Page 585 - Week 02 - Thursday, 19 February 2015

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I agree, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I think most Canberrans agree. The question now is: does the Liberal Party in Canberra agree? We saw Mr Hanson in an extraordinary attempt to duck and weave through his 15 minutes and avoid the substance of the question that Mr Barr, the Chief Minister, has put before the chair this morning. We do not want the awards of officer, companion, member or medal made to so many great Canberrans diminished by this anachronistic captain’s pick from Tony Abbott. We do not want to see it. It is extremely divisive.

We have an opportunity this morning to say unanimously to the federal government and the Prime Minister, “This has no place in contemporary life here in our city or in our nation.” That is the opportunity we have this morning. Many Canberrans feel very strongly about this and it is entirely a legitimate matter to debate in this place. I do not want all of those awards to all of those Canberrans diminished by the continuation of this imperial anachronism, this bunyip aristocracy that the Prime Minister seeks to impose on us.

In response to the assertions made by the Leader of the Opposition about the appointments as knights and dames being accepted by a number of very prominent Australians, I have no beef or argument with them. They have accepted an award which is legally granted by the government. My argument is not with them; nor is the suggestion that they should no longer have those awards. They have been legally and properly granted and they have accepted them. I do not want to see any more granted. I do not want to see the continuation of an award scheme that undermines the merit-based framework within which we recognise contribution within our community and across our nation.

This is the opportunity for us to come together as an Assembly to write to the Prime Minister to convey our position on this matter and recommend that he abolish the award of knight and dame and recommend that he restore the full integrity of the merit-based Order of Australia scheme and that he continue to recognise the contributions of so many eminent Canberrans who, through their volunteering, their scientific work, their fundraising efforts, their sporting contributions and through so many other ways, have created a more egalitarian, inclusive and achieving Australia.

That is the opportunity today. Where are the Canberra Liberals on this question? Will they stand with all of those Canberrans who say this is the wrong way to go and who are insulted by a restoration of imperial values in modern, democratic 21st century Australia? Or will they simply duck and weave and dodge the question because they are embarrassed by their own political leader?

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (11.42): I am very happy to support Mr Barr’s motion today as I agree with the sentiments he has expressed. Like many people, I was deeply disappointed with the reintroduction of the knights and dames category in the Australian honours system when it was announced last year. Frankly, I was incredulous, and I think we saw that through the reaction of the community in the mainstream media and particularly social media where, to be honest, there was considerable ridicule of the decision and certainly a lot of criticism and surprise from people who felt it was a throwback from a time Australia had moved on from.

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