Online, Tony Abbott’s decision has been treated with a large dollop of incredulity. It has been likened to an April Fool’s Day prank.
Just in case you were unaware, today is Australia Day – one day in the calendar when Australians gather round the barbecue to celebrate their “Aussieness”. It’s come as something of a surprise then to discover that the Prime Minister Tony Abbott has awarded the country’s highest honour – a knighthood no less – to Prince Philip. It may also be surprising to some that Australia offers knighthoods to anyone at all.
Yes, Tony Abbott has offered Australia’s highest honour to a British royal. “Prince Philip has been a great servant of Australia,” said the prime minister. “Here in this country, he’s the patron of hundreds of organisations.”
However, the announcement has been greeted with something approximating a national revolt. The leader of the opposition Bill Shorten said he was “surprised” by the news. “It’s a time warp where we’re giving knighthoods to English royalty,” he told Fairfax Radio. “On Australia Day, we’re talking about Australia, Australian identity. The government’s managed to find a British royal to give a medal to…”
Several members of the prime minister’s own party also complained. “For the life of me, I can’t understand why,” said Queensland MP Warren Entsch.
The Chief Minister of Australia’s Northern Territory, Adam Giles, likened the announcement to an April Fool’s Day prank. “I woke up this morning and read the wires and was confused between Australia Day and April Fool’s Day,” said Mr Giles. “It’s Australia day, we are not a bunch of tossers, let’s get it right.”
Online, Mr Abbott’s decision has been treated with a large dollop of incredulity. “Oh fantastic. Nothing says ‘Australia Day’ like appointing a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg, whose primary achievement in life appears to be marrying his third-cousin, as a knight of the order of Australia. Way to go Tony,” said one reader on the Australian newspaper’s website.
Some of Prince Philip’s gaffes were also recycled online. In particular, critics referred to a royal visit to Australia in 2002 when the Queen’s consort asked an Aboriginal man: “Do you still throw spears at each other?”
Congratulations Prince Phillip. To answer your question I don’t think they throw spears at each other.
— Stavro (@stavrosben) January 26, 2015
You can see a selection of other comments here….
Giving a Knighthood to Prince Philip is like giving a Beyoncé CD to Jay-Z. Surely he could just pick one up at home.
— Adam Hills (@adamhillscomedy) January 25, 2015
Bloody republican lefties leave Prince Philip alone. He has done heaps for Australia. He let us put a picture of his wife on our money…
— Wil Anderson (@Wil_Anderson) January 25, 2015
Knighting Prince Philip is like awarding an honorary Bachelor of Arts to a Nobel Laureate
— Julian Burnside (@JulianBurnside) January 25, 2015
EXCLUSIVE PIC: First reactions from Buckingham Palace to exciting news about Prince Philip’s Australian knighthood… pic.twitter.com/rwHiIYiRDl
— Rohan Connolly (@rohan_connolly) January 25, 2015
The Australian prime minister, who attended a ceremony for new Australian citizens in the capital Canberra today, dismissed the criticism as “electronic graffiti”, saying: “I’ll leave social media to its own devices. Social media is kind of like electronic graffiti and I think that in the media, you make a big mistake to pay too much attention. You wouldn’t report what’s sprayed up on the walls of buildings.”
There was one another recipient of a knighthood today. The man now leading the search for the missing Malaysian airliner MH370, retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, now becomes “Sir Angus”, although he seemed reluctant today to deploy the new title. “’I am still Angus Houston,” he told ABC radio.
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