Restoring trust in Australia’s honours awards may be a lost cause

Is it doable to rehabilitate the Order of Australia awards? Or ought to they be put out of their distress, written off as one other Coalition monument to political cronyism — simply because the Albanese authorities has completed with the as soon as unbiased and revered Administrative Appeals Tribunal?

This week, a brand new batch of 1000 or so honours awards will subject forth from the governor-general’s workplace on Australia Day.

In years passed by, as Crikey has reported, senior honours had been handed to mates of the Coalition authorities at a dizzying charge. Our trawl via the awards made to politicians within the Australia Day and Queen’s birthday honours of 2019 and 2020 confirmed that out of a complete of 62 honours 42 went to Liberal or Nationwide occasion figures whereas 20 went to ALP and independents. 

This implies two-thirds of all gongs went to conservative parliamentarians.

There was a big distinction within the distribution, too. In essentially the most prestigious classes, the AC and the AO, Liberal and Nationwide occasion grandees acquired 14 of 18 awards.

Awards went to former Liberal/LNP/Nationwide premiers Ted Baillieu, Denis Napthine, Campbell Newman, Barry O’Farrell and Mike Baird. The backroom operative Tony Nutt, barely identified exterior Liberal HQ, picked up an award. So did Bronwyn “helicopter” Bishop, the partisan speaker of the Home of Representatives.

On the ALP aspect, the previous ALP figure-turned-Murdoch-media-favourite Graham “no matter it takes” Richardson was honoured for his excessive service to the nation.

Let’s not overlook 2021 when former tennis champion turned Pentecostal pastor Margaret Courtroom acquired an award improve beneath the reign of Scott Morrison. Morrison later journeyed to Courtroom’s Victory Life church in Perth for the official opening of its prayer tower and to ship a sermon during which he promoted the function of God over authorities.

Talking of which, there have been the Tony Abbott-George Pell-inspired awards of 2016 which noticed the second-highest honour, the AO (Officer of the Order of Australia), go to The Australian’s Greg “I cherished George Pell” Sheridan for his “distinguished service to print media as a journalist and political commentator on overseas affairs and nationwide safety, and to Australia’s bilateral relationships”.

Catholic ethicist Dr Bernadette Tobin, a outstanding voluntary assisted dying opponent, acquired the identical excessive honour in 2016, in her case for “distinguished service to schooling and philosophy, to the event of bioethics in Australia as a tutorial, and as a pacesetter of a variety of public well being advisory and analysis councils”.  It’s maybe solely tangentially related that Tobin is the daughter of right-wing Catholic royalty BA Santamaria, and nice mates with the late cardinal. In search of a standard hyperlink right here? 

Abbott, one other nice Pell man, had solely just lately departed the prime ministership, and given the lengthy lead time on an Australia honour it’s certainly not past the realms of risk that his mitts had been everywhere in the appointments.

After all all of this was rendered fairly unremarkable within the shadow of the best howitzer of all: Abbott’s determination in 2015 to award an Order of Australia knighthood to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight of the Most Historic and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Member of the Order of Advantage, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order upon whom had been conferred the Royal Victorian Chain and Sovereign of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.

What to do with this legacy of cronyism, favouritism and left-field lunacy?

There’s now a brand new breed and a brand new broom on the awards. In October Prime Minister Anthony Albanese introduced 4 appointments to take over the equipment of the Australian honours. 

The brand new chair of the Council for the Order Australia is Shelley Reys (AO), a Djirribul lady of Far North Queensland. Reys was the inaugural co-chair of Reconciliation Australia, the place she had a major function within the Rudd authorities’s official apology to the Stolen Generations. Her lengthy profession in reconciliation bristles with governance credentials, as Albanese’s announcement was eager to focus on — together with the truth that she was the primary lady and First Nations lady to be appointed chair of the council.  

There’s enormous symbolism in her appointment of Reys, taking up from Liberal Celebration stalwart Shane Stone.

Albanese additionally made three appointments to the seven-person advisory council, meant to signify the neighborhood. All appointments are strategic in their very own manner.  

Annie Butler, a registered nurse, is federal secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Australia’s greatest union, with greater than 300,000 members, and is a formidable campaigning power. 

Cathy McGowan was the unbiased federal member for Indi who — legendarily — ousted the Liberal’s Sophie Mirabella and within the course of set the template for the success of different neighborhood independents, notably the teal candidates who swept apart Liberal MPs and ministers finally yr’s election. McGowan’s sister Ruth has been a driving power of Honour A Lady, which lobbied arduous to repair the gender disparity which has been ingrained within the awards.

Professor Samina Yasmeen AM is a tutorial from the College of Western Australia and director and founding father of its centre for Muslim states and societies.

This week Reys wrote an opinion piece in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, which was a rallying cry for extra variety in nominations as the best way to alter who truly receives an award. This was doubtless additionally to be a spoiler alert to forestall any disappointment at this week’s awards. The method of nominating somebody for an award and doing the required verify takes round two years.

Reys’ pre-announcement announcement targeted too on slaying the parable that the honours go to the well-known on the expense of the little one who toils away unacknowledged for years.

However she didn’t point out the years of absurd and overt political cronyism which has made a mockery of the awards — what we would name AAT syndrome, the place an establishment is so leached of integrity that it not has our belief.

It is usually arduous to take a system critically when it professes to be powerless to take away honours given to Pell after royal fee findings on his data of kid abuse and his failure to take correct steps to behave on complaints about harmful clergymen. Or that it was powerless to take away the very best honours within the land from former Excessive Courtroom justice Dyson Heydon, after he was discovered to have sexually harassed junior courtroom employees. Heydon quietly relinquished his honour in October, with out public clarification, across the time of Albanese’s appointments.

The system additionally operates in close to whole secrecy. The governor-general’s workplace by no means feedback on particular awards and the processes are exempt from freedom of knowledge legal guidelines.

Relatively than try to renew, reshape, rebrand and relaunch the honours, possibly it’s time to begin another time. 

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