Tony Abbott has defended his captain’s pick of Prince Philip for Australia Day honours against the “electronic graffiti” of social media, but print publications around the world have joined in the fun.

The Diplomat in Japan suggested this was yet another gaffe by a gaffe-prone PM. Its piece was headed “Good Knight, Mr. Abbott?” and sub-headed “In another misstep, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott knights Prince Philip”.

It went on:

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“After his government’s cuts to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Special Broadcasting Service, Abbott has essentially put the nation’s satirists out of work. Even John Oliver, a Brit, would have a hard time making the Australian prime minister appear any more ridiculous than he does on his own steam. Right now it is about all he seems to be doing well.”

The Independent in Ireland headed its story, “Australia’s PM Tony Abbott defends ‘joke’ decision to award Prince Philip Australian knighthood”.

Another Irish newspaper, The Times, was amused by Abbott’s approvals:

“The only person Prime Minister Tony Abbott consulted before awarding an Australian knighthood to Prince Philip was former defence force chief Angus Houston — who was also knighted. And the only person Mr Abbott consulted about knighting Mr Houston was Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, who was knighted last year.”

Germany’s Bluewin seemed also amused: “Prinz Philip ist jetzt auch ein Ritter” — Prince Philip is now a Knight. It continued:

“As the British Prince Philip collected the nation’s knighthood, Australia’s conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott collected the nation’s ridicule.”

Other German reports highlighted “Ein Premierminister in der ‘Zeitschleife'” — A prime minister in a time warp.

Switzerland’s Neue Zuercher Zeitung headed its story, “Tony Abbott’s Griff in die Mottenkiste”, which translates as “Tony Abbott’s grip in the mothballs”.

The pun is clarified later:

“Abbott brought the knighthood tradition out of mothballs last year, earning him criticism for being a royalist.”

In Holland, the Elsevier reported that “ministers in the Australian government are surprised, angry and disappointed — verrast, boos en teleurgesteld — at the decision by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to appoint Britain’s Prince Philip a knight”.

The Guardian in Britain emphasised the “anger and derision among colleagues” Abbott has copped. It added “conservative columnists and supporters have joined a chorus of scorn”.

The Telegraph highlighted possible political fallout:

“The move to honour Prince Philip has been widely ridiculed and has fuelled speculation about Mr Abbott’s future as leader of the ruling conservative coalition.”

Britain’s Mail Online focused on Rupert Murdoch’s leading role. It detailed the media mogul’s original fulsome support for Tony Abbott, his recent criticisms of the PM, his current courtship with Julie Bishop and his latest opinions on knighthoods, leadership and top political adviser Peta Credlin.

Coverage in France reflects bemusement at the whole archaic royalty business. Outlets reported at length the derision, scorn and les sarcasmes de beaucoup generated.

Le Petit Journal claims this controversy will allow Australian republicans to revive the debate about modernising the country, “starting with abolishing ties with British royalty”.

Indonesian and Malaysian outlets relished the Australian PM’s embarrassment.

“Australian PM Faces Backlash Over Royal ‘Knightmare’”, led The Jakarta Globe. Both it and Kompas emphasised the ridicule from Abbott’s colleagues, who called the decision “keliru dan bodoh” — wrong and stupid.

Reports in south-east Asia also used headlines with “Australia PM in time warp”.

The Straits Times ascribes the “time warp” expression to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, to whom it attributes also: “I wasn’t quite sure it was serious until I realised it was.”

The conservative New Zealand Herald played it straight with support for the embattled PM across the strait. Its sympathetic piece was headed “Australian PM Tony Abbott promises wider consultation over future knighthoods”. It insisted “he weathered an avalanche of criticism over his decision to make Prince Philip an Australian knight”.

But then it ran a delightfully disrespectful cartoon:


The story has also been covered in Denmark, Pakistan, the USA and elsewhere.

This follows great hilarity over Abbott’s inept performances in Davos in January last year and the recent viral John Oliver video. An earlier story that generated an extraordinary response worldwide also involved Tony Abbott: the famous misogyny speech by Julia Gillard in 2012.


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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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