January 22

Australia Day awards




…a gap in the OA… 

In congratulating those recognized in the Australia Day Honours, we should be aware of a  glaring gap in the Order of Australia, a point I made in a recent column[i]

I shall take the liberty of this point again repeating again because my proposal to fill the gap was misrepresented in a comment in one of our leading newspapers by a republican royal watcher.

I should point out that the father of the Order of Australia, based on the Order of Canada,  is surely Gough Whitlam, Prime Minister from 1972 to 1975. That Mr. Whitlam has no doubt as to the paternity of the Order is demonstrated in the  story below by Sir David Smith. 

In any event I  first noticed this gap some years ago at a Bastille Day ceremony[ii], when the French Consul – General conferred a knighthood on an Australian.  

 I turned to Mr Whitlam, who was sitting nearby with Mrs Whitlam and said, with a straight face, “Mr Whitlam, you’re the reason Australians have to go to a foreign republic to get a knighthood.” 

 He threw back his head laughing and said “Yes, I have five or six of those knighthoods myself!” Mr. Whitlam is not alone. Others include Rupert Murdoch and Paul Keating’s in the Thai’s  “Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant.”

 ….Malcolm Fraser introduces the AK’s and AD’s…Patrick White furious  

Malcolm Fraser added the ranks of Knights or Dames of Australia (AK and AD) in 1976. Partick White was so upset he handed back his AO.

The Hawke government removed the AK’s and AD’s in 1986, keeping the Medal (OAM) which Fraser had also introduced. The point is, as I explain below, the government could have kept these but still observe party policy  in relation to titular awards.

 …something is missing…  

My view that the Order is now lop sided was confirmed when I read a Canadian comment[iii] about   Nicole Kidman being made a Companion, our highest award. 

 No one in Canada, or anywhere, else took any notice. But they certainly did when Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Dame Julie Andrews,  Dame Judi Dench, Dame Joan Sutherland and  Dame Kiri Te Kanawa received theirs. As they would for Dame Nicole Kidman or indeed, Dame Cate Blanchett, who plays Queen Elizabeth I so superbly. 

 As the song says, “There’s nothing like a Dame.” 

  "Arise, Sir Kevin…"     


The problem remains, Labor objects. 

 True, some Labor eminences have received imperial knighthoods, as did the respected former Governor-General Sir William McKell.   Dr. HV Evatt, a strong constitutional monarchist, no doubt thought his doctorate was  vastly superior.

 The point is, the objection is only to “Sir,” “Lady” and “Dame,” not knighthoods or titles as such.  

Bob Carr wasn’t the first Labor politician to petition The Queen to remain “ The Honourable.” 

And Gough Whitlam is inclined to address you as “Comrade,” even when they are a Tory.  Perhaps particularly when you are.  

There is a golden opportunity for Kevin Rudd, as a conservative prime minister, to fill this obvious gap in the Order of Australia.

…The C of E solution… 

Of all places, it’s the Church of England which offers the solution. 

 Because being dubbed a knight indicated willingness to fight for the King, an Archbishop of Canterbury came to the conclusion that Anglican bishops could hardly accept what is technically called the accolade.  They could accept the knighthood, but not the obligation to fight. So they were rarely if ever referred to as “Sir.”  

  Catholic bishops were not impressed by this casuistry, and so they had magnificent styles of address, such as  His Eminence, Sir Norman Cardinal Gilroy (pictured) and His Grace, Sir James Duhig,  no doubt to the chagrin  of the Anglican bishops, and especially their wives. 

  The solution is in Mr. Rudd’s hands.    

Restore the AK and AD, but make the accolade voluntary.  

Some constitutional monarchists have told me they don’t like this idea. But it is already allowed for bishops, so why not for those who do not like some titles.  This is especially so where a major political party, one frequently in office, objects.

 Then one day we might even hear those words, “Arise Sir Kevin.”

 Or, if you must, remove the accolade, but make awards at the same level as those many of your  colleagues have received from foreign powers and potentates.  



…Gordon Brown proposes restoration of Commonwealth sporting knighthoods…

And on a final note, how good it was to read that the British Labour Prime Minister has called for the revival of the practice of giving Commonwealth athletes knighthoods and other awards.


Speaking in New Delhi, he singled out India batsman Sachin Tendulkar as the most obvious candidate for a knighthood.


According to the Daily Mail, Sir Vivian  Richards and Sir Richard Hadlee were the last two cricketers to be knighted by the Queen, in 1990, before the practice was discontinued.


[i]   Column,2 January, 2008
[ii]  Column, 2 April 2004
[iii] Column, 24 April 2007. 


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