from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
In another one of his twisted brain storms the Prime Minister Abbott decided to restore the honour titles, abolished by PM Hawke. Now everybody can again aspire to became, at the grace of our most merciful, fair and incorruptible Government, a Knight or a Dame, or possibly both. Whether this was the outcome of too many royal sherries, too much of “Downtown Abbey” or “Yes, Prime Minister”, we will probably never know. But a sensible decision it ain’t. One has to wonder with whom he associates in his quality time; it would be unlikely his rural fire-fighting mates or surf life savers.
A brief history of the Commonwealth/Federal awards system for our overseas readers: Until socialist Whitlam got to power in 1972, Australia’s worthies were recipients of the British honours, upon the advice of the Australian government, of course. Whitlam abolished that (i.e. giving recommendations) in 1975 and established the Order of Australia awards. The semi-conservative Government of Malcolm Fraser (himself a crypto-socialist) did not go back to the Imperial system; though it could still advise the Queen to add the titles to the highest class of AO. If she liked the advice you could then be the Knight (Dame) of the Order of Australia. As the electoral pendulum swung, and the socialist Australia Labor Party ruled the roost for a while, in 1983 under PM Hawke ceased making such recommendations and thus got rid of those AK and AD aggrandizations.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II can still bestow Imperial honours of her own volition, without any recommendation from politicians, if it pleases her. Think of it. You could be a Knight (Dame) of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, established 1348, the motto of which is Honi Soit Qui Mal y Pense (Shame on him who thinks evil upon it). Three Australians have been admitted to this one, but it is perhaps needless to say I would hardly qualify.
In the last decade of the last century, the State governments, mostly, but not exclusively Labor, abolished the title Queen’s Counsel for distinguished barristers, and replaced it with a Senior Counsel. Perhaps they overestimated the strength of the republican sentiment. Only Northern Territory kept its QCs. Last year the Queensland Liberal National Government reversed that; and last month the Liberal Victorian government followed the suit. I am all for traditions but not so much for archaic pomposity designed to impress plebs, and this reminds me of the debates sometime ago about barristers’ wigs. In the times long past, all gentlemen wore wigs; and all barristers were gentlemen, who represented people in the courts. It was beneath their dignity to accept any remuneration for their efforts. Times have changed for the worse; now a wig is a way of showing hoi polloi its wearer can read and write; and is ready to charge. Made out of horsehair, costing about $1000, they perform a duty similar to the original – covering an arse-hole, as the unkind jibe has it.
This back to the ‘good old times’ trend makes me uneasy. The parties of moderate Right, Liberals and Nationals, and the conservative commentators, accuse, rightly, the Labor as a party of seeming, not doing; but the LibNats are revealing themselves as parties of seeming, not being.
Is perhaps Tony Abbott trying to hide his, totally unnecessary political compromises under a wig of ‘retro’ announcements? Is he wearing his deep insecurity on his sleeve as a medial camouflage or is he, as I suspect, deeply insecure? Is he trying to welsh on his conservative voters?
Symbolic changes will not do. At the ballot box not knights, but pawns will decide.