Gadfly 154

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,

including UK.”

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

beliefs.’

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.


robert@robertmacklin.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


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