Recalling the hysteria around the knighthood

In January 2015, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced two Knighthoods, one for the Duke of Edinburgh, the other for former Defence Chief Angus Houston. The media reported them as Imperial Knighthoods in a newly established Imperial Knighthood system. The Knighthoods were in fact within the Order of Australia.

The two Knighthoods followed their re-introduction by Abbott, the announcement of which had provoked media hysteria out of proportion to its place in the Australian political scene. The reaction to Prince Philips’ Knighthood, however, eclipsed the hysteria of the original announcement to an extent hardly thought possible. Indeed, the media collectively went berserk. To talk about circling vultures and a feeding frenzy is to use images that fall way short of an accurate description.

The usual puffed-up personalities from newspapers and television were at the forefront giving vent to their obsession about Abbott and all (they perceive) he stands for. The platoons of Abbott-hating feminists in the ABC and the Fairfax Group were orgiastic in their stream of consciousness wailing. Some of these women who admit undergoing psychotherapy (and the many others who don’t admit it) should change their therapist.

People of commonsense who did not agree with Abbott’s re-introduction of Knighthoods might shake their head at a supposed inappropriateness and counsel Abbott about his eccentricity, but would hardly think that handing out two Knighthoods per year was of overriding importance to Australia’s social, political and economic problems. It was not. Knighthoods or no Knighthoods, the urgent state of Australia’s economy remained unchanged. Awarding a Knighthood to Prince Philip (as many countries have done) made absolutely no difference in itself to the state of affairs in an upper house gone feral and to Australia’s budgetary problems. But commonsense has little to do with it when a desperate political campaign has been seized upon. And a desperate political campaign it was – and still is.

A truly bizarre part of the campaign was the call for the sacking or resignation of Abbott’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin. I am yet to read a compelling account of the reasons for the sacking – indeed, any account worth the name. The normally reliable Miranda Devine in piece entirely unworthy of her said Credlin should have stopped Abbott:  ‘It was Abbott’s decision but it’s the job of the chief of staff, who he has been known to call the Boss, to stop him from making such a blunder.’ An ironic nickname should be taken seriously? I suggest it was contradictory to claim Abbott was impervious to advice of parliamentary colleagues – or anyone else for that matter – and imply that Peta Credlin could succeed where nobody could. This is to attribute competence and incompetence to the poor woman at the same time.

Then we had (Papal Knight) Rupert Murdoch who evidently thought he had a privileged immunity from giving reasons for his directions. With all the condescension and patronisation of a benevolent dictator, Murdoch directed Credlin to resign for ‘patriotic’ and ‘teamwork’ reasons. Was he serious? How Quixotic can you get when nobody dares to contradict you? I’m not just talking about Murdoch employees. The Fairfax and ABC people are shy of criticising someone who might offer them a fat salary to further prostitute whatever journalistic talents they may possess.

There was a warning there for many in the Liberal Party – and it was not about Tony Abbott. If the Liberal Party did not have the backbone to face down the constant ideological assaults coming from those sworn to destroy them, they would die as a political party. A party without principle and a clear idea of who they are will be found out. Contempt will follow. Ridicule can be survived, but not contempt. The following two years with the political assassination of Tony Abbott shows that the Liberal Party did not listen – is still not listening.

(The cultural motivations for Tony Abbott’s Knighthoods is in a following comment.)

Gerard Wilson

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