The prime minister alone will decide who will get knighthoods in Australia. Although the Chairman of the Order of Australia Council will be consulted on any recommendation.
Or rather he will make a recommendations to the Queen who, almost always, will accept a recommendation from her prime minister in Australian.
It is unusual for just the prime minister to be the lone authority on awards. Currently recommendations come from the Order of Australia Council and anyone can recommend someone for an award. This takes the awarding of gongs away from the political process.
Order of Australia knighthoods are fairly rare and prestigious, ranking very high in the order of precedence. They rank much higher, for example, than a Knight Bachelor, common in the UK.
In Australia, these knighthoods rank above all other honours except the Victoria Cross and a Cross of Valour, the highest military and civilian bravery awards.
Some Australians have been knighted since the Australian knighthoods were discontinued in 1986.
These are the Australians who have won prominence in Britain, such as Sir Rod Eddington who was CEO of British Airways and Sir Michael Hintze, a financier and philanthropist.
According a briefing by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Governors-General become a Knight or Dame of the Order of Australia by virtue of their appointment.
So that takes care of the first two appointments: the current governor general Quentin Bryce and her replacement General Peter Cosgrove.
There will be a maximum of four new knights or dames each year. With two down, that leaves another two to be appointed.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says: “My intention is that this new award will go to those who have accepted public office rather than sought it; and who can never, by virtue of the office they have held, entirely return to private life.”
This statement appears to indicate that apart from Governors General, some state governors may be eligible or military commanders or High Court judges. Professor Marie Bashir, the governor of NSW, has on many occasions acted as Governor General.
Nobel Prize winners, although hardly excluded from a private life, may also be attractive recipients of knighthoods.
Unlike when New Zealand reverted to knighthoods when some of the current medal holders got the right to use the title ‘Sir’, there will be no changes to the order of Australia’s awards.
The Order of Australia now has five levels:
AK/AD – Knight/Dame of the Order of Australia
AC – Companion of the Order of Australia
AO – Officer of the Order of Australia
AM – Member of the Order of Australia
OAM – Medal of the Order of Australia
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