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Australia drops knights and dames

Australia will no longer appoint knights and dames under its honours system, PM Malcolm Turnbull has said.

Mr Turnbull said the titles were “not appropriate” in modern Australia, and that Queen Elizabeth had accepted the cabinet’s recommendation to drop them.

Former PM Tony Abbott reintroduced knighthoods and damehoods in 2014.

His controversial decision to grant Prince Philip a knighthood in January was widely seen as one of the factors which ended his term as leader.

Mr Abbott at the time said Australia was honouring the Duke of Edinburgh’s lifetime of “service and dedication”, but later said the decision was “injudicious”.

He was ousted as leader of the centre-right Liberal Party by Mr Turnbull in September.

End of “Knightmare” poses republican question

In a statement, Mr Turnbull said the Order of Australia awards were “an important way of honouring the achievements and service of many Australians, including those unsung heroes who might not otherwise be recognised outside their local communities”.

But he said his cabinet had recently reviewed the system and decided that the knighthoods and damehoods were “not appropriate in our modern honours system”.

Existing knights and dames would not be affected by the change, he said.

The opposition Labor party welcomed the move, with shadow treasurer Chris Bowen describing the titles “a national disgrace”.

But he said it was “not appropriate” for Australia to be “clinging onto imperial Britain through our honours system”.

“We shouldn’t be celebrating the fact that knights and dames are gone, we should be lamenting the fact that they came back under this government,” ABC News quoted him as saying.

However, monarchist groups in Australia criticised the decision.

Prominent Australian monarchist David Flint accused Mr Turnbull of trying to get “revenge” for the failed 1999 republic referendum, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Mr Flint, the head of the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy organisation, said scrapping the titles means Australia can’t give international recognition to its best soldiers, sportsmen and singers.

Alongside Prince Phillip, three people have received the honour since 2014 – former New South Wales governor Marie Bashir, former Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and the former Chief of the Defence Force Angus Houston.

Australians rallied together online under the hashtag #KnightsAndDames to welcome Mr Turnbull’s announcement.

Many agreed that this was a step forward for Australia.

Others felt there were more pressing issues to be dealt with.

Australia’s honours system

  • The Gough Whitlam-led Labor government introduced Australia’s own honours system in 1975, but made no recommendations for dames or knights.
  • In 1976, the Liberal government led by Malcolm Fraser reintroduced damehoods and knighthoods to the honours system.
  • Damehoods and knighthoods were abolished by the Bob Hawke-led Labor government in 1986.
  • Former prime minister Tony Abbott unilaterally reinstated dames and knights in March 2014.
  • Anyone can nominate an Australian citizen for an award for service, excellence or achievement.

Commonwealth honours systems

  • After independence, some Commonwealth realms introduced their own honours systems.
  • These include Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Canada, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Saint Lucia.
  • The Queen was appointed Sovereign of some of these newly created orders, most notably in the case of Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
  • In March 2009, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, announced the return of knighthoods and damehoods to the New Zealand Honours System.

Source: BBC

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