered if a bold bid for a general power might be more successful. It would simply refer to power with respect to the re-establishment of servicemen, the promotion of full labour employment and resources, and the raising of living standards.

Within Cabinet, Chifley took a strong stand arguing that the Canberra agreement was inadequate, being a compromise designed as a temporary measure to avoid a referendum. He urged that the referendum seek all the powers necessary for reconstruction, with no time limit, and mentioned specifically housing, trade and commerce, control of overseas exchange and investment. Evatt was adamant that the referendum should adhere to the terms of the Canberra convention, as otherwise there could be opposition from the Senate and state governments. He suggested that existing constitutional powers could be more fully utilised. Chifley found little support and on 8 December 1943 the Cabinet accepted Evatt's advice. It resolved to hold a referendum seeking the 14 new powers for a period of five years after the cessation of hostilities.

1944 referendum

The enabling legislation, strongly opposed by the Opposition, was passed in March 1944, but the referendum was not held until 19 August 1944. Two years had elapsed since a referendum was first proposed and there was no longer a sense of national crisis. A Gallup poll in December 1942 had shown a large majority in favour of additional powers for the Commonwealth, while a poll in November 1943 recorded a slight majority. In the polls taken during the referendum campaign there was a continuous decline in support for the government's proposals. Evatt led the 'Yes' campaign with great energy and he was strongly supported by some ministers, such as Calwell, as well as Coombs, Ross and a few other officials. Curtin, however, hardly participated in the campaign and Forde and Chifley made relatively few appearances. There was a widespread view that the all-or-nothing nature of the referendum was a mistake. The proposals were rejected, with a majority for 'No' of 342,018. Only South Australia and Western Australia had 'Yes' majorities. The referendum defeat meant that the validity of much of the government's reconstruction legislation would rest on the defence power and, once the war was over, could be challenged in the High Court.

1946 referendums

A little over a year later the government decided to make another bid for additional powers, a decision precipitated by the judgement of the High Court in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case in November 1945. Counsel advised the government that the case jeopardised any Commonwealth social services that rested for their validity on Section 81 of the Constitution. In January 1946 Chifley made a lengthy submission to the Cabinet putting forward seven alternative constitutional measures. They ranged from seeking a single power relating to social services to reviving the 14 powers campaign or establishing a royal commission on the Constitution. He also raised the question of whether a referendum should be held at the same time as the general election, which would minimise expense and inconvenience but could be fatal at a time when party conflict was at its height. His colleagues were unanimous that a referendum on social services should be held with the election, but some believed that to submit other questions would create confusion. The majority, however, favoured holding separate referendums on social services, the organised marketing of primary products, and the terms and conditions of employment. Previously a marketing power had been sought in 1937 and 1944, and an industrial employment power in 1913, 1926 and 1944.

In Parliament there was almost complete support for the social services proposal, while the Opposition was totally opposed to the employment proposal. The marketing proposal was supported by Country Party members and by some primary producers' organisations. During the campaign, opponents claimed that the government was seeking to promote socialism and unification and to dismantle the arbitration system. Supporters argued that they were not party issues, although this was a difficult position to maintain during an election campaign. Chifley, in fact, seldom mentioned the referendums until near the end of the campaign and he may have hoped that they would automatically accompany an election victory. On 28 September 1946 the government easily won the election. The social services question was successful in all states, with a national 'Yes' vote of 54.4 per cent. The marketing and employment proposals also had slim national majorities, but as there were majorities in only three states, they were defeated.

