Aussie govt scraps knights and dames

Britain's Prince Philip (centre) being presented an insignia of a Knight of the Order of Australia on April 22 by Queen Elizabeth (left) as Australian High Commissioner Alexander Downer looked on.
Britain's Prince Philip (centre) being presented an insignia of a Knight of the Order of Australia on April 22 by Queen Elizabeth (left) as Australian High Commissioner Alexander Downer looked on.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

But those given the titles, revived by Abbott govt last year, will retain them: PM Turnbull

SYDNEY • Australia's pro-republic Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has scrapped knights and dames from the nation's honours system, less than a year after a furore over former prime minister Tony Abbott's award of a knighthood to Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth's husband.

Mr Abbott, a staunch monarchist, reintroduced the antiquated honours last year, provoking criticism that he was out of touch with public sentiment.

The politically disastrous decision to give Prince Philip the nation's highest honour has been cited as the beginning of the end for Mr Abbott, who was ousted from the prime ministership in a party coup in September.

Others who received the honours during Mr Abbott's time in office were two governors-general - who act as representatives of the Queen - Dame Quentin Bryce and Sir Peter Cosgrove - as well as a former air chief marshal, Sir Angus Houston, and a New South Wales state governor, Dame Marie Bashir.

Mr Turnbull said they will retain their titles.

"Knights and dames are titles that are really anachronistic, out of date and not appropriate in 2015," Mr Turnbull said yesterday.

He added that the Queen has approved the decision.

The Labor opposition said the titles should never have been brought back.

"It was a farce, a joke, a national disgrace," Labor front-bencher Chris Bowen said.

Opposition Greens Party leader Richard Di Natale also welcomed the decision.

"It says something about the standard of leadership in this country that installing knights and dames was one of the most significant acts of our former prime minister, and undoing that folly is so far one of the most significant acts of our new one," he said.

Queen Elizabeth is Australia's largely ceremonial head of state, but has the power to approve dismissal of the government, which happened in 1975 with the controversial toppling of the Gough Whitlam-led Labor government.

Australia's sometimes strained relationship with the British crown came to a head in a 1999 national referendum, when almost 55 per cent of Australians voted against breaking with the monarchy, defeating Mr Turnbull's republic supporters.

A poll this year for the Australian National University showed that public support for a republic has fallen further since then, while the royals' popularity has risen.

The Australian Monarchist League accused Mr Turnbull of "republicanism by stealth".

The Australian Republican Movement said the honours' reintroduction reflected "Australia of the past, not the diverse and multicultural nation that exists today".

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2015, with the headline 'Aussie govt scraps knights and dames'. Print Edition | Subscribe