Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 6 October 1911

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) - - If this new doctrine enunciated bv the Minister of Defence in his hour of distress is to be accepted, that military and naval medals are not the property of individuals who hold them-

Senator Pearce - It is not a doctrine ; it is the law.

Senator MILLEN - This is the first time I have heard the Minister of Defence posing as a keen advocate for shaping Commonwealth legislation on the lines of Imperial Acts. When it suits him, no one can more bitterly denounce the copying of legislation passed in the Old Country.

Senator Pearce - I was answering Senator Gardiner.

Senator MILLEN - If the Minister means that he was " following " Senator Gardiner, he is quite correct ; but I am not aware that he has " answered " that honorable senator. If this new doctrine - that medals are not the property of the individual, but of the Defence Department - is to be admitted, the holders of such decorations will be put very much in the position of those who were victimized by a game which was familiar to most of us in our boyhood. The game was to fasten an apple to a string and lay it upon the footpath. Someone would come along and stoop to pick it up, when the string would be pulled, and the apple would disappear.

Senator Pearce - I have heard of a stone under a hat being worked very much in the way same.

Senator MILLEN - Well, my honorable friend's methods were always more barbarous than mine ! As to Senator Gardiner's speech, I recall a criticism of his some time ago when there was a proposal to send representatives of this and the other House of the Legislature to Great Britain. We must all have been gratified at the honorable senator's tone to-day; and I am sure that we appreciate the good effects that have followed from his short visit to the Old Land. In view of this very pleasant experience, I suggest to the Government that the experiment that has succeeded so admirably in this case is entitled to further application. The Minister said one thing that is quite correct, namely, that this Bill is not worthy of the consideration that has been given to it. I should like to know the real reason for its introduction. I should like to see the genesis of it.

Senator Rae - I should like to see the exodus of it !

Senator MILLEN - I feel satisfied that this measure has not been brought forward as the result of any public demand or agitation. As far as I am aware, not a single individual in the Commonwealth, and no body of individuals, has asked for its introduction.

Senator Pearce - Yes, they have.

Senator MILLEN - I venture to add that, if inquiry were made, it would be found that some highly pertinacious officer or officers down in the Defence Department are responsible, not only for the production of this document, but for the whole of the time that we have wasted upon its consideration.

Senator Pearce - The Veterans' Association has agitated for a measure of this kind ; and that association exists, not only in Victoria, but in the honorable senator's own State, and elsewhere.

Senator MILLEN - I venture to say that if inquiries were made, it would be found that there are two or three officers-

Senator Pearce - Does not the honorable senator accept my statement?

Senator MILLEN - Of course, I accept the Minister's statement; but we know what two or three active individuals can do. I believe that certain officers have a bee in their bonnet with respect to this subject.

Senator Pearce - That is not so.

Senator MILLEN - And these officers, having ready access to the administrative ear, have probably induced an innocentminded Minister to introduce this measure. They are really responsible for its introduction. I do not believe that it has any other foundation. But I do not see why we should pass legislation imposing penalties, and creating new crimes, whilst, at the same time, in no sense rendering a service to the public, or conferring any advantage upon anybody, under such influences. If the Minister can show that any section of the public of Australia will be injured by the rejection of this Bill, I am sure that every member of the Senate will listen to him.

Senator Pearce - That is ridiculous.

Senator MILLEN - But not even the Minister can pretend that any public good will be served by the measure; and when I say that not even the Minister can make that pretence, it is going as far as any sensible man would care to go. If even the Minister cannot show that any public good will be done, why should we waste time in further considering the matter?

Senator Pearce - Hear, hear ! We ought not to do so.

Senator MILLEN - The amount of public good to be done is nil ; and the Bill has been brought forward only to meet the views of some little coterie in the Department.

Senator Pearce - That is incorrect. 1 have already denied that statement.

Senator MILLEN - The Minister has not said anything to show that the statement is incorrect.

Senator Pearce - Yes. I have shown that such a Bill has been asked for by the Veterans' Association.

Senator MILLEN - I have said that the whole matter has arisen out of the engineering of one or two officers, and that the Minister has been led away by the persuasive efforts of those who have ready access to him. Quite enough has been said to-day-

Senator Pearce - Hear, hear ! Quite enough.

Senator MILLEN - To make the Minister regret that he ever brought in the Bill.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Is the honorable senator going to talk it out?

Senator MILLEN - I do not think that I shall be accused of being egotistical if I say that if I thought I could secure the defeat of this Bill by continuing to talk about it I could easily do so. But I have no desire to defeat the measure in that way. It is, however, in my opinion, making Parliament ridiculous when we are asked to pass a Bill of this kind, which is in no sense for the benefit of the public, and confers no advantage upon anybody.

Suggest corrections