1948 referendum

The price control referendum held on 29 May 1948 was the last attempt by the Chifley government to extend the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth. In June 1947 the Cabinet agreed that, while the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act would expire at the end of the year, price control would be needed for a much longer time. State cooperation was hopeless: the only solution was a referendum. Evatt told Cabinet that a prices and rents power would enable Parliament to regulate the prices of any form of property, including commodities, land and shares, and to vest in officials or tribunals the power to peg rents or determine fair rents. He suggested that the phrase 'rents referendum' be used, rather than 'prices referendum'. In his second reading speech on 19 November 1947, EJ Holloway referred to the success of rent and price control during the war and the following years, which had saved Australia from the worst effects of a post-war boom. In the United States, in contrast, food prices had increased by 29 per cent and retail prices by 14 per cent within a few months of the abandonment of price control. As shortages disappeared, price control would also disappear, but the constitutional power would be a reserve power, which could be utilised during economic crises. Only the Commonwealth could exercise the power effectively, as state governments could only control a limited range of commodities produced and sold locally.

A Gallup poll in October 1947 showed a 55 per cent majority in favour of the Commonwealth having power over prices and rents. However at a time when the bank nationalisation controversy was at its height and when public aversion to controls and restrictions was growing, the defeat of the government's proposal was inevitable. It was defeated in all states, with barely 40 per cent supporting the 'Yes' case.

