Turnbull ends Abbott’s knights and dames

Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement that having knights and dames was ‘not appropriate’ in Australia’s modern honours system. AAP/Rob Blakers

The Turnbull government has scrapped Tony Abbott’s controversial knights and dames awards, which caused massive political problems for the former prime minister.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Monday that the Queen had agreed to the government’s recommendation to remove knights and dames from the Order of Australia.

When Abbott in 2014 announced that the awards would be reinstated – a “captain’s pick” decision – it was widely ridiculed as a foolish and inappropriate throwback to another era.

But far more damaging was his decision announced on Australia Day this year to make Prince Philip a knight. This contributed to the backbench anger that led to the unsuccessful spill motion against him in February. Abbott subsequently decided he would no longer pick the recipients, giving the task to the Council for the Order of Australia.

Abbott said the award was for people of “extraordinary and pre-eminent achievement and merit” and would go to up to four recipients per year.

Turnbull said the cabinet had recently agreed “that knights and dames are not appropriate in our modern honours system”.

The changes will not affect those already given the awards – Sir Peter Cosgrove, Dame Quentin Bryce, Dame Marie Bashir and Sir Angus Houston, as well, of course, as Prince Philip.