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Thursday, 12 October 1911

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - An appeal has been made to me to withdraw the amendment. I recognise that if it be agreed to it will be necessary to recommit clause 3. But that is immaterial to me. 1 am not greatly concerned about the wording of the amendment, but I am concerned about protesting against the whole of this clause, and the whole subjectmatter of the Bill, except that referred to by Senator Givens. I admit that clause 5 embodies the only really good thing in the Bill, inasmuch as it would prevent any one sailing under false colours. But even in that direction this is a measure which is not of much account. We know that there is an organization that is represented throughout the Commonwealth, and all over the world, in fact, which is permitted to use military titles. I allude to the Salvation Army. I suppose that no political party would be game to tackle an organization of that kind, because of the number of votes it is able to command. The Salvation Army people use every military title from drummer boy to FieldMarshal, in a way that it was not contemplated military titles would be used. If we are going to forbid the disposal of military decorations, we should prevent the use of military titles except as permitted in connexion with our Military Forces. I regard the time spent on this measure as well spent, only because it is a sustained protest against the introduction of this kind of legislation at all. It is better that we should devote a session to the repeal of laws already on the statute-book, than to the passing of unnecessary new laws. I believe in extending the bounds of freedom, and not in restricting them by manufacturing criminals, as this Bill proposes to do. Three legal points have already been raised in connexion with this Bill. It is urged that it may be unconstitutional, as encroaching upon the rights of the State Parliaments, by interfering with the business of pawnbrokers licensed under State laws. Another point is that it may be an improper interference with the right of a British subject to do as he likes with decorations granted to him under the Imperial Statute. I forget, for the moment, what the other legal objection was.

Senator Pearce - Let the honorable senator repeat the first and that will make three.

Senator RAE - It is unnecessary to multiply objections to a measure of this kind, the introduction of which is reducing the work of legislation to a farce. If the protest to which utterance has been given has the effect of making Ministers very chary of bringing forward this kind of stuff again in the National Parliament, it will have done good service. A way out of the difficulty would be to negative this clause and then recommit the Bill and deal with clause 3. We might pass a Bill of only one clause, so long as it embodies a sensible provision. I remind the Committee that last session we passed such a measure in the Naval Loan Repeal Act. We might cut this Bill down to a Bill of one clause to provide a penalty for the fraudulent appropriation of other men's decorations. I do not know that there is any great need even for such a provision, because I am not aware of such a thing having occurred , more than once or twice in our whole, history. I repeat my protest against trivial legislation of this kind. I believe the time of this Parliament might be better occupied in considering measures concerning which there may be legitimate differences of opinion, which it would require time to thresh out. If this Bill is introduced merely as a stop-gap to fill up time, I say we would be better employed 'enjoying the fresh air in the parliamentary gardens. I hope that we shall never again have so utterly useless and ridiculous a measure introduced to take up the time of this Parliament.

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