Professor David Flint – the convenor of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM) – is on the march again and as usual he’s on his way back to yesterday.

Professor Flint is all for bringing back formalities. Picture: Bob Finlayson. 

He’s worked himself into right royal frenzy over the fact that the government New Zealand has restored titles – “sir” and “dame” – to its honours list and seems peeved that Kevin Rudd won’t follow suit.

Flint would know titles were expunged from the Australian honours system in 1986 – with the approval of the Queen.

That arch monarchist John Howard didn’t move to have them restored so it’s highly unlikely Rudd would bother.

Under the old system a lot of politicians got them but by the same token so did many deserving Australians – Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Dame Phyllis frost, Sir Ian Potter, Sir Macfarlane Burnett to name a few.

However it’s worthwhile sharing with readers an anecdote which puts a few things concerning the bestowing of titles for politicians into perspective.

The late Senator Nancy Buttfield, a Liberal from South Australia and an old friend when made a Dame of the British Empire told me how it came about.

The then Prime Minister, Billy McMahon (he hadn’t given himself his own knighthood then) called Nancy and told her he’s put up her name in the next honours list.

He went on: “I was going to do it earlier but Sir John Cramer (a founder of the Liberal party) called in a favour and wanted a higher order of the knighthood he already had…

“I wasn’t going to do that so I made his wife Mary a dame which was the one I had reserved for you.”

That puts the whole question into perspective. If New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and other Commonwealth countries want to elevate their citizens to dizzy heights well, let them.

In egalitarian Australia where we have an excellent system for acknowledging distinguished citizens and which is out of the hands of the prime minister of the day we are in front and we are winning.

Granting titles in Australia in the 21st Century would be a mockery – just as is retaining a foreign monarchy.

We have done well removing one; it’s time we removed the other shackles and become our own nation.

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    • iansand says:

      06:06am | 07/01/10

      Imagine what our beloved leaders would do with an honours system?  They would make the Labour Party look like amateurs.

    • jeff says:

      07:10am | 07/01/10

      What about Dame Edna?

    • pete says:

      07:27am | 07/01/10

      why do these snobby little colonialists get all worked up over titles.  I visited the UK a few years ago and the comonly held view there was that titles were a farce and could be “purchased” in return for favours to political parties, and were nothing to write home about.  If the professor wants to be part of a society that is “class” based, go and find a country that actively proactices that and live there.

      While we are on about Dame Edna, bravo, at least he/she takes the mickey out of the whole house of cards

    • Dave C says:

      07:44am | 07/01/10

      The usual anti royal republican garbage that gets trotted out every time Barry Everingham writes an article for this website. Yawn…...........................

    • Andrew Lewis says:

      08:40am | 07/01/10

      Repeat after me:

      Australia is an independent nation
      Australia is an independent nation
      Australia is an independent nation

    • John A Neve says:

      09:11am | 07/01/10

      Andrew Lewis says @0940hrs,

      “Australia is an independent nation”. B***S***, we are an appendage on America’s backside. Prior to that, we were stappled to Britains coat-tails.

      Try looking up “independent” Andrew.

    • Kym Durance says:

      09:16am | 07/01/10

      Dave C needs a hug - asserting that Royal honours are some what anachronistic and of little real value is neither anti royalist nor necessarily pro republican - and it certainly is not garbage.

      The only other comment I would make is that there is nothing to say that our own system of handing out gongs is any less arbitrary or open to rorts as was the old one -

    • Glenn says:

      09:53am | 07/01/10

      Dame David just doesn’t sound right….....

    • iansand says:

      10:02am | 07/01/10

      Maybe if we gave a special knighthood to Mr Flint he would wander off in a fog of self important pomposity, never to be heard from again.  It is worth a shot.

    • Andrew Lewis says:

      10:04am | 07/01/10

      According to John Neve, being independent means ensuring your actions in no way coincide with any other nations.

