A knight’s tale of meritocracy

“Knighthood lies above eternity; it doesn’t live off fame, but rather deeds.” — Dejan Stojanovic, The Sun Watches the Sun

Australian pride was on the line yesterday. A nation divided about the PM’s decision to reinstate Dame and Knights to Australia’s honours list.

Australia Day may well and truly come and gone, but the Republican debate for and against took centre stage across our airwaves. Was the PM trying to force us to become a nation of monarchists on the eve of the Royal visit by Will, Kate and baby George? Or is the esteemed title of Sir and Dame an ingenious way to boost the number of those we can credit for doing exceptional work?

quote-every-person-who-is-offered-a-knighthood-has-the-opportunity-to-say-yes-or-no-you-get-a-letter-derek-jacobi-92813I’d like to think it is the latter. For such a small nation, we have some great people doing great things. And though the PM has chosen the British titles Sir and Dame to reward tireless workers, if Republican wannabes can get past the “monarchist’ link … it just may be one of the best moves by government to swell national pride.

And as the ABC reported even the Liberals’ most prominent republican in Cabinet, Malcolm Turnbull, blogged that supporters of a republic shouldn’t lose too much sleep over the announcement given many countries that have knighthoods are not constitutional monarchies.

Nevertheless, the jokes, tweets and comments that abound made for great reading. Particularly Colin Wicking’s Tweet was ‘Tony Abbott leading us unto Dame nation. And our beloved Dame Edna Everage being depicted in a Tweet by Mike Nicholson saying: ‘Tony Abbott, you called?’

searchThere’s Nothing like an ‘Everage Aussie’ Dame and it would be hilarious should comedian, satirist, artist and author John Barry Humphries, already a recipient of an AO, also be knighted for his contribution to entertainment. Certainly he’d top most lists.

Of course the debate raging is more about the fact Abbott discussed the issue with only a handful of senior parliamentary figures. His “autocratic decision” ignored Cabinet or party room colleagues. When pushed for a response some Liberals remained ‘unsure’, others ‘nervous’ and ‘surprised’ by the announcement.

Certainly Labor was keen to come forward with their thoughts. Labor frontbencher Tony Burke made noises Labor would revoke the change if it took office. He told ABC News 24 program Capital Hill that Labor had never “been the party of knighthoods and round tables”.

Thankfully no politicians will be eligible.

Of course, Abbott did consult one person in a high place. On radio he said: “…it was my recommendation to the Queen which she graciously accepted.”

In the end you can’t deny that outgoing Governor-General Quentin Bryce deserves the title of becoming our first Dame [since former Labor PM Bob Hawke abolished it in 1983) along with her replacement, Peter Cosgrove, to be the first Knight under the revived system.

Judy Wilkinson is a freelance writer and blogger who in Catherine Tate’s words “not bovvered” about the raging debate on Knights and Dames being introduced to the Australian honours roll.