Cabinet
CURTIN, FORDE AND CHIFLEY MINISTRIES: CABINET AGENDAS AND MINUTES, 1941–49
Series: A2700
Summary of Cabinet discussion on Constitution Alteration Bill, 22 September – 23 November 1942 334
Summary of Cabinet discussion on Constitutional Convention, 23 November 1942, 21 October 1943 390
Constitution Alteration (Post War Reconstruction) Bill: report of Cabinet Sub-Committee and report by JB Chifley, December 1943 573
Constitution Alteration (Post War Reconstruction), 9 March 1944 573A
Proposals for alteration of the Constitution, 18 January 1946 1031
Proposed alteration of the Constitution in relation to price control, 15 August 1947 1359A
Date of rents and prices referendum, 16 February 1948 1429
Attorney-General's Department
CORRESPONDENCE, 1929–
Series: A432
Proposals for alteration of the Constitution, 1946
Drafts of the 'Yes' case in the referendum on employment, marketing of primary products and social security, analysis of speeches by Opposition parliamentarians and other critics of the proposals, and a letter (18 March 1946) from NE McKenna to HV Evatt on suggested constitutional amendments.
1946/345
Constitution Alteration Bills, 1946
Drafts of 'The Case for Yes', with amendments suggested by F Louat and NE McKenna.
1946/823-823A
Prices control: proposed referendum, 1947–48 (2 parts)
Drafts of Cabinet submissions and speeches, broadcasts and articles by HV Evatt and a paper by R Jay on the case for permanent powers in relation to price control.
1947/898
Constitution Alteration (Rents and Prices), 1947–48
Drafts of 'The Case for Yes' and associated correspondence.
1947/1450
SPECIAL CORRESPONDENCE FILES, 1905–51
Series: A467
Commonwealth Powers Bill: opinions on interpretation and legal effect of Bill, 1942–44
Opinions of Commonwealth law officers and advisers (HV Evatt, Sir George Knowles, Sir Robert Garran, KH Bailey) and state officers and advisers (GC Ligertwood, WK Fullagar, E Ham, R Normand) on the Commonwealth Powers Bill approved by the Constitutional Convention in December 1942.
SF44/1-2
Commonwealth Powers Bill: miscellaneous opinions and correspondence, 1942–44
Includes opinions of A Hannan and WK Fullagar and letters of KH Bailey and F Alexander.
SF44/5
Constitution alteration: official correspondence, 1942–44
Correspondence on constitutional reform and the extension of Commonwealth powers, the preparation of a handbook for the 1942 Constitutional Convention, submissions by Commonwealth departments, opinions on the Commonwealth Powers Bill and the preparation of the referendum proposals in 1943–44. The correspondents include Sir Robert Garran, HV Evatt, Sir George Knowles, JGB Castieau, SG McFarlane, T Playford, JJ Dedman, HC Coombs and GG Firth.
SF44/7-8
Correspondence on alteration of the Constitution, 1942–44
Letters from individuals and organisations to the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General proposing alterations to the Constitution.
SF44/9
Record of meetings on Constitution Alteration Handbook, 1942
Minutes of an inter-departmental meeting (24–25 October 1942), chaired by HV Evatt, on post-war reconstruction and the Constitution, and resolutions of the editorial committee.
SF44/42
Post war reconstruction handbook, 1942
Draft of chapter 7 of the handbook and additional questions and answers submitted by HC Coombs.
SF44/50
Referendum: Case for Yes, 1944
Draft by KH Bailey of arguments favouring constitutional changes and other drafts in support of increased Commonwealth powers.
SF44/60
Sydney Sun: reply to G Barwick, 1944
Newspaper article by GEJ Barwick on existing Commonwealth powers relating to post-war reconstruction and draft response by HV Evatt.
SF44/72
Copies of opinions, Constitutional Convention, 1942–43
Report (1 December 1942) of the drafting committee of the Constitutional Convention and an opinion by Sir Robert Garran, Sir George Knowles and KH Bailey.
SF44/77
Constitution alteration: papers and correspondence, 1944
Documents produced by the Department of Information and other agencies on aspects of constitutional alteration.
SF44/78
Constitutional alteration, 1942
Pamphlet by HV Evatt, War Aims and the Constitution, and notes by G Sawer, DB Copland, KH Bailey and Sir Robert Garran on post-war powers and post-war economic policy.
SF44/79
Constitutional alteration, 1943
Legal opinions and correspondence with Commonwealth departments on the draft Constitution Alteration (Post War Reconstruction) Bill, the draft report of the Cabinet committee that considered the bill and a Cabinet submission by JB Chifley.
SF44/80
Constitution alteration: undated papers
Papers on the 1944 referendum campaign, including notes of discussions among officers of the Department of Information and a draft plan for an education campaign.
SF44/83
Constitution alteration: undated papers
Drafts of the Constitution Alteration Handbook.
SF44/84
Constitution alteration: undated papers
Includes a memorandum by the Department of Post War Reconstruction on wider constitutional powers for the Commonwealth.
SF44/85
Constitutional Convention: undated papers, 1942–43
Printed documents, with manuscript amendments, on many topics, including the four freedoms, housing, price control, social security, rural industries, and Sir Isaac Isaacs on constitutional change.
SF44/86
Constitutional Convention, Canberra: undated papers, 1943–44
Includes documents on re-establishment and preference, Australia's international commitments, and suggestions made by departments and outside sources.
SF44/87
Constitutional Convention, Canberra, undated papers, 1943
Printed documents, with manuscript annotations, on Australian war aims and organisation, the aftermath of World War I, and fundamentals of reconstruction.
SF44/88
Department of Information
GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, DEWEY SYSTEM, 1939–46
Series: SP109/3
Campaigns: Post-War Education, 1943–44 (4 parts)
