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Australia eliminates knights and dames under the country's honours system

Tuesday, November 3rd 2015 - 07:05 UTC
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Ex PM Tony Abbott controversial decision to grant Prince Philip a knighthood in January was widely seen as one of the factors which ended his term as leader. Ex PM Tony Abbott controversial decision to grant Prince Philip a knighthood in January was widely seen as one of the factors which ended his term as leader.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the knighthoods and damehoods were “not appropriate in our modern honors system”. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the knighthoods and damehoods were “not appropriate in our modern honors system”.
Labor Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said it was “not appropriate” for Australia to be “clinging onto imperial Britain through our honors system” Labor Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said it was “not appropriate” for Australia to be “clinging onto imperial Britain through our honors system”
Prominent Australian monarchist David Flint accused Mr Turnbull of trying to get “revenge” for the failed 1999 republic referendum, the media reported. Prominent Australian monarchist David Flint accused Mr Turnbull of trying to get “revenge” for the failed 1999 republic referendum, the media reported.

Australia will no longer appoint knights and dames under its honours system, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced, arguing that the titles were “not appropriate” in modern Australia, and that Queen Elizabeth had accepted the cabinet's recommendation to drop them.

 Former PM Tony Abbott reintroduced knighthoods and damehoods in 2014. His controversial decision to grant Prince Philip a knighthood in January was widely seen as one of the factors which ended his term as leader. Mr Abbott at the time said Australia was honouring the Duke of Edinburgh's lifetime of “service and dedication”, but later said the decision 'was injudicious'.

He was ousted as leader of the centre-right Liberal Party by Mr Turnbull in September. In a statement Mr Turnbull said the Order of Australia awards were “an important way of honouring the achievements and service of many Australians, including those unsung heroes who might not otherwise be recognised outside their local communities”.

But he said his cabinet had recently reviewed the system and decided that the knighthoods and damehoods were “not appropriate in our modern honours system”. Existing knights and dames would not be affected by the change, he said.

The opposition Labor party welcomed the move, with shadow treasurer Chris Bowen describing the titles “a national disgrace”. But he said it was “not appropriate” for Australia to be “clinging onto imperial Britain through our honours system”.

“We shouldn't be celebrating the fact that knights and dames are gone, we should be lamenting the fact that they came back under this government,” ABC News quoted him as saying.

However, monarchist groups in Australia criticised the decision. Prominent Australian monarchist David Flint accused Mr Turnbull of trying to get “revenge” for the failed 1999 republic referendum, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Mr Flint, the head of the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy organisation, said scrapping the titles means Australia can't give international recognition to its best soldiers, sportsmen and singers.

Australia's honours system: the Gough Whitlam-led Labor government introduced Australia's own honours system in 1975, but made no recommendations for dames or knights; In 1976, the Liberal government led by Malcolm Fraser reintroduced damehoods and knighthoods to the honours system; Damehoods and knighthoods were abolished by the Bob Hawke-led Labor government in 1986; Former prime minister Tony Abbott unilaterally reinstated dames and knights in March 2014 and finally Anyone can nominate an Australian citizen for an award for service, excellence or achievement.

Alongside Prince Phillip, three people have received the honor since 2014 - former New South Wales governor Marie Bashir, former Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and the former Chief of the Defence Force Angus Houston. Australians rallied together online under the hashtag #KnightsAndDames to welcome Mr Turnbull's announcement. Many agreed that this was a step forward for Australia.

Categories: Politics, International.

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  • Clyde15

    We could do with getting rid of these meaningless titles in the UK.
    When knighthoods were introduced centuries ago, you had to get on your horse and charge at the enemy. Now you can get one for services to dressmaking !

    Nov 04th, 2015 - 02:40 pm +1
  • Heisenbergcontext

    If anyone was left in doubt about Abbot's political judgement, his 'captains pick' pretty much erased such doubts. Even John Howard was scratching his head.

    It's no surprise Turnbull overturned Abbot's decision, but thank Christ he did it anyway.

    Nov 03rd, 2015 - 01:39 pm 0
  • LEPRecon

    @1 heisenbergcontext

    Well enough people in Australia must've agreed with Abbot at the time as they voted for him.

    Regarding the honours system, it's up to Australia as to how and who they honour, but it is narrow minded just to say 'only' Australians should be eligible. Plenty of people, who are not Australian, contribute to Australian society who may deserve a commendation or award of some kind.

    Many of these Republicans forget that HRH Prince Phillip is a war veteran, and supports many organisations and charities, including Australian ones. He doesn't have to do that, but he does. So recognising his achievements shouldn't be something that is criticised, but celebrated.

    It's obvious from history, and some of the backlash that is currently happening, that there is a significant proportion of the Australian population that don't agree with the decision. Whether this will be felt in votes in future is yet to be seen.

    But looking at Australia's more recent history they've been scrapping and reintroducing these honours depending on which party is in power. Perhaps they should just have a referendum and let the actual people of Australia decide how to honour people, whether they want to continue with the traditional system or invent a system just for Australia.

    But these politicians playing 'ping-pong' with the system doesn't achieve anything but to divide the country.

    Nov 03rd, 2015 - 04:26 pm 0
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