New Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Monday that knights and dames would no longer form part of the nation’s honors system.
“Awards in the Order of Australia are an important way of [honoring] the achievements and service of many Australians, including the unsung heroes who might not otherwise be [recognized] outside their local communities,” the statement read. “The Cabinet recently considered the Order of Australia, in this its 40th year, and agreed that Knights and Dames are not appropriate in our modern [honors] system.”
Queen Elizabeth signed off on the decision, Turnbull said.
The decision comes only a year and a half after former Prime Minister Tony Abbott — whom Turnbull replaced as head of the right-wing Liberal Party after an internal ouster in September — reinstated the peerage system, with the approval of the Queen and to the ridicule of many Australians. Australia, like a number of erstwhile British colonies, belongs to the Commonwealth of Nations, whose 53 member states are politically autonomous but hold the British monarch as their figurehead. Controversially, Abbott decided earlier this year to bestow a knighthood upon Queen Elizabeth’s husband Prince Philip, who in 2002 sparked outrage when he asked an indigenous Australian if his people “still throw spears at each other.”
Turnbull, seen by many as a relative progressive within his party, has long been an outspoken critic of the Crown’s sovereignty over the Pacific nation. His political résumé includes the chairmanship of the Australian Republican Movement, which intends to sever Australia’s ties to the monarchy in favor of a constitutional republic. In recent years, he has expressed uncertainty that significant political change would come before Queen Elizabeth’s death, but in an interview shortly after his appointment as Prime Minister he said that the matter of “dump[ing] dames and knights” would “be considered by the Cabinet in due course.”