Cabinet papers, correspondence, minutes, notes, statements, reports, speakers' notes and transcripts relating to the planning of the post-war reconstruction referendum campaign, finances, the distribution of material, broadcasts, advertising, Gallup polls, inter-departmental meetings and the teaching of Australian history and civics in schools. The correspondents include AA Calwell, EG Bonney, N McCauley, LG Wigmore, H Murphy, HC Coombs and NB Palethorpe.
019/06
Post-war education: staff, 1944
Correspondence concerning the appointment and secondment of staff for the post-war educational campaign. The correspondents include EG Bonney, N McCauley, HW Eather, LG Wigmore, NB Palethorpe and AA Cameron.
019/08
GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE FILES, 1939–46
Series: SP112/1
Post war reconstruction propaganda, 1944–45
Correspondence on the funding of the 1944 post-war reconstruction educational campaign, with details of salaries and other expenses. The correspondents include EG Bonney, LG Wigmore and AA Cameron.
430/1/11
Referendum matters, 1943–44
Reports on the post-war reconstruction referendum campaign (July–August 1944) and correspondence about the printing of pamphlets, arrangements for broadcasts, and distribution of speeches and articles by ministers, Department of Post War Reconstruction booklets, scripts for talks, speakers' notes and other material. The correspondents include N McCauley, TP Hoey, K Murphy and NB Palethorpe.
M44
Department of Post War Reconstruction
CORRESPONDENCE, 1941–50
Series: A9816
Research on internal subjects: constitutional and administrative, 1941–44
Letters and minutes of HC Coombs, LF Crisp, GG Firth, PR Judd, PWE Curtin, G Rudduck and other officers, mostly written in 1943, on the extension of Commonwealth powers to meet the needs of post-war reconstruction.
1943/624
Publicity: referendum policy, 1943–45
Notes of meetings with the Department of Information, correspondence and minutes concerning the staffing and organisation of the 1944 referendum campaign. The correspondents include AA Calwell, HC Coombs, L Ross and NB Palethorpe.
1944/29
Publicity: Referendum Copy Committee, 1944
Correspondence of HC Coombs and NB Palethorpe with the Department of Information about the 1944 referendum campaign.
1944/37
Publicity: referendum releases, 1944
Statements of JB Chifley, EJ Holloway, FM Forde and other ministers on the need for increased Commonwealth powers and correspondence concerning distribution of discussion group material.
1944/38
Publicity: referendum correspondence, 1944
Correspondence of HC Coombs, L Ross, NB Palethorpe and others, including writers such as Mary Grant Bruce and C Edwards, concerning radio talks and distribution of discussion group booklets.
1944/39
Referendum, 1944–46
Speeches, broadcasts and articles by JB Chifley, HV Evatt and RG Menzies on the 1944 referendum and minutes by LF Crisp, PA Dorrian, KJ McKenzie and others with suggestions of material that could be incorporated in speeches.
1944/162
Referendum broadcasts, 1944
Notes and drafts of broadcasts and a transcript of a radio interview with L Ross.
1944/434
Referendum publicity, 1943–44
Reports (December 1943) on the referendum campaign from the deputy directors in each state and notes of a meeting of the campaign committee chaired by EG Bonney (February 1944).
1944/450
General elections, 1946
Includes a summary of the case put forward by supporters in Parliament of the referendums on employment, marketing and social security.
1946/402
Department of War Organisation of Industry
SECRET CORRESPONDENCE (S SERIES), 1941–45
Series: CP80/1
Amendment to Commonwealth Constitution, 1943
Notes by GT Chippindall on alteration of the Constitution and a letter (27 November 1943) from Chippindall to Sir George Knowles stating that JJ Dedman did not believe there should be any constitutional limitations on the Commonwealth's power to deal with post-war economic problems.
Bundle 9/S511
Prime Minister's Department
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, 1934–50
Series: A461
Alteration to the Constitution, 1942–44
Correspondence mainly between J Curtin and the state premiers and leaders of the Opposition relating to the 1942 Constitutional Convention and the question of whether a constitutional referendum should be held during wartime.
M327/1/1
Commonwealth Powers Bill, 1942–44
Correspondence mainly between J Curtin and the state premiers referring to legal opinions on the transfer of powers to the Commonwealth, the passage of the Commonwealth Powers Bill through state parliaments, and the 1944 referendum campaign.
N327/1/1
Treasury
CORRESPONDENCE, 1901–76
Series: A571
Constitution amendment, 1942–46
Correspondence and minutes concerning proposed constitutional amendments, post-war powers relating to banking and credit, and the funding of the 1944 post-war education campaign. The correspondents include HC Coombs, LF Crisp, FH Wheeler, SG McFarlane, LG Melville and HT Armitage.
1942/4752
Sir Kenneth Bailey
SUBJECT FILES OF SIR KENNETH BAILEY, 1936–51
Series: M1504
Constitutional alteration: draft Bill, 1942
Annotated drafts of the Commonwealth Powers (Post War Reconstruction) Bill and statements by HV Evatt.
13
Sir Douglas Copland
RECORDS OF THE ECONOMIC CONSULTANT (RECONSTRUCTION), 1940–45
Series: CP6/1
Reconstruction: Constitutional Convention, 1942–43
Statements by HV Evatt and notes by Copland on the taxable capacity of the states, the draft 1942 Constitutional Alteration Bill, and economic and social policy after the war.
9
Reconstruction: referendum, 1944
Papers on the 1944 post-war powers referendum, including a letter (17 April 1944) from Copland to KH Bailey on the referendum handbook, a memorandum (30 June 1944) by Copland on the case for wider Commonwealth powers, and notes on price control, rationing and investment.
18

