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Wednesday, 11 May 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - The Minister's explanation would have been satisfactory if he were sticking to the clause as he first introduced it, after -giving it the "careful consideration" of which he spoke. But the Committee have extended' it some distance beyond the length to which the Minister's " careful consideration " brought him. I am not asking him to go any further in the direction in which I wished him to go, but merely urge him to go back to the existing Act, which was passed in 1917 at his instance, and, presumably, after he had given it " careful consideration." The- attitude of the public towards military decorations is . very strange. I find among certain sections of the military class a desire to look on a decoration won in the war as sacred, and fit only to be locked away in a box and kept out of sight. In New South Wales I find quite a desire on the part of certain people to compel the exhibition of guns and other war trophies in school areas and other places which are already too small and crowded. This has created quite a public question in my own State. If what is wanted is something to spur the patriotism and inspire the courage of the young, surely a medal won by a boy and worn proudly by his sister as a brooch or pendant will serve that purpose. There can be no reasonable objection to it. I cannot see any difference between the desire to force guns and other waT trophies on a community that does not want to have them and the desire to exhibit publicly medals won in the war.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thought the guns were being kept from the community which did want to have them.

Senator GARDINER - One section of the community does want to have them, and another does not. The Minister wishes to keep from the view of the community, who want to see them, the medals won by brave fellows at the war. To my mind,, the two things are on exactly the same footing, but are being viewed from different stand-points. I can quite understand the military view that decorations, such as medals, are peculiarly the property of the military. They may have been won by a volunteer, who did not care a snap for the military.. All that troubled him was that his country wanted somebody, and he volunteered. He won a distinction which the other fellows could not win, or did not have the .chance to win, and the other fellows are trying to take fine care that the decoration which he won shall never be seen. They want to keep it locked up. When the amendment now before the Committee is disposed of, I shall move to insert the word " father," and afterwards the word " brother." I am quite in earnest in this matter, as I think all these relatives should be allowed to wear the decorations of a deceased man.

Amendment negatived.

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