As a committed republican, I find the perpetuation of Queen’s Birthday Honours to be anathema to the very idea of Australian’s in a huge majority supporting a republic.
I am in total agreement with another staunch republican, Paul Keating, when he refused a gong from the Howardians, stating his belief that such honours were due only to those people whose work in aid of the general community was never otherwise recognised. Hard to argue with that sentiment. Which is why I’m driven to write in response to this piece in the Oz, today.
Let’s just correct the title for starters. John Howard doesn’t ‘top’ the list. He’s number five of eight who’ve been granted the Companion of the Order of Australia. The head of the list happens to be Peter Baume, another former politician, and an academic. In fact, scanning that list of the award illuminati we see three former politicians, two corporate money makers, a Union movement leader, a former Commonwealth public servant and a beak. All male. Clearly, we have no outstanding women counterparts. How very sad. Each and every one of these award recipients either has had, or still does have, highly paid, high-profile occupations where, in the main, they were/are doing what they’ve chosen to do because what they’ve chosen to do brought them kudos and remuneration befitting of what they perceived their place on life’s ladder to be. A generalisation, to be sure, but a reasonably accurate one, just the same. No-one will ever convince me that Kerry Stokes doesn’t do what he does because of altruism. He’s in it for the money. Grundy, likewise. Howard was in it for the power and glory, Gallop because he believed he was better than he turned out to be as a politician, and so on. Again, in general, these people all did what they wanted to do. Being given a gong for doing what you want to do is akin to me being given a gong for services to virtual flight because I happen to like flying on the computer. It’s a farce.
Scanning through the entire list of honourable recipients of the various orders – and isn’t that reminiscent of Orwellian equality – we see sporting people, financial advisors, businessmen-brewers, artists, gardeners, public servants, and an absolute plethora of bods whose occupations are simply ‘community’. Without doubt 99.9999999% of said recipients are being awarded for doing what they’ve chosen to do, been remunerated and recognised for it, reasonably to extremely well prior to some fawning groveler nominating them for an AO. Does having a gong make you a better person, or indeed, strive to be a better person? Well, you could become a member of the Order of Australia Association, if you’re so inclined, but unless you’re a monarchist, it’s probably not worth considering.
I suppose if you’re into these things, which clearly I’m not, you’d get a buzz out of having ‘AO’ or ‘AOM’ after your name in correspondence. Of course, it’s likely that you’re on that part of life’s ladder which has you in the public eye more often than not, so I suppose having those letters propping you up at least ensures you a place at the head of the smorgasbord queue. Not unlike those individuals in my own industry who delight in telling the world via a business card that they’re qualified as a B.Bus; D.Ecom or MCom. Doesn’t mean they know stuff, just that they’ve read stuff.
Recently I was reading about elites. What and who they are, what makes an elite and why. I’d ask why does our society, one supposedly founded on and supportive of egalitarian attitudes, foster the creation of social elites through inane award systems like the Order of Australia? If we’re to ever really look towards becoming a republic, we need to cast off these pretences at independence from our colonial roots and accept that as an egalitarian country, where all are created equal and none more so than others, we really don’t need awards to people who do what they do because it’s their job or because they like the money which flows from it. Now, if some bright spark were to create a viable alternative to fossil fuel and make it freely available to all and sundry at no cost, then I’d happily nominate them for an award, but until I see that kind of real largesse in the community good, I’ll continue to look upon award systems as elitist and not a part of the Australia I’d like to see.