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Friday, 6 May 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia.') . - I can see. that this question "is surrounded with ascertain amount of difficulty created by senti-ment, which is a very good asset in patriotism and as a means of keeping' the Empire together. "It "cannot very well be disregarded, but I" think it is a pity to permit the indiscriminate wearing by women of decorations won by their male relatives. If this is kept in mind, honorable senators will see that there is more in it than appears on the surface.

In the late war, many women won military decorations, and I think" that His Majesty the King decided recently that even the Victoria Cross could be awarded to women. During the war, a great many women were awarded the same decorations as were given to men. Particularly does this refer to the Military Medal; so we will have this position arising unless something is done : A great many women who have won this decoration, and are entitled to wear it with all the pride that goes with its possession, will find that other women, who themselves did nothing during the war, are entitled to wear the same decoration because it had been awarded to some near deceased relative.

Senator Crawford - Might we not provide that it shall be worn in a different way?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I think so.

Senator Foster - Is there not a regulation stating that a decoration won by a deceased relative must be worn on the right breast, so as to distinguish the wearer from a person who has actually been awarded the decoration?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I do:n6t think so, but it is objectionable that female relatives of deceased soldiers should be permitted to wear decorations without any control.

Senator Elliott - There is nothing to prevent a regulation being made directing' how these decorations shall be worn.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I agree that regulations could be so framed as to control this matter in a very effective way, having regard to the sentiment attaching to the possession of these decorations.

Senator Pearce - That is what I indicated in my second-reading speech. If sub-section 2 is struck out, we could issue a regulation. There is no prohibition in the Act.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - The necessary regulation could be so framed as to meet the undoubted sentiment that exists throughout the country. As I have already pointed out, it is undesirable that women- who have not won decorations should be allowed to wear them as if they had, when there are other women who have won the same decorations and wear them with all the pride of achievement.

If no women were entitled to wear the same decorations as deceased soldier relatives, there would be little objection; but women have won them, and are wearing them; and we do not want the unfortunate happenings of mothers displaying, as on last Anzac Day, the decorations won by their sons, being prosecuted for so doing.

Senator PEARCE(Western Australia - Minister for Defence [12.42].- Before the Committee deals with the amendment of which Senator Elliott has given notice, I should like a further discussion upon this point. I do not think that the whole of the sections dealing with the military decorations are contained in the memorandum which has been circulated among honorable senators, so I should like to direct their attention to section 80e, which reads as follows: -

(1)   A person shall not, unless lawfully entitled thereto (proof whereof shall lie upon him), wear or make use of any military decoration.

Penalty : Twenty pounds.

(2)   Nothing in this section shall prevent a female relative of the personupon whom a military decoration has been conferred from wearing the military decoration after the decease of that person.

It is proposed to eliminate sub-section (2) and insert instead the following: -

For the purposes of this section, any ribbon appropriate to be worn with a military decoration shall be deemed to be a military decoration.

If the clause which I am proposing is accepted, and the sub-section which entitles a female relative to wear a decoration is deleted from the Act, it will still be possible, under the section which I have just quoted, for the Government to make regulations. In fact, there are regulations in existence in regard to the wearing of decorations, and it is those regulations which now lawfully entitle a person to wear a decoration. If it is the wish of the Committee that we should not go so far as to strike the whole provision out of the Act - as the clause proposes to do - and if it is, rather, the general desire that Parliament, having given the right, should now restrict it to the mother or widow of the soldier concerned, then the Government can introduce a regulation to that effect.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Which could provide also that the decoration should be worn only on the right side.

Senator PEARCE - Certainly. We could get over the difficulty, probably, in another way by leaving out the words " female relative " and inserting, in lieu thereof, the words, " mother or widow." I am anxious to learn the view of the Committee. My own feeling is that if a decoration may be worn by other than the person who actually won it, the privilege should not be extended beyond the mother or the widow.

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