Administrative changes

From September 1939 onwards the Commonwealth Government created an extraordinary number of bodies with executive, judicial, arbitral, investigatory and advisory powers. They ranged from the War Cabinet, the Production Executive and new wartime departments to tribunals, boards, commissions, directorates and committees set up to deal with particular regulations, controls, industries, trades, commodities and occupations. Many of them were established under national security regulations, but others were ad hoc bodies that existed for a few weeks, months or even years. Some of the more important agencies came to an end in the last months of the war or the first year or so of the post-war period. The Department of War Organisation of Industry and the Allied Works Council were abolished in February 1945, while the War Cabinet and the Production Executive held their last meetings in January 1946. Other agencies lasted somewhat longer. In November 1946 the Department of Aircraft Production merged with the Department of Munitions, which in turn was abolished in April 1948.

The Department of Post War Reconstruction, the Rationing Commission and the Capital Issues Advisory Committee remained in operation until 1950. The permanency of some wartime bodies, such as the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of Information, was accepted without question. In other cases, wartime agencies became permanent as a result of post-war legislation, such as the Universities Commission (1945), the Australian Wheat Board (1946) and the Australian Shipping Board (1949).

In March 1944 Curtin told Chifley that he believed there was confusion arising from improvised administration during the war. He suggested that there should be a review, with the aim of eliminating duplication and scaling down the bureaucracy. Chifley agreed that an inquiry was needed to examine the allocation of departmental functions in the context of post-war responsibilities and referred specifically to the likely creation of a housing authority and an employment service. The decentralisation of Commonwealth administration and recruitment, training and remuneration of public service staff might also be reviewed. He suggested that EG Theodore could head the inquiry, but Curtin seems to have lost interest in the idea. Coombs raised the subject again with Chifley in September 1944 and expressed his view that the Department of Post War Reconstruction and War Organisation of Industry should merge and form a kind of Cabinet secretariat for economic planning. He cited overseas precedents, but Chifley did not take up the more radical proposals.

Employment, works and housing

At the higher levels of government, the most important administrative changes took place in 1945–46. In October 1944 the Prime Minister wrote to the premiers stating that the Commonwealth believed it had an obligation to meet its pledges to provide for a high and stable level of employment. In addition, it was envisaged that the proposed Commonwealth Employment Service would administer the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act 1944. He hoped that the states would transfer officers to the Commonwealth Public Service to staff the service and that state officers at the local level might carry out some tasks on behalf of the service. All the premiers were opposed to the creation of the Commonwealth Employment Service, but Curtin would not back down and they reluctantly agreed to cooperate. In February 1945 the Cabinet agreed to the formation of the service, which would be responsible to the Minister for Labour and National Service and would take over staff from the Manpower Directorate. The Commonwealth Employment Service was formally constituted under the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945 and it began operating on 1 May 1946. It was predicted that there would ultimately be 160 offices in suburbs and country towns.

