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Friday, 6 May 1921

Senator CRAWFORD - The honorable senator's amendment would apply to anybody.

Senator GARDINER - Yes; and I say that unless a person who is not entitled to do so is wearing a military decoration as though he had won it, we have no right to interfere. Before going to the Front a soldier may have proposed to make a girl his wife. He may have won the Victoria Cross, and may have sent it to the girl, and aTe we going to say that she is- not to be allowed to wear it ? That ' would he interfering with one of the deepest sentiments of human nature. The only thing that should be -regarded as air o'ffence is the wearing by any person of a military decoration as though it had been conferred upon him, when Se did not win it. In the case of fraud guilty persons should be punished.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - A man in ' Sydney was recently fined £5 for wearing female attire.

Senator GARDINER - Exactly. There is a very good reason why we should prevent fraud being perpetrated on the community such as the wearing of the dress of the opposite sex, because serious consequences might result. There - is no analogy between the case mentioned by Senator Thomas and that of some one innocently and rightly wearing a decoration to which he or she is entitled. A medal that' has been awarded to a man for service, or for conspicuous bravery, is surely his own property, and he should have every right to pass it on to a relative if he so desires. We have no right to interfere in such- cases by saying what shall be done with the property of individuals. The Belgian Cross, which is a neat little decoration, was. conferred -on thousands ; if I am wrong as to the number perhaps Senator Cox will correct me.

Senator Cox - Not a great many.; I do not think there were more than 100.

Senator GARDINER - Even if there were only 100, they must not be over.looked. Let us take any similar decora tion won by an individual for individual bravery, ' and consider the action which this Nationalist Government are taking - I am rather glad it is a Nationalist Government) making such a proposition, because if it were a Labour Government it would be said that we were against the war, against the nation, the flag, and everything . else, and ' we would be told how it affects innocent people. If a decoration is of value to a relative as an ornament, why should its use ' not be allowed ? Relatives are proud of the honours which have been won by their brothers or sisters, and are naturally anxious to display them. If a person is wearing a ' distinction that rightly belongs to some order of which he is not a member, that , is fraud, and should be punished ; but it is repugnant to common sense to introduce such a proposal as this, and I am not going to support it.

Senator Crawford - Some of those decorations are so heavy that they are not' likely to be worn as brooches or pendants.

Senator GARDINER - The Belgian Cross is not very heavy. The military authorities have the right to punish any action contrary to military discipline, but it would take & lot to convince me that there is anything contrary, to military discipline-, or any way detrimental to the interests of the community, in wearing a decoration in the manner I have suggested. It is only common sense to allow the wife of a -man who won a decoration to wear it, but it is' ridiculous .to suggest that the woman whom a man intends to make his wife cannot. Perhaps only the trained military mind can draw the distinction, and perhaps one would have tobe a Minister for Defence or a general to make any distinction at all.

Senator Duncan - Does the honorable senator think that the country is interested at all?

Senator GARDINER - I think the people feel the position' keenly, because these decorations are prized very highly. Let us take the case of a woman who has adopted a child. Will she be' permitted to. wear the decoration?. The boy is not hers, but she is the only mother he e vear knew, and 'should be entitled to consideration. " There is the. case of the daughter' who has really been the mother of the household because her mother has been taken, and the Government are going to make it an offence if such a woman wears a decoration won by her brother. In my opinion, that is not an offence, and I object to creating new ones, because we already have enough. I do not intend to assist in passing legislation of this character, and have endeavoured in the amendment I have proposed not to interfere more than is necessary with* the members of the community. The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap). - I purpose making the honorable senator's amendment appear as proviso d.

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