Australia PM Abbott 'to consult more' after Philip knighthood

Prince Philip, London, 2014 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The knighthood is the latest addition to Prince Philip's many titles and honours

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he will consult more widely before announcing knights and dames, after criticism of his knighthood for Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Commentators say Mr Abbott's choice was out of step with public attitudes and raised doubts about his judgement.

Mr Abbott re-introduced knighthood and damehood honours last year, nearly 20 years after they had been discontinued.

Australia, a parliamentary democracy, has Britain's monarch as head of state.

The prime minister's decision to grant a knighthood to the Prince - announced on Australia Day on Monday - has been described by the press as a "captain's call", which failed to take into account the opinion of party colleagues.

The leader of the opposition Labor party, Bill Shorten, said the decision to honour a British royal was "anachronistic". He has called for Australians to rally behind declaring their country a republic.

Australia's honours system

  • Australia began awarding its own honours in 1975 - the awards eventually replaced the existing British honours system.
  • Anyone can nominate an Australian citizen for an award for service, excellence or achievement.
  • The awarding of knighthoods and damehoods was discontinued in 1976 but brought back very briefly in 1986 - Tony Abbott reinstated them in 2014.
  • Only Queen Elizabeth II can appoint Australian knights and dames, on the recommendation of the prime minister.
  • Republicans say the honours system is an outdated remnant of colonialism.

At a conference on Wednesday, Mr Abbott defended his choice but also said he had listened to the criticism.

"I understand why some people don't like it," he said. "I take it on the chin but I want to assure people that I have heard and there will be more consultation around these awards in the future."

Mr Abbott had praised the Prince's work as a campaigner, highlighting the achievements in Australia of his youth charity, the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Queen Elizabeth II, Australia's head of state, signed off her husband's knighthood

Many politicians - including some from Mr Abbott's party - said they were bewildered by the award.

Queensland Premier and Mr Abbott's conservative colleague, Campbell Newman, has described the knighthood as a "bolt from the blue".

Mr Newman goes to the polls on Saturday for the state's general election. Mr Abbott's widespread unpopularity is considered to be a drawback for the campaign.

The prime minister, who has not appeared in Queensland during the campaign, did not answer a journalist's question about whether he owed Mr Newman an apology, saying only that his federal government had done much that had benefitted Queenslanders.

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