1944 Australian Post-War Reconstruction and Democratic Rights referendum

The 1944 Australian Referendum was held on 19 August 1944. It contained one referendum question.


Do you approve of the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled 'Constitution Alteration (Post-War Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) 1944'?

  • (16) Post-War Reconstruction and Democratic Rights (not carried)

Proposed Amendment

Constitution Alteration (Post-War Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) 1944 was known as the "14 powers", or the "14 points referendum". It sought to give the federal government power over a period of five years to legislate on a wide variety of matters.[1]

The 14 Powers

The powers the government sought to gain included:

  • The rehabilitation of former servicemen
  • National health
  • Family allowances
  • Employment and unemployment
  • The ability to legislate for indigenous Australians
  • Corporations, or combines
  • Foreign investment
  • Trust laws
  • Monopolies
  • Air transport,
  • Uniformity of railway gauges
  • Marketing of commodities
  • Manufacturing (production) and sales of goods
  • National infrastructure (subject to state approval)

Many of these powers also included limitations as safeguards against the abuse of legislative power.

Restrictions on Government power

Freedom of speech and Freedom of Expression were restrictions on state and government power which the commonwealth sought to legislate on.

The government also sought to apply the right to freedom of religion over state governments.[2]


All of these points (the proposed heads of power and restrictions on power) were put to referendum in the form of a single question. It is notable that the points referring to corporations, trusts, combines, and monopolies had been previously put to referendum, and had not been carried.

The 14 proposals covered the participation of the federal government in postwar reconstruction, including control over employment, profiteering and prices, and related subjects. [3]

For and Against

The proposal was put forward and supported by the Australian Labor Party government. It was opposed by the federal opposition (United Australia Party and the Country Party).


The Prime Minister John Curtin gave his broadcast to the nation on 25 July 1944. The Prime Minister said to abandon wartime controls on the declaration of peace would cause disorganization to the social system and destroy the capacity of the system to meet the need of the first few disturbed years after the war.[4]


The Country Party leader, Arthur Fadden, gave his broadcast against the motion stating : It's proposal means that in peacetime, you will work under government compulsion, you will eat and wear what the bureaucrats ration out to you: you will live in mass-produced government dwellings: and your children will work wherever the bureaucrats tell them to work! If granted nothing can be made, produced, built or grown without permission. Everything that is grown or made, carried or carted, sold or exchanged will be under government control. A yes vote would enable the Government to implement Labour's policy of socialization. Nationalization of Industry would follow.[5]


Do you approve of the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled 'Constitution Alteration (Post-War Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) 1944'?

Ballots issued For Against Invalid
Votes% Votes%
New South Wales1,758,166 1,694,119 759,21145.44 911,680 54.5623,228
Victoria1,266,662 1,227,571 597,84849.31 614,487 50.6915,236
Queensland633,907 599,568 216,26236.52 375,862 63.487,444
South Australia403,133 392,443 196,29450.64 191,317 49.364,832
Western Australia278,722 272,339 140,39952.25 128,303 47.753,637
Tasmania143,359139,411 53,38638.92 83,769 61.082,256
Armed Forces*  417,082 218,452  195,148  3,482
Total for Commonwealth4,483,949 4,325,451 1,963,40045.99 2,305,418 54.0156,633
Obtained majority in two States and an overall minority of 342,018 votes.
Not carried

* Armed forces totals are also included in their respective states.

See also


  1. "Referendum Proposals: Meaning of the Fourteen Points". The Age. 21 June 1944. p. 2. Retrieved 4 July 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  2. Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstruction) Bill 1944 (Cth) (PDF)
  3. "Opening of Campaign. Official Booklet on Referendum". The Sydney Morning Herald. 19 June 1944. p. 4. Retrieved 4 July 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  4. "Prime Minister states case why referendum necessary". The Telegraph. 26 July 1944. p. 6. Retrieved 4 July 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  5. "The Referendum: "Socialisation" if carried". The Canberra Times. 25 July 1944. p. 3. Retrieved 4 July 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  6. Handbook of the 44th Parliament (2014) "Part 5 - Referendums and Plebiscites - Referendum results". Parliamentary Library of Australia. Archived from the original on 29 September 2017..
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