The Prime Minister and Dame Kiri
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Thursday, 27 July 2006

Dame Kiri Te  KanawaDame Kiri Te Kanawa, was”honoured” and “thrilled” to be made a Dame in 1982, wrote Frances Whiting in The Sunday Mail, Brisbane, 25 June, 2006. Now in  this column on 12 February, 2006, we referred to  an interesting comment related to this. It was made by a Canadian observer, Mr. Richard Toporoski . He said   that had Nicole Kidman been given a similar award to Dame Kiri’s, this would have been reported widely around the world. Moreover, this honour would be recalled in every reference to her, honouring her and her country. As it was, hardly any overseas news service reported the fact that in 2006 she was made a Companion in the Order of Australia. Today, even most Australians would probably have forgotten.  How different it would be, wrote Mr. Toporoski, if she were Dame Nicole Kidman. This need not be an imperial honour, there was a time when this was a possible award in the Order of Australia. And the Americans would love it.

It is not that republics –or many of them-do not award knighthoods.  We suggested a simple solution to this in this column   on 23 March 2006- allow those who object to the title, accept the honour but decline the accolade - which would mean they could not use the title . So we recommended that  the government reintroduce the fourth rank in the Order of Australia, and offer recipients the option to deny the accolade.  And in the meantime, would those media outlets who introduced a policy of ignoring titles in the increasingly distant politically correct past just get over it.  I saw a reference in a newspaper recently to ‘John Monash’. John Monash. To most of us, that great Australian remains ‘Sir John Monash.’

As Dame Kiri says:“I was brought up to do things properly. So yes, I do expect people who don’t know me to call me by my formal title on informal situations, just as I would afford the same respect to anyone else.  But I certainly would not insist my friends call me that.” You are absolutely right, Dame Kiri.

 

Incidentally, I was phoned recently by Misha Schubert of The Age for a piece she was writing which was published on 26 July, 2006. She asked me, and others, what gift I would suggest for the Prime Minister on his 67th birthday. I said that he become, instead of the ‘Honourable John Howard’, the ‘Right Honourable John Howard’, as all Prime ministers, senor ministers and judges were so described until recently as are Canadians of this rank today. And although he probably would no accept it at this stage, I also suggested he be made a knight in The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, which is in The Queen’s gift, that is Her Majesty is not advised by her ministers in conferring this honour. It is so named because the emblem of the order is the thistle, the national flower of Scotland. Its motto, Nemo me impune lacessit - No one provokes me with impunity - is one which might amuse the Prime Minister and Mrs Howard. You see, Mr. Howard is one of those people who are big enough to forgive those who have harshly disparaged him, including those in politics and the media. .  While I am not aware of an obvious link between Mr Howard and Scotland, the particular link is with his distinguished predecessor, the