chapter  10
13 Pages

H V Evatt's attempts to amend section 116 in the 1940s

ByLuke Beck

The first official proposal to alter section 116 occurred in 1942 during the Second World War. On 1 October 1942, H V Evatt introduced the Constitution Alteration (War Aims and Reconstruction) Bill 1942 into the House of Representatives. In Parliament, Evatt's Bill did not proceed past the first reading stage in the House of Representatives. Lack of success in 1942 did not deter Evatt. On 10 February 1944, Evatt introduced the Constitution Alteration (Post-War Reconstruction) Bill 1944 into the House of Representatives. In the House of Representatives, Evatt's speech on 9 March concerning his proposed amendments to the Bill repeated almost verbatim what he had written in his submission to Cabinet seeking approval to move the amendments. Evatt's central point was that the experience in Europe demonstrated the ease with which freedom of speech and religion could be 'swept away' and that their importance to democracy warranted their inclusion as constitutional safeguards.