Commentators including some normally supportive of the Coalition Government are calling Tony Abbott’s decision to give Prince Philip an Australian knighthood “cringeworthy”, an “embarrassment”, “beyond mocking” and “out of touch”.
Among those dismayed are former coalition advisor Chris Kenny, now with The Australian newspaper, and political commentator Peter van Onselen.
Knighthoods in the Order of Australia were revived by Mr Abbott last year. They are recommended to the Queen directly by the Prime Minister. All the other recommendations for the Order of Australia are made outside the political system.
Geoff Gallop, a former Premier of Western Australia and now head of the Australian Republican Movement, says the knighthoods have polluted Australian honours.
“We’ve now got a dual system and one part of it determined very politically at the top by the Prime Minster and his office, the other part through a proper process of determination,” Gallop told ABC radio.
“It’s a sad reflection on our country that we’re now giving one of our highest honours to someone who’s not a resident here in our own country.”
Mr Abbott, who was asked questions about the knighthood at an Australia Day function in Canberra, said: “He’s (Prince Philip) the patron of hundreds of organisations. He’s the inspiration and wellspring of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards which have provided leadership training for tens if not hundreds of thousands of Australians over the years.”
Here’s some of the comment:
Just another own goal – and an embarrassment for Australia on our national day.
— Chris Kenny (@chriskkenny) January 25, 2015
So the PM has made the Queen's husband a Knight of the Australian order (arise Sir Philip). Tony Abbott is beyond mocking now, well beyond.
— Peter van Onselen (@vanOnselenP) January 25, 2015
And he quoted an unnamed Liberal MP: “It takes a rare talent to turn our national day into a joke.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten questioned Mr Abbott’s decision to give Prince Philip an honour on Australia Day.
“I just think giving our top award to a British royal is anachronistic,” Shorten says. “To be honest it’s a bit of a time warp, I wasn’t quite sure it was serious until I realised it was.”
Shorten says a Labor government would probably end the knighthoods.
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