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Wednesday, 12 May 1965

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) .- I should like the Minister to spare me a minme or two for further reference to my submission based on the definition of " service decoration ", 1 urge that the opinion of the British authorities is not in any way determinant since we have attained dominion status by which we. as a Government, maintain our own independent existence within the Commonwealth of Nations, in no way subordinate one to the other. It is the constitutional duty of the Sovereign to act in accordance with the advice of the relevant Australian Minister. The Anzac campaign has achieved such uniqueness in our history that there should be no confusion of thought as to the propriety of issuing a medal if the Australian Government recommends this to the Sovereign.

That is the proposition 1 wanted to submit, with no idea of concealing the main point of this Bill. I feel that it is a matter imperative to be mentioned because I, for my part, fully support the principle of this Bill. When we come to discuss clause 19 I shall have my opinion to express. For the moment, let me say that we will fail dismally in our purpose unless we surround the men upon whom this Parliament places the obligation of compulsory service with every honour from this nation to which military service entitles them.

As this occasion synchronises with the 50th anniversary of Anzac, it is an occasion not to be lost to indicate to the present generation what we still think of the men who served in the Anzac campaign. It is only in that spirit that I bring up this matter. I want to put to the Minister, through you, Mr. Chairman, a clear cut expression of what I consider is the present constitutional responsibility and practice with regard to the awarding of decorations for any service or campaign, even though we were associated with British troops who, having had one commander, Stopford, would still, I should think, have a different appreciation of the Gallipoli campaign.

Having said that definitely in order to be brief. 1 point out that it is not unallied to the purpose of this Bill because we will never succeed in the defence effort that the Minister very properly is seeking to evoke from the Australian nation unless, while passing an act of Parliament providing for compulsory military service, we generate in the men and their families an understanding that this nation, while accepting their service, is willing to do them the honour to which they are entitled.

Senator MURPHY(New South Wales) [8.37.J- Like Senator Wright, I find it difficult to keep my temper under control after having heard the statement this evening of the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge). He has told us that the Australian Government has wanted to do something about these awards. As I recollect his statement, he said that the British authorities have taken the view that it is impossible to make awards to Australians and not to members of other forces, and that the British authorities have not found themselves in a position to approve the making of a special award.

We sit here in the Parliament of a supposedly independent Australia and we hear the Minister speaking in this fashion. This is a country which for a long time has been supposed to be equal in status - not subordinate in any way - to the United Kingdom or any other part of the Commonwealth of Nations. We have a Queen who is the Queen of Australia. Yet one may have the feeling that if a Minister can say these things and really mean them, he is not fit to be a Minister in an independent country. To say that the British authorities do not find themselves in a position to approve something that the Australian Government wants renders him unfit to be a Minister. If that is not the position, he should say so and say so clearly.

What kind of a country are we? We are supposed to be free and equal. The Australian Government wants to make an award to its own men. It is perfectly entitled to do that. We have complete constitutional and legislative power to do it. We should not be subordinating ourselves to anyone. Who are these British authorities who are taking up the position that they will not approve something that the Australian Government wants? It is unthinkable.

Senator Branson - It is Mr. Wilson.

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