    • nic says:

      10:29am | 07/01/10

      Is Barry Everingham a creation of Barry Humphries? From the photo it certainly looks like he is, and with his hackneyed single topic of focus, ad nauseum, the evidence is mounting.

    • John A Neve says:

      10:45am | 07/01/10

      Andrew Lewis says @1104hrs,

      That is not what I said at all Andrew, maybe that’s what you think?
      I suggest, once again, you look up “independent” you obviously have no idea what it means.

    • John says:

      11:45am | 07/01/10

      Knighthoods should be restored - it is the only way to suitably honour Shane Keith Warne.

    • Andrew Lewis says:

      11:55am | 07/01/10

      John A Neve

      No, it just means I don’t agree with your definition.

    • Roy McKeen says:

      12:04pm | 07/01/10

      In that superb piece of TV drama, ‘John Adams’ currently showing on SBSTV there was a memorable moment where Adams was musing about what to call the first US president. After pondering a number of grand sounding titles Adams got his put-down from the tall, imposing figure of George Washington who looked down at Adams and said “Just call me Mr. President.” Clause 9 of section 8 of the Constitution of the United States says ‘No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.’
      That is what a real republic is all about. Some day Australia will get there. The Unites States has beaten us by 233 years but if we, the people of Australia (to coin a phrase!), show the same spirit as the Australian cricket team in the test against Pakistan at the SCG who is going to stop us? Bravo Barry Everingham for flying the flag for the spirit of freedom and democracy!

    • John A Neve says:

      12:08pm | 07/01/10

      Andrew Lewis @ 1255hrs,

      I have not given a definition!! So how can you not agree with it?
      Please tell, how do you define “independent”?

    • Razor says:

      12:15pm | 07/01/10

      Kym @ 10:16am

      Having had some invovlement in the Honours and Awards system I would like to defend the integrity of the system.  I have put up a number of what I considered to be deserving applications that failed.  I cannot recall any Honours or Awards in the last ten to fifteen years that hasn’t been well deserved.

      If you have any evidence to the contrary please present it.

      The anecdote about the bad old days of Imperial Honours and awards is just that - the bad old days.

      I doubt that Honorifics will make a come back.

      I have yet to see a reasoned response to the questions of:

      1.  What influence do the Monarch and Govenors General have in the operation of our governance beyond ceromonial?

      2.  How much will Australia gain from becoming a Republic and how much will it cost do so? (ie. what is the cost-benefit?)

      If anyone can show me that the Monarchy has any influence what so ever and that there will be a measurable net benefit from becoming a Republic, then I will support it.

    • Simmo says:

      12:44pm | 07/01/10

      I reckon give it another 10 or so years when all the ex-pat poms living here are either 6 feet under or too old to know how to vote and we might have a chance at becoming a republic. Until people who still think of the “Mother Cournty” first and Australia second are out of the picture we will stay as we are until who knows when…

    • Ned says:

      01:43pm | 07/01/10

      I don’t know Glenn, ‘Dame David’ has a certain ring to it and maybe if we do make him a Dame he will disappear up his own fundamental and we will all be well rid of him.

    • Ranto says:

      02:14pm | 07/01/10

      John A Neve - I’ll wager if Andrew Lewis bothers to look up the definition of “independent” his argument will not change and why should it?  You on the other hand seem rather unsure of the definition yourself.

    • John A Neve says:

      02:37pm | 07/01/10

      Ranto @1514hrs,

      Quiet the opposite, I know what “independent” means, that is why I ask for Andrews definition.

    • Andrew Lewis says:

      03:15pm | 07/01/10

      Leaders of other countries don’t create Australian Legislation.

      Australians cannot appeal to a court in another country.

      Considering the history of our nation with relation to the United Kingdom, I assume the writer of the article meant independent as in “a nation on it’s own, with no legal or parliamentary ties to another country”.

