Abbot learns from Philip knightmare

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Published: Wednesday 28th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Australia’s prime minister has promised to consult more widely in future, following a storm of criticism over his decision to make the Duke of Edinburgh a knight.

Tony Abbott’s Australia Day announcement that Philip would be awarded the nation’s highest honour prompted questions over the wisdom of knighting a British royal on a day meant to commemorate their countrymen.

The most stinging criticism has come from within the conservative government’s ranks, with some MPs questioning Mr Abbott’s political judgment and whether he should retain the leadership of the nation.

Mr Abbott said today he had consulted only governor general Peter Cosgrove, who represents the Queen as Australia’s head of state, and Angus Houston, chairman of the Council of the Order of Australia, which replaced the British honours system in 1975.

“I stand by the decision. I understand why some people don’t like it,” Mr Abbott told reporters. “I do want to assure people that I have heard and there will be considerably more consultation around these awards in the future.”

The prime minister refused to say whether he regretted knighting Philip, 93, which he described as “contentious” and “a distraction” for his government.

Australian media, including conservatives, have largely condemned giving Philip an Australian award.

“It’s hard to imagine a way more likely to antagonise people,” an unnamed member of Mr Abbott’s Liberal Party told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

“This is the first time I’ve stopped defending Tony. I’ve had it with him. This is total craziness.”

The Order of Australia – the nation’s official honour system – first introduced categories for knights and dames in 1976 and awarded 14 people those honours until the categories were abolished a decade later. Mr Abbott reinstated them last year.

Mr Houston was the only other person made an Australian knight on Monday.

The former Australian Defence Force chief has overseen the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 off Australia’s west coast. He was also Australia’s special envoy to Ukraine leading efforts to recover, identify and repatriate Australians killed on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Published: Wednesday 28th January 2015 by The News Editor

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