During 1944 the work of the Allied Works Council began tapering off and an increasing number of men were released and allocated to other projects. In October Theodore resigned as Director-General and was succeeded by Louis Loder. In order to prevent the dispersal of engineers and other skilled staff, who had made the council an effective organisation, ministers decided that a new Works Department should be created. It would take over responsibilities which before 1942 had belonged to the Department of the Interior. In February 1945 HP Lazzarini was appointed Minister for Works. The Cabinet agreed that certain agencies, such as the Commonwealth Railways, the Postmaster-General's Department and the Department of Civil Aviation, would retain works functions. With these exceptions, the Department of Works would be responsible for the design, supervision and execution of all architectural and engineering works, the coordination of works projects involving several departments, and collaboration with state and local authorities on works projects, town and regional planning, and research.

In its final report, the Commonwealth Housing Commission recommended the creation of a Commonwealth Housing Authority. Housing functions were currently divided among five Commonwealth departments and Coombs immediately began talking to several officials about the scope of a new Department of Housing. Its prime responsibility would be the administration of the Commonwealth–State Housing Agreement, although Coombs envisaged that his own department would continue to monitor economic and financial aspects of the scheme. The Department of War Organisation of Industry suggested that the new department should deal not only with housing but also building materials, planning of the building industry, workforce and the coordination of public works programs. Discussions about the form of the housing authority continued for nearly a year. Finally, four senior officers met in July 1945 to consider whether it should be a separate department or linked with the Department of Works. Roland Wilson favoured the former, but the others proposed that, provided it had a substantial degree of independence, the Housing Directorate should be placed within the Department of Works. Chifley promptly announced that the Department of Works would be restyled the Department of Works and Housing, headed by Loder, with Alex Welch as Director of Housing. Although it absorbed functions from several departments, housing in Commonwealth territories remained the responsibility of the Department of the Interior.

Immigration, agricultural economics and mining

Immigration had been another responsibility of the Department of the Interior since its formation in 1931. During the war there was a great deal of discussion about large-scale immigration in the post-war years and vague talk about the need for a new department to manage the immigration program. There appears, however, to have been no formal discussion at Cabinet level. When Chifley announced the formation of his first Cabinet on 12 July 1945 he revealed that Arthur Calwell would be the Minister for Immigration. The Immigration, Passports and Naturalisation Branch of the Department of the Interior, headed by Albert Peters, immediately became the nucleus of the new department. Its expansion was rapid and, following the start of mass immigration in 1947, it soon became one of the largest Commonwealth departments.

In this period two specialised agencies were created which, like CSIR, would provide advice and technical assistance to the Commonwealth Government and also to state governments and industries. The idea of a Bureau of Agricultural Economics arose from the need for a Commonwealth body to investigate soldier settlement proposals, including the suitability of climate and soil, the adequacy of the farm areas and likely economic viability of the farms. It was first discussed by Coombs and Edwin McCarthy in January 1945 and they agreed that initially the bureau should be a division of the Department of Post War Reconstruction. From the beginning, JG Crawford was the guiding force and he proposed a number of functions in addition to soldier settlement: consideration of Rural Reconstruction Commission reports, studies on the outlook for primary industries, land use investigations, research under the Wool Use Promotion Act, and relations with the Food and Agriculture Organization. The bureau, with Crawford as its director, was transferred to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in June 1946.

In February 1945 the Cabinet decided that funding should no longer be provided to oil exploration companies and that priority should be given to geological and other surveys carried out by its own officers. Subsequently, HG Raggatt and JM Rayner of the Mineral Resources Survey visited the United States to study new developments in locating oil and mineral deposits. Based on their report and the recommendations of the Mining Industry Advisory Panel, the government decided in March 1946 to set up a Bureau of Mineral Resources to carry out geological mapping and geophysical surveys, and provide advice and technical assistance to the mining industry. Raggatt was appointed director. Within a few months, surveys had been organised in the region north of Broken Hill and the Collie and Kimberley districts in Western Australia.

