There are two major stories which routinely get badly or under-reported in Australia – the link between political donations and public policy and the twice yearly release of gongs on Australia Day and the Queen’s Birthday. Why on earth does the mainstream media continue to openly laud recipients rather than rigorously critiquing the merits of those gonged? For instance, when John Howard gonged Barbara Williams AO in 2004, The SMH produced a laudatory piece rather then asking whether it was appropriate that the PM’s long-time secretary receive such an honour.

Campaign finance is the largest source of political scandal globally, and while we’ve all seen the “donations for honours” scandal hit the Blair Government in recent months, no-one in Australia has even had a decent look at our system, let alone assessed it corruption.

The latest 817 people honoured certainly raises plenty of eye-brows. Adelaide shock-jock Jeremy Cordeaux was a cash for comment pioneer but now he can add “AM” to his name. Presumably being Andrew Peacock’s son-in-law and a staunch Liberal promoter helped him score the gong.

And why would sacked 60 Minutes reporter Jeff McMullen also get an AM, along with The AFR’s health columnist and Frank Lowy biographer Jill Margo? Paddy McGuinness and Michelle Grattan were arguable AO recipients in previous years, given long service to journalism, but the bar seems to have been lowered a touch this year. If someone from 60 Minutes was going to get one, surely a posthumous honour for Richard Carleton would have been more appropriate.

With tens of thousands of gong recipients over the years it is hard to critically assess them all, but the first division recipients of the prestigious AC titles still only number a couple of hundred. The most dubious AC recipient this year was undoubtedly Shane Stone, the lacklustre former Northern Territory chief minister who, after pioneering mandatory detention, went on to become the almost invisible President of the Liberal Party, famed for his “mean and tricky” memo of 2001.

The other six inductees into the AC club yesterday had all previously featured in the second division with an AO. Stone’s only previous honour was QC – but he appointed himself to that exalted position when in office.

Unlike the rest of the media, we’ve produced plenty on dodgy gongs over the years, so check our the lists and email [email protected] if you reckon any of the latest batch are deserving of some extra scrutiny.

Peter Fray

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