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Wednesday, 12 May 1965

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - It may help consideration of the matter now before the Senate if I indicate that the definition in the existing Act is " military decoration ". The description has been changed from " military " decoration to " service " decoration and I shall give the reasons for the change in a moment. 1 want now to say something about statements made in connection with the proposed Anzac decoration and honours awarded by Royal warrant to forces of the Queen in many parts of the world and in differing circumstances. It should not be concluded, because of the quite unusual circumstances which surrounded the Anzac operation and the subsequent refusal of a request for a special Australian decoration, that honours by Royal warrant are not conferred by the Queen on her forces in operations which can be regarded in a sense as isolated. For example, quite recently we have been told that two of our servicemen in Vietnam have been honoured by Royal awards. I have no doubt that Royal awards have been made in other campaigns which have not been associated either with British troops or troops of other Commonwealth countries.

Before I discuss clause 19, may I say that this question of a special Anzac decoration poses and has posed particular difficulties. I believe that the Australian Government has pursued the possibility of a special Australian award to the point where it can go no further. The facts of the matter, as described by the British authorities, are that while the redoubtable performance of the Anzac contingent in the Gallipoli campaign is always acknowledged, they quite rightly have taken the point that whereas the Anzac contingent comprised only three divisions, ten or eleven divisions from other parts of the then Empire took part in that campaign. British divisions and divisions from other British possessions participated. The British authorities take the view that it is quite impossible in those circumstances to approve of an award for part of a total force while not making a similar award available to the other parts of the force which took part in the campaign. They then point out, I think with great reliability, that if the Gallipoli campaign in 1915 were to be regarded as an operation which should attract a particular award, in fairness, other British forces taking part in other operations in a different part of the war theatre were equally entitled to an award.

For these reasons the British authorities have not been able to approve of a special Anzac decoration. I thought that Senator Wright, who raised the matter, was aware that the Australian Government, having pursued its inquiries to the end in this connection, is now considering what further action it might take which would, in the circumstances, suitably pay tribute to the Australian Anzacs who took part in that historic campaign. I regret very much that it may seem that a long time elapsed before a decision was reached. There has been no lack of good faith on the part of the Government. The explanation for the time taken to reach a decision is simply that it is a fairly complex matter. I hope that quite soon we will be in a position to make an announcement in this respect.

I turn now to the clause under discussion - clause 19 - which relates to the amended provision covering the protection of service decorations. The term service decoration " is more suitable to describe decorations that are or can be conferred on members of the Services than is the term " military decoration ". The term " military decoration " might appear to relate to decorations conferred on members of the Army. The types of awards and the services for which they are conferred are now described more adequately. That seems to me to be without doubt. The decorations which are protected are not only those awarded to members of the defence forces of Australia, but also those awarded to members of the forces of the Queen's Dominions and of the forces of the allies of Australia. The definition of " allies " has been expanded lo include allies not only in war but also in warlike operations. This has a particular purpose, namely, to include operations such as took place in Korea and are taking place now in Malaysia and Vietnam.

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