Cabinet
CURTIN, FORDE AND CHIFLEY MINISTRIES: CABINET AGENDAS AND MINUTES, 1941–49
Series: A2700
Office of Education, 6 September 1945 769B
Administrative machinery for the Commonwealth Employment Service, 19 February 1945 790
Recommendations for the definition of the functions of the Department of Works, 20 March 1945 820
Fishing industry: a permanent Commonwealth authority, 21 November 1945 950
Fishing industry: a permanent Commonwealth authority, 26 March 1946 950B
Department of Post War Reconstruction
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, 1941–50
Series: A9816
Machinery of government, 1944–45
Correspondence of HC Coombs, LF Giblin, JB Chifley and J Curtin about post-war administrative problems, the administration of economic policy, recruitment in the Commonwealth Public Service and the future of the departments of Post War Reconstruction and War Organisation of Industry.
1944/36
Department of Economic Organisation: functions, 1944
Minutes of GG Firth and HC Coombs on the functions of a Department of Economic Organisation and notes and conclusions of a departmental meeting (13 May 1944) on the future of the Department of Post War Reconstruction and the idea of a Department of Economic Organisation.
1944/181
IDC on Commonwealth Employment Service, 1944–46 (2 parts)
Correspondence, papers and the draft report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on the Commonwealth Employment Service, and proceedings of a Commonwealth–state conference (13 April 1945) on the Commonwealth Employment Service, which was chaired by JJ Dedman.
1944/324
Department of Works: Cabinet agendum on functions, 1945
Minutes and correspondence concerning the functions of the new Department of Works, its relations with the Department of Post War Reconstruction, and priorities for public works. The correspondents include HC Coombs, LF Loder, JG Crawford, TW Swan and KJ McKenzie.
1945/102
Bureau of Agricultural Economics, 1945–46
Correspondence concerning the establishment, staffing and functions of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The correspondents include HC Coombs, JJ Dedman, E McCarthy and WT Doig.
1945/132
Transfer of Housing to Department of Works, 1945
Report (19 July 1945) to the Prime Minister by J Pinner, AA Fitzgerald, R Wilson and HC Coombs on Commonwealth organisation for housing and building. The committee was divided on whether the organisation should be a separate department or a directorate within a Department of Works and Housing.
1945/373
Permanent establishment of Universities Commission, 1945
Correspondence of GT Chippindall and RC Mills on the preparation of legislation to ensure the continuation of the Australian Universities Commission.
1945/459 Pt 2
PERSONNEL FILES OF VARIOUS OFFICERS, 1920–54
Series: CP268/3
JG Crawford, 1943–47
Letters from JG Crawford to HC Coombs and JJ Dedman on the establishment of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in 1945, its relations with the Department of Post War Reconstruction and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and the withholding by Treasury of funds for the bureau in 1946.
Department of War Organisation of Industry
SECRET CORRESPONDENCE (S SERIES), 1941–45
Series: CP80/1
Recommendations for definition of functions of Department of Works, 1945–46
Letters (May 1945) from TW Swan to AS Brown and JG Crawford expressing opposition to the proposal that priorities for all Commonwealth works should be determined solely by the Department of Works.
21/S942
Department of Works and Housing
REFERENCE MATERIAL HELD BY DIRECTORS-GENERAL LF LODER AND RB LEWIS, 1943–57
Series: MP679/1
Allied Works Council: proposed reorganisation and creation of Works Department, 1943–44
A draft Cabinet paper, a review of the Allied Works Council in relation to post-war works, and copies of correspondence of EG Theodore with J Curtin and officers of the Allied Works Council concerning the possible establishment of a Commonwealth Works Commission or a Works Department.
Folder Z5
Prime Minister's Department
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, 1934–50
Series: A461
Reorganisation of Department of Works, 1938–50
Includes correspondence and Executive Council minutes on the Allied Works Council, the establishment of the Department of Works in 1945, the responsibilities of the Housing Directorate, the creation of the Department of Works and Housing, and construction works in Papua New Guinea. The correspondents include JB Chifley, JS Collings, R Wilson, LF Loder and N Lemmon.
