Knights watch

Ray Edmondson OAM writes: Re. “Crikey Clarifier: the knights (and dames) of the occasional table” (yesterday). You have to wonder what on earth is going on in Tony Abbott’s head. First he declares he would never reintroduce imperial titles to the Order of Australia (Sunday Telegraph, December 22, 2013). Then he does an about-face, and gets the Queen to authorise the creation of four new knights and dames every year. And it’s all his own work! He sends it all to the Queen without telling cabinet or his party room first. But here’s the most serious part: the titles are in the gift of the Prime Minister himself. He will consult with the Order of Australia Committee, but he doesn’t have to take their advice. In other words, these are political gongs: a move that is totally contrary to the spirit and structure of Australia’s awards system and can only detract from its stature, not add to it.

Australia properly instituted its own honours system in 1975, during the Whitlam era, and while Malcolm Fraser reintroduced knights and dames the following year, it proved a transitional phase. There were only 14 recipients before the Hawke government finally put the titles to rest in 1986. That’s where they should have stayed. The country has moved on, and we don’t need to look back over our shoulders at a system of privilege that our forbears shafted when people laughed out of court the attempt to establish a squattocracy in the 1800s.

Abbott claims that the reinstated gong would be for Australians of “extraordinary and pre-eminent achievement”. As assessed by Abbott himself, of course. Would you have confidence in our Prime Minister’s ability to make such an assessment? Who’ll be first on the list? Sir Alexander Downer, for achievements in East Timor? Sir Alan Jones, for achievements in freedom of speech? Dame Gina Rinehart, for achievements in making money?

Nevertheless, this latest action is consistent with the government’s increasingly secretive, non-accountable and authoritarian style. Its priority seems to be the unraveling of constructive achievements of the past, rather than building on them for the future.

Alison Cotes writes: If Mrs Cosgrove becomes Lady Cosgrove, as is customary for the wife of a knight, will Michael Bryce get a tag-along title too for being the husband of a dame?  If not, it looks like a case of gender discrimination. And will both Our Quentin and Our Peter get a sword tap on the shoulder, or is that reserved for boys only? And who will be wielding the aforementioned sword? Our Tony or Our (Their) Lilibet?

RDA protects the vulnerable

Eveline Goy writes: Re. “Government risks looking out of touch as it clumsily sells free speech” (yesterday). Yesterday morning on ABC24, the point was made that the problem for Andrew Bolt was that he had made false assertions in his articles concerning Aborigines.

I am quite angry when people just tell me that “everyone is entitled to have an opinion”.  To peddle untruths and make false claims and accusations is not to just “have an opinion”. Those who pretend that political politeness is a leash on free speech should remember that a person who is slandered, offended or humiliated has no redress, and if the claims made are false, only a court case can provide an answer. Justice in the courts is usually beyond the reach of a person from a minority — i.e. most of those who need the protection of section 18C.

It was interesting to note that the IPA representative refused to acknowledged that Bolt had made up false claims, and spoke on top and louder about other issues when the point was repeated.

It is not the opinions that matter. Sometimes, out there, the truth matters.

A knighthood for Rundle

Gary Lucas writes: Re. “Rundle: don’t overthink Russia, we’re all Transnistrians now” (Tuesday). If only they’d let you run Afghanistan and Iraq. And throw in Syria, a country that admitted tens of thousands of Iraqis for sanctuary. I’m confident you would have done a far better job than Wolfo-twitz and his pseudo-neo Nazis.

Are you expecting to be nominated Sir Guy?

Peter Fray

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