      The head of state in Australia is the Governor-General, whose power is derived from the Constitution of Australia, not from the British Crown. Our monarch is the Queen of Australia, and she required an act of Parliament in 1954 just to do something as trivial as preside at a Executive Council meeting! She (correctly) didn’t try to act during the constitutional crisis of 1975, and has no more ability to affect Australian legal matters than Lily Allen.

      Australia is independent. If you want to argue that because Australia’s elected representatives decide to act in a similar fashion as other elected representatives from other nations Australia is not indepenent, then go on. I won’t be agreeing with you.

    • John A Neve says:

      04:54pm | 07/01/10

      Andrew Lewis @ 1615hrs,

      Firstly I think it dangerous to “assume the writer” meant anything, but you go ahead.

      As to “independent”; not depending on another person (country), or unwilling to be under an obligation to others, or not depending on something (country) for it’s validity.

      I could go on but these three stuff your opinion Andrew, don’t they?

    • marley says:

      09:01pm | 07/01/10

      John Neve - Err, no.  The “independent” you describe would better be called an “outcast” in this modern, interconnected, global world.

      All countries depend, to some extent or the other, on another country - even the mighty US needs Canada to help it out with air defence through NORAD.  And every country in the EU is not only dependent on other EU members, but so intertwined with them as regards responsibilities and obligations, that none of them could possibly be called independent by your definition.  Yet I wouldn’t actually want to tell a Frenchman or a German or an Italian to his face that his country wasn’t “independent.”  Would you?

      How about the fact that we, like many other countries, have signed on to international treaties and conventions - the Vienna Conventions on diplomatic and consular relations, the Geneva Conventions, the UN Convention on Refugees?  We have obligations which often supercede national interest under all of these conventions.  Does this mean we are not independent? If so, then neither are the US or Russia or about 200 other countries.

      About the only country I can think of which meets your definition would be North Korea.  Not an ideal role model for Aus, I wouldn’t have thought.

    • John A Neve says:

      06:47am | 08/01/10

      Marley @ 1001hrs on 7/1/10,

      I agree totally with your comments. You are right there is no way this country is “independent”.

      What we are looking at is the first steps towards a world government. Countries in the future will be like councils today. If only Andrew and others could see that.

    • Andrew Lewis says:

      07:55am | 08/01/10

      A world government? Huh?

      Maybe if every other nation in the world was as democratic as Australia. And if you argue Australia isn’t democratic but some of these African, South American or Asian (or for that matter European) countries are, then that is the evidence you guys are bat-sh*t insane. Australia is the most democratic country in the world. If you don’t like your options on polling day, then do something about it - there’s nothing stopping you.

      The UN is a failure because so many people are represented by people they didn’t elect in fair and open elections. This is why what is happening in Iran needs our support, and needs to succeed. Iran is the way it needs to happen, not Iraq or Afghanistan. The people will own it.

      You can argue the definition of “independent” until we’re all blue in the face, but the only result will be that the word will lose all meaning, and eventually all words will lose all their meaning. We’re not part of Great Britain. We’re not the 51st state of the United States of Freedom/Capitalism/America. We’re independent.

    • John A Neve says:

      08:50am | 08/01/10

      Andrew Lewis @0855hrs,

      You seem to have lost it old son! Just what does democracy have to do with independence? Try and keep to the topic there’s a good boy.

      But you are right in one facet, if people keep thinking like you, the word and meaning of “independent” will have been lost.

    • Andrew Lewis says:

      09:17am | 08/01/10

      You started talking about a world government as if it were an inevitability. I started talking about what I believe are the only circumstances under which a nation like Australia would submit to such an arrangement.

      I’ll also do you the courtesy of not talking down to you as if you were a child. One of us has to do it. But thanks for giving me the credit for “thinking”.

      John, we’re going to have to disagree. I believe independent to mean, in this context, organisationally and legally independent. As I stated at the end of the last post, we’re not part of another nation. We’re our own independent, sovereign nation. You disagree. OK.

    • marley says:

      03:08pm | 09/01/10

      Well, you know what - I’m Canadian.  If John Neve or anyone else tries to tell me Canada is not an independent country, we will have a serious falling out. 

      The whole point of being independent is having the ability to decide who will be your friends, and what obligations you wish to enter into.  Neither Canada nor Australia had a choice about entering WW1, because we were not independent;  we have had a choice, and have made our own decisions, about all subsequent conflicts.  And that, to me, is a bottom-line definition of independent.

    • John A Neve says:

      05:05pm | 10/01/10

      Marley @ 1608hrs on 9/1/10,

      Please tell what has changed in this country between 1914 and today?
      Parliamentary system, the same, GG appointed by the Queen/King, member of the commonwealth, legal system unchanged, have I missed something?

    • marley says:

      07:25pm | 10/01/10

      Have you missed something?  Yes, I rather think you have.  What is the final court of appeal these days - the Privy Council, or the High Court?  I rather think it’s the latter.  It wasn’t in 1914.  Who decides whether Australia will or will not commit its troops to a military action - the Australian parliament or the British?  I strongly suspect that it was one John Howard and not one Antony Blair who sent Aussie troops into Iraq. (Oh, and by the way, Canada, which has EXACTLY the same system, chose not to send troops - free choice by an independent country).  Not so in 1914.

      Unless I’m very much mistaken, the GG is appointed by the government of the day (the queen signs off, in her role as queen of Australia, but the British government sure as H*** doesn’t.  That’s why the GG is Quentin Bryce and not Willy of Wales.) 

      Legal system?  - well, actually, the Americans have pretty much the same legal system, and I sure wouldn’t call them anything less than independent. 

      So yes, I think you might have missed a thing or two.

    • John A Neve says:

      06:59am | 11/01/10

      Marley @ 0825hrs,

      Do you really think our PM would have gone against the wishes of Bair and
      Bush over Iraq?

      The GG is still appointed by the Queen/King, as to “Willy” being the next GG,
      don’t hold your breath.

      Regarding America’s legal sysytem being the same as ours!!! They are about as similar as a chocolate biscuit and a dog biscuit.

      No, I have not missed anything.

    • Andrew Lewis says:

      08:03am | 11/01/10

      The Governor-General is appointed by the Prime Minister.

      Saying the Governor-General is appointed by the Queen is like saying that law is created by the Governor-General.

      The Queen has no ability to do anything but endorse the PM’s choice.

    • John A Neve says:

      09:15am | 11/01/10

      Andrew Lewis @ 0903hrs,

      Good to see you are still alive Andrew.
      Do you really believe the GG is appointed by our PM?  Most legal opinion would disgree with you, but Ah, well.
      In case you don’t know it the Queen/King could reject our PM’s nominations.

      I note you dodged the other two points, but again, Ah well. Still thinking of some thing to counter with, just take your time.

    • Andrew Lewis says:

      09:54am | 11/01/10

      The belief that the PM of Australia can be browbeaten by leaders of other countries to do something does not constitute the lack of entrenched legal independence from other countries.

      While most republicans like to talk in terms of written, interpretable (if that is a word, if not I just created it) law, most on the other side of the argument prefer to talk in law as it is practised, that is, what actually happens, and what will continue to happen. In 21st century Australia, the person who appoints the Governor-General, as written in the Constitution of Australia, will never, ever, ever go against the expressed wishes of the Prime Minister. Therefore, in actuality, the Prime Minister appoints the Governor-General. We prefer to focus on what actually happens.

      I don’t disagree with your assessment of our legal system in comparison to America’s.

      Now would also be the right time to point out that there is nothing wrong with Australia’s current system of representative government. One constitutional crisis in 110 years - how many countries all over the developed (and developing) world would love that record.

      All an adoption of an Australian Republic would actually do would make some people feel somewhat better and somewhat more patriotic, with the cost being an expensive process that divides the country rather than unites it, spending money that could be much, much better spent on essential services.

      I posted on this topic on my blog in November:


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