By Robert Macklin
There’s nothing quite like the temptations of an honours list to reveal the
real man lurking inside the prime ministerial breast. It’s the classic occasion for
the ‘captain’s pick’ and at least three examples leap to mind.
Soon after I wrote his authorized biography in 2008, Kevin Rudd decided
the time had come for Simpson (though not his Donkey) to receive the Victoria
Cross, albeit almost a century after his heroics at Gallipoli.
Kevin desperately wanted to honour soldiers who put their lives on the
line to help others, but at the time the Army brass wouldn’t wear it. They
preferred the shoot ‘em up boys. However, Kevin did get his way soon
afterwards with Corporal Mark Donaldson VC who his citation says, ‘exposed
himself to enemy fire to protect injured troops then rescued an [Afghan]
interpreter under heavy enemy fire in the Battle of Khaz’.
In 2015 PM Tony Abbott demanded an Australia Day knighthood to the
Queen’s Consort, the Duke of Edinburgh. The same Duke not only denigrated
Canberra for being without a ‘soul’ but is remembered for asking an Aboriginal
attendee at a 2002 function, ‘Do you still throw spears at each other?’ Even the
media baron Rupert Murdoch weighed in: “Abbott knighthood a joke and
embarrassment,” he tweeted, “Time to scrap all honours everywhere,
Abbott, of course, was born in the UK and educated at Oxford, so his
dedication to British royals is understandable. Moreover, once freed of his
Australian electoral obligations he signed up as adviser to the British
Government’s Board of Trade ‘promoting free and fair trade and advising on
UK trade policy to the international Trade Secretary’.
Now we have PM Scott Morrison with his promotion of Margaret Court
from Officer of the Order of Australia ‘for her services to tennis, as a mentor
and to the community’ to the rare Companion of the Order. This is reserved
‘for eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to
Australia or humanity at large.’
So what, we may ask, has she done between 2007 and 2021 to deserve
such a grandiloquent gesture from Scotty, aside from publicly pursuing the
strictures of his fellow Pentecostal beliefs. According to Victorian Premier,
Dan Andrews, not much: ‘I don’t want to give this person’s disgraceful, bigoted
views any oxygen. But when others insist on rewarding them with this country's
highest honour – I think it's worth saying again: Grand Slam wins don't give
you some right to spew hatred and create division. Nothing does.’
Canberra doctor Clara Tuck Meng Soo was similarly outraged and
returned her own Order of Australia Medal since the Court award ‘is condoning
if not supporting the very negative and hurtful statements she has made about
the LGBTIQ community over the past few years.’
Margaret Court responded, ‘I’m not going to change my opinions and
views. And I think it’s very important for freedom of speech that we can say our
Well, that seems fair. But in so saying she seems to be confirming that the
promotion really is for the Pentecostal views that so motivate the Israel Folaus
and Scott Morrisons of the world, to say nothing of that American evangelical
base that so thrilled to the presidency of Donald Trump.
It was Paul Keating who said, ‘When you change Prime Ministers you
change the country’. But it only works if somehow the PM is in tune with the
zeitgeist of the time. Otherwise, it’s probably better just to change the PM.
email@example.com Robert Macklin was born in Queensland and educated at University of Queensland and the Australian National University. He has worked as a journalist at the COURIER-MAIL, THE AGE and THE BULLETIN, and was associate editor of the CANBERRA TIMES until 2003.
Robert is the author of 29 books, including CASTAWAY, DARK PARADISE, HAMILTON HUME and four works focusing on the SAS and Australia's Special Forces: SAS SNIPER, REDBACK ONE, SAS INSIDER and WARRIOR ELITE. He lives in Canberra and Tuross Head