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Friday, 6 May 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) .- This is a rather important clause. Sub-section 2 of section 80e impliedly confers upon a female relative of a person upon whom a military decoration has been conferred the right to wear the decoration after the decease of that person. The grant of orders and medals is the prerogative of Hie Majesty. They are. not granted by the Government of a Dominion. The conditions under which they are granted are set out in the grant. It has been the practice in all the Dominions, including Australia, to follow the regulations accompanying the grant of a decoration. Legislation was passed in 1919 in the British Parliament making it an offence for an unauthorized person to wear a military decoration. In a recent case, a nurse was convicted for wearing the military decoration of her doceased nance. The proposed sub-section 2 extends the offence to the unauthorized wearer of the ribbon of any military decoration. It is often the ribbon, and not the medal, that is worn. Tt hae to be remembered that military decorations are granted to females as well as to males7For instance, there is the Red Cross, andi a number of other decorations to which> matrons and nurses have become entitled. If section 80e remained in force any female relative of a nurse or matron entitled to a decoration would be entitled on. the decease of the latter to go on wearing the decoration. Why should such a privilege be granted to the relativeof a nurse., .or matron or to some other .person who might be absolutely unworthy of it, and who certainly might never . have done anything to justify the wearing of the decoration ? The decoration is intended to honor the person upon whom it' is conferred. It is true that the person entitled to wear a decoration may' bequeath it to any person he pleases, but he cannot bequeath the right to wear it. It would altogether destroy the meaning of the decoration if that « were permitted. I know that there is a sentimental aspect of this matter which Senator Elliott raised at a public meeting, and for which he gained great applause. The honorable senator submitted an extreme case. He said that the mother of a deceased soldier should be entitled to wear the decoration, of her son. That is purely an appeal to sentiment. That is not the only class of cases that has to be dealt with. If( in the opinion of the Committee, the mother of a deceased son should be entitled to wear his decoration, that should be provided for, not. in this clause, but by .regulation. Even those who would give to the mother of. deceased soldier the right to wear, a medal or decoration would not give to the sister, or perhaps tq a cousin - who might have rendered service as a nurse and who., did not-r-the same right. Surely there..' is no reason why a cousin should have the right to wear the highest decoration that might be awarded to a nurse. Even on the grounds of sentiment- -and that is what Senator Elliott's statements are based on - if a mother is allowed to wear the decoration of her deceased son, it should not be so general as it is in the Act to-day. Even in the case quoted of. the mother and son it is really a misuse of the decoration. A decoration is not given to the relative at all, but is intended to be a mark of the nation's esteem granted to the soldier for service rendered. The Government have recognised that the nation should give some testimony of its feeling towards the mother, and we have initiated the mother's badge, which I know from the countless letters received is very highly esteemed by the mothers and widows of deceased soldiers. It is decorative, but not a military decoration, and quite in keeping with the sentiments wished to be expressed. " It is a badge that is wellknown throughout Australia, and I believe it is very highly valued by those who possess it, and perhaps more than amedal which was not given to the mother but to her son.

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