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Friday, 6 October 1911

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I appeal to the Minister to agree to clauses 3 and 4 being negatived. The honorable senator must see that great difficulties will arise if they are agreed to. They must be considered together, because clause 3 is proposed to prevent the holder of a decoration from disposing of it, and clause 4 to prevent any one buying such a decoration. There are a great many people in our cities who, from time to time, purchase medals and decorations, which they dispose of subsequently to collectors of such things. If these clauses are passed a serious injustice will be done to persons who have been engaged in a bond fide and legitimate business under the law.

Senator McDougall - I did not think the honorable senator sympathized with that class of persons.

Senator GARDINER - I sympathize with any man who is engaged in a perfectly legitimate business.

Senator Millen - Does Senator McDougall mean to say that a dealer in curios is not as much entitled to justice as any other person in the community.

Senator GARDINER - We shall not get any nearer to fair dealing by appealing to prejudice against persons engaged in any particular line of business. We know that the demand for old coins, medals, decorations, and stamps is very widespread in every country in the world. A medal which may be of no value, because of his necessitous condition, to the man who won it, may be of very great value to persons who are making collections of such things. This Bill would put a severe handicap upon such collectors, since it would do away with the middleman between the original holder and the collector by declaring his business illegal. I hope that in the circumstances the Minister will see the wisdom of postponing the further consideration of this Bill. In the meantime, the honorable senator may see that in trying to overcome one evil he may be perpetrating another. I agree that it is rather objectionable to have in the window of a pawnshop a medal or decoration given for military services. We all know of the enthusiasm over Mafeking and the report of the victory at Elands River, but the heroes of those occasions may have been driven by stress of circumstances to dispose of the decorations they received for their services.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - By too much whisky, in some cases.

Senator GARDINER - I can sympathize with a man who is the victim of too much whisky as well as with the man who is the victim of anything else. I find that the only means I can adopt to prevent myself becoming the victim of whisky is to drink none at all.

Senator de Largie - The honorable senator must lose a lot of fun.

Senator GARDINER - I have no more respect for the man whom whisky does not affect than for the man who is affected by it. Some men who have acquired trie habit of whisky drinking are disposed to point with contempt and scorn at the man whose mental make-up is such that one glass of whisky will throw him off his balance.

The CHAIRMAN - I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the question.

Senator GARDINER - I bow to your ruling, sir. I was drawn aside by Senator de Largie's interjection. In all seriousness I ask the Minister to postpone these clauses for more lengthy consideration. By rushing this Bill through a number of interests may be affected, to which most of us have not given much consideration. It will be admitted that it is a desirable thing to encourage the collection of medals and decorations which may represent steps and stages in our naval and military history. A man may have gained a medal in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He may have had to wait, as some have had to do, for thirty or forty years before the War Office authorities sent his medal on to him. After thirty or forty years he may receive a medal for services he has rendered, the intrinsic value of which may not be more than 5s. ; but there may be a sentimental value attaching to it of £5. That medal may have come into the man's possession through participation in actions which the British people will be proud of as long as there is any one left to speak the language. Suppose that that man sees an opportunity of disposing of his medal to relieve some physical difficulty which, if not relieved, may end his life altogether. Why should the Government step in, and say, " Although you won this medal in another country, nevertheless, having come to Australia, you cannot do what you like with your own here"? I quite understand the sentimental value that attaches to decorations of this kind. There are men who would sacrifice everything before they would part with a medal. The sum of .£500 would not purchase from them a piece of metal intrinsically worth only a few pence. But that is no reason why we should debar them from disposing of their property as they please. I also see that grave injustice may be done to curio dealers if the Bill passes as it stands. No matter what a man's occupation may be, we ought, in passing legislation, to see that no injury is done to him without compensation. Why should we pass a Bill the effect of which will be to say that articles in the possession of curio dealers which have a commercial value to-day shall have no such value tomorrow? I would ask the Minister to adjourn the further consideration of the Bill until we have had more time to scrutinize its provisions, and to insure that we do not do great harm by interfering with legitimate business.

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