Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott spent Monday morning mired in controversy after his office kicked off Australia Day celebrations by making Britain’s Prince Philip a Knight of the Order of Australia.
Australians have long been acquainted with the 93-year-old royal, who is notorious for uttering headline-worthy gaffes. During a trip to the Lucky Country in 2002, the Duke of Edinburgh, as he is officially titled, asked an Aboriginal man: “Do you still throw spears at each other?”
Nevertheless, Abbott praised Prince Philip’s “long life of service” during a flag-raising ceremony in the Australian capital, Canberra, on Monday morning.
“This honor recognizes the contribution of the Duke of Edinburgh to Australia throughout the Queen’s 62-year reign,” read a statement released by Abbott’s office. “For three quarters of a century, Prince Philip has served the Crown, and the wider Commonwealth.”
Following the announcement, Australians took to social media to slam the decision to give the nation’s top honor to the Prince rather than an Australian.
Abbott attempted to defend the decision during an Australia Day function in Canberra.
“Social media is kind of like electronic graffiti and I think that in the media, you make a big mistake to pay too much attention to social media,” he told reporters, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.