When Prime Minister Abbott called a press conference last week, there was little hint to what would be announced, was it new information in the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines MH370, speculation amongst the Canberra Press Gallery was rife.
The Prime Minister approached the podium and soon all was apparent, Knights and Dames within the Order of Australia had returned, the first appointments being outgoing Governor General Quentin Bryce AC, CVO and incoming Governor General Peter Cosgrove AC, MC. Instantly if one believed those from the opposition benches, the press and some commentators, 21st century Australia had somehow been transported to a feudal era where recipients of these so called Imperial Honours would patrol their outback estates upon a trusty steed, with his Lady and the local peasantry all forced to pay homage, or as other would have it the Prime Minister was awaiting to bestow it upon mining magnates or former politicians, there were even suggestions from some that he secretly coveted the honour himself. Sadly even those who were prepared to at least discuss the matter in more civil tones were often speaking from a position of ignorance, spreading misinformation to an already ill-informed public.
What the Prime Minister had announced was that the Grade of Knight and Dame within the Order of Australia would be reintroduced, to be bestowed upon those Australians primarily who had not sort public office. There could be no question of following the New Zealand example of also applying this to Companions of the Order of Australia, as unlike New Zealand whose Companions had previously been Knight/Dame Companions, before the Labour Governments reforms of the Honour System under Prime Minister Helen Clarke, this had never been the case in Australia. We would revert to the pre 1986 position of the Order of Australia consisting of five grades the AK, AC, AO, AM and OAM.
Many of the critics either deliberately or through ignorance suggested that this was an Imperial Honour, which if the case would mean appointments would be in The Order of the British Empire, or the Order of St Michael and St George for example. Be assured this is an Australian Honour within the order of Australia. In fact honours such as Knighthoods despite what some may lead us to think, are not confined purely Britain at all. Many countries both Monarchies and Republics alike such as Thailand, Italy and France bestow such an honour (Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove holds both a French and Papal Knighthood) and whilst Mr Shorten has pointed out his party opposes such honours and titles, it would appear that this does not extend to accepting foreign honours, being no better illustrated than the acceptance by Whitlam, Hawke and Keating all former Labor Prime Ministers of foreign Knighthoods and in the case of every Labor member who has ever been admitted to the Federal Executive Council they accept the title of The Honourable which they hold for life. All the while they hypocritically oppose the Queen of Australia offering an internationally recognisable honour to Australians, and prevent our citizens deciding for themselves whether they will accept or decline such an offer.
This is truly the challenge for the Australian Labor Party in a Liberal Democracy. Surely it is up to the recipient to decide for themselves whether they feel comfortable accepting such an honour, rather than having the values of Mr Shorten or the ALP Caucus thrust upon them. For Monarchists we must now hope that any new appointments to the grade of Knight/Dame of the Order of Australia are of the highest calibre, so that Knighthoods remain an institution within our Honours System, and all Australians may have confidence in that system, and stand up and reject the ridiculous arguments of those who seek to destroy our traditions.