Chief Minister Andrew Barr will this week move that the ACT Legislative Assembly recognise that Tony Abbott’s ‘captain’s call’ to bring back knights and dames does not reflect a modern, confident and diverse Australia.
In a press release issued this morning, Barr said:
“Like many Australians, I have found the decision to bring back the archaic honour system a step backwards for Australia. The imperial designation of Knights and Dames was abolished by former Prime Minister Bob Hawke in 1983, as he saw the system did not reflect Australia’s identity. Almost 32 years on, the reaction of the community towards the decision to bring back the system and award a Knighthood to Prince Phillip clearly shows that modern Australian’s do not accept the concept of awarding our highest achieving citizens with a Knighthood or a Damehood.
Further, the appointment of Prince Philip as an Australian Knight demonstrates the lack of a full and proper assessment process associated with the system.
I know many Canberrans share this view, which is why I have decided to raise this in the Assembly. I will call on the Speaker to convey the Assembly’s position on the matter and recommend to the Prime Minister that he abolish the award of Knight and Dame of the Order of Australia. I believe this is the right thing to do as it reflects the attitudes of the constituents we represent.
On Australia Day this year, I watched on as individuals like Carrie Graf (AM), Professor Michael Miles Gore (AO, AM) and Sally Richards (OAM) were recognised for their valuable work in the ACT. Since the establishment of the Order of Australia honours in 1975, the system has appropriately recognised eminent Canberran’s for their efforts in community volunteering, scientific discovery and research, fund raising efforts and sporting achievement. The OAM honour system has become widely respected as the best way to reflect the high achievements of modern Australians and has ensured a proper assessment process for the conferring of such recognition.
I believe, like many in the community, that the resurrection of Knights and Dames has lead to a perceived devaluation of the many Canberran’s who have been awarded a Companion, Officer, Member and the Medal of the Order of Australia. These individuals have achieved this recognition due to the contribution they have made to our community, and the decision to add a more senior level of award exclusively for captain’s picks is deeply disappointing.
This decision takes nothing away from the notable Canberran’s who have already been honoured under the Knights and Dames honour system- most recently Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston. Individuals like Air Chief Marshal Houston and the other Australians who have been made a Knight or Dame of the Order of Australia have made an outstanding contribution in their field of work. I maintain though that these Australians can still be appropriately recognised under the pre-existing system.
From speaking to many Canberran’s and hearing the public debate on this issue, I am convinced that the most appropriate course of action is to abolish the Knights and Dames honour system in Australia. I hope the rest of the ACT Legislative Assembly shares this view and makes a collective decision to approach the Prime Minister requesting the system be removed.”