T6/1/1
Administration: Department of Labour and National Service, 1940–47
Includes a letter (19 January 1943) from R Wilson to F Strahan concerning the reorganisation of the Department of Labour and National Service following the creation of the Department of Post War Reconstruction.
AM6/1/1 Pt 1
Administration: Department of Labour and National Service, 1942–50
Includes a letter (9 November 1944) from JB Chifley to J Curtin supporting the proposal of the Commonwealth Housing Commission that a Commonwealth Housing Authority be set up to administer the housing functions of the Commonwealth and collaborate with the Office of Works in the construction of houses in Commonwealth territories.
AM6/1/1 Pt 2
Administration: Commonwealth Office of Education, 1946–50
Correspondence with Commonwealth ministers and state premiers concerning the creation and functions of the Commonwealth Office of Education. There is also a report by RC Mills prepared for RG Menzies in January 1950 on the work of the Office of Education and the Australian Universities Commission.
AY6/1/1
Administration: Department of Post War Reconstruction, 1942–50
Correspondence, minutes and other records concerning the creation of the Department of Post War Reconstruction in 1943, amalgamation with the Department of War Organisation of Industry in 1945, transfer of housing activities to the Department of Works and Housing in 1945, creation of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in 1945, transfer of the bureau to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in 1946, and winding up the Department of Post War Reconstruction in 1950.
BA6/1/1 Pt 2
Administration: coordination of government departments, 1944–48
Includes correspondence on the coordination of the activities of the Department of Supply and Shipping, the Department of Munitions and the Secondary Industries Division (1947) and the work of departments involved in vocational training (1948).
BB6/1/1
Administration: Department of Immigration, 1945–49
Includes a letter (20 July 1945) from JB Chifley to AA Calwell on the functions and responsibilities of the new Department of Immigration and a letter (14 May 1946) from Calwell to FM Forde on the difficulties of filling the position of Secretary.
BG6/1/1
Commonwealth Employment Service: administration, 1944–49 (2 parts)
Correspondence, mainly between the Prime Minister and Commonwealth ministers and state premiers, on the establishment of the Commonwealth Employment Service, the administration of the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act, transfer of state officers to the Commonwealth Public Service, use of district offices and police officers by the Commonwealth Employment Service, and the roles of the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of Social Services.
M344/1/16
Treasury
CORRESPONDENCE, 1901–76
Series: A571
Bureau of Agricultural Economics, 1945–49
Correspondence on the establishment, staffing and funding of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and its transfer to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in 1946. The correspondents include JG Crawford, RT Pollard, JB Chifley, H Thomson and R White.
1945/2786
Commonwealth Office of Education: funding, 1945–46
Letters of HC Coombs and RC Mills on staffing and expenditure of the Office of Education and the Australian Universities Commission.
1945/3621

Further reading

Evatt, HV, 'Reconstruction and the Constitution', in DAS Campbell (ed.), Post-war Reconstruction in Australia, Australasian Publishing Co., Sydney, 1944, pp. 238–62.

Greenwood, Gordon, The Future of Australian Federalism, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1946.

Griffen-Foley, Bridget, 'Four more points than Moses': Dr HV Evatt, the press and the 1944 referendum', Labour History, no. 68, May 1995, pp. 63–79.

Hasluck, Paul, The Government and the People 19421945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1970.

Milner, Ian, 'Referendum retrospect', Australian Quarterly, vol. 16, no. 4, 1944, pp. 38–49.

Sawer, Geoffrey, Australian Federal Politics and Law 19291949, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1963.

Williams, George and Hume, David, People Power: the history and future of the referendum in Australia, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2010.


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