Honours-list temptations bring out the ‘real man’

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“So what, we may ask, has Margaret Court done between 2007 and 2021 to deserve such a grandiloquent gesture from Scotty, aside from publicly pursuing the strictures of his fellow Pentecostal beliefs,” asks “The Gadfly” columnist ROBERT MACKLIN. 

THERE’S nothing quite like the temptations of an honours list to reveal the real man lurking inside the prime ministerial breast. 

Robert Macklin.

It’s the classic occasion for the “captain’s pick” and at least three examples leap to mind.

Soon after I wrote his authorised biography in 2008, Kevin Rudd decided the time had come for Simpson (though not his Donkey) to receive the Victoria Cross, albeit almost a century after his heroics at Gallipoli.

Kevin desperately wanted to honour soldiers who put their lives on the line to help others, but at the time the Army brass wouldn’t wear it. They preferred the shoot ‘em up boys. 

However, Kevin did get his way soon afterwards with Cpl Mark Donaldson VC who, his citation says, “exposed himself to enemy fire to protect injured troops then rescued an [Afghan] interpreter under heavy enemy fire in the Battle of Khaz”. 

In 2015, PM Tony Abbott demanded an Australia Day knighthood for the Queen’s consort, the Duke of Edinburgh. The same duke who not only denigrated Canberra for being without a “soul” but is remembered for asking an Aboriginal attendee at a 2002 function: “Do you still throw spears at each other?”

Even the media baron Rupert Murdoch weighed in: “Abbott knighthood a joke and embarrassment,” he tweeted, “Time to scrap all honours everywhere, including UK.”

Abbott, of course, was born in the UK and educated at Oxford, so his dedication to British royals is understandable. Moreover, once freed of his Australian electoral obligations he signed up as adviser to the British government’s Board of Trade “promoting free and fair trade and advising on UK trade policy to the International Trade Secretary”.

Now we have PM Scott Morrison with his promotion of Margaret Court from Officer of the Order of Australia “for her services to tennis, as a mentor and to the community” to the rare Companion of the Order. This is reserved “for eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to Australia or humanity at large”.

So what, we may ask, has she done between 2007 and 2021 to deserve such a grandiloquent gesture from Scotty, aside from publicly pursuing the strictures of his fellow Pentecostal beliefs. 

According to Victorian Premier Dan Andrews, not much: “I don’t want to give this person’s disgraceful, bigoted views any oxygen. But when others insist on rewarding them with this country’s highest honour – I think it’s worth saying again: Grand Slam wins don’t give you some right to spew hatred and create division. Nothing does.”

Canberra doctor Clara Tuck Meng Soo was similarly outraged and returned her own Order of Australia Medal since the Court award “is condoning if not supporting the very negative and hurtful statements she has made about the LGBTIQ community over the past few years”.

Margaret Court responded: “I’m not going to change my opinions and views. And I think it’s very important for freedom of speech that we can say our beliefs.”

Well, that seems fair. But in so saying she seems to be confirming that the promotion really is for the Pentecostal views that so motivate the Israel Folaus and Scott Morrisons of the world, to say nothing of that American evangelical base that so thrilled to the presidency of Donald Trump.

It was Paul Keating who said: “When you change prime ministers you change the country”. But it only works if somehow the PM is in tune with the zeitgeist of the time. Otherwise, it’s probably better just to change the PM.


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Robert Macklin
Journalist and author. Contact robert@robertmacklin.com


  1. The Prime Minister does not decide who gets an Honour. As a long time political commentator, Mr Macklin surely know that.

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