Australian leader vows to consult more widely after knighthood backlash
Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott address the Australia China state and provincial leaders forum in Sydney, Australia, Nov. 19, 2014. (AP / Jason Reed)
Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, January 28, 2015 12:53AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 28, 2015 1:40PM EST
CANBERRA, Australia -- Australia's prime minister on Wednesday promised to consult more widely before bestowing knighthoods in the future as he weathered an avalanche of criticisms over his decision to make the husband of Queen Elizabeth II an Australian knight.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that the Duke of Edinburgh would be awarded Australia's highest honour on Australia's national holiday on Monday, prompting some to question the wisdom of knighting a British royal on a day meant to commemorate Australians.
The most stinging criticisms have come from within the conservative government's ranks, with some lawmakers questioning Abbott's political judgment and whether he should retain the leaderships of the nation.
Abbott said Wednesday that he had consulted on the decision only with Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, who represents the Queen as Australia's head of state, and Angus Houston, chairman of the Council of the Order of Australia, which replaced the British honours system for Australians in 1975.
"I stand by the decision. I understand why some people don't like it," Abbott told reporters. "I do want to assure people that I have heard and there will be considerably more consultation around these awards in the future."
Abbott declined to say whether he regretted making the decision, which he described as "contentious" and "a distraction" for his government.
Australian media, including conservatives, have largely condemned the honouring of Prince Philip, 93, with an Australian award.
"It's hard to imagine a way more likely to antagonize people," an unnamed member of Abbott's Liberal Party told the Wednesday edition of Sydney's The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
"This is the first time I've stopped defending Tony. I've had it with him. This is total craziness," the member said.
"Giving Prince Philip an Australian knighthood is the worst decision of Abbott's prime ministership," wrote Greg Sheridan, foreign editor of the influential newspaper, The Australian.
The Order of Australia -- the nation's official honour system -- first introduced categories for knights and dames in 1976, and awarded 14 people those honours until the categories were abolished a decade later. Abbott reinstated them last year.
Houston, whom Abbott consulted on Prince Philip's knighthood, was the only other person made an Australian knight on Monday. The former Australian Defence Force chief has overseen the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 off Australia's west coast. He was also Australia's Special Envoy to Ukraine leading efforts to recover, identify and repatriate Australians killed on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.