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Friday, 6 October 1911

Senator McDOUGALL (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Crime is the natural result of law.

Senator RAE - Yes, and that is why I have no respect for law. It only creates crime; it does not prevent it.

Senator de Largie - You have been learning a few points from Fleming lately.

Senator RAE - No, I formed these ideas twenty years ago. I am just as conservative as is my honorable friend. I have not altered my opinions on these matters very much. We should not, under existing conditions, go out of our way to pass a law imposing penalties unless some considerable demand for it has been shown by an evil having grown up. Do we find any great evil arising from the want of a law of this kind? If a law is needed at all, I would have only one clause of this measure, and that is clause 5, providing that a person shall not, unless lawfully entitled so to do, wear or make use of a decoration belonging to another person. I think that all our laws should be aimed at penalizing dishonesty and fraud. Undoubtedly if a person tries to secure an advantage to himself by wearing a decoration which he has not earned, it is fair to punish him. But it appears to me that to attempt in any other way to limit the right of an individual who has gained a decoration to do with it as he pleases, is just stepping out of our way, for the sake of finding ourselves a job, to manufacture a law, and thereby create a new phase of criminality which certainly does not exist to any extent at present. Senator Gardiner has talked of the pawning or disposal of these decorations by persons, in order to buy bread or other necessaries of life. We know that that has frequently happened in regard to decorations bestowed by the British Government on military or naval heroes. It is a common thing to hear or read of men who have gained the Victoria Cross dying in a workhouse in England. Senator de Largie said, or I understood him to say, that our old-age pension system will avert that disaster from Australian heroes who may be decorated, but I do not think that it will.

Senator Pearce - If he is incapacitated the invalid pension will. He will be eligible for either an old-age or an invalid pension.

Senator RAE - Just so. lt may to a considerable extent minimize the possibility, but an old-age or invalid pension only gives a bare subsistence to the recipient.

Senator Millen - There is nothing to prevent a lad of eighteen years of age from getting a medal, but he cannot obtain an old-age pension.

Senator RAE - I thank the honorable senator for reminding me that persons who may be neither old nor disabled may be in dire want or necessitous circumstances.

Senator Millen - Whether a man is in want or not, is it not his personal property, and has he not the right to do what he likes with it?

Senator RAE - I should take it that he has. I am merely replying to the suggestion that because of the provision of an old age pension a man will not want bread in this community. I suppose that some of us, even with our salaries, find our selves at times tightly pressed. I am just as hard up now as when I got 10s. a week.

Senator Millen - Oh, but you are a big land speculator.

Senator RAE - No. An old-age or invalid pension would not relieve a man, especially if he had family cares, from dire necessity. I maintain that a man's decoration should be his property to use as he likes, provided that no one shall commit a fraud by wearing an article which he is not entitled to wear. Either I would enact one clause, if that is necessary, to prevent a person from wearing a decoration which he is not entitled to use, in order to impose upon the community, or I would abolish decorations, and then nobody could use them, for, after all, they are only a bit of flam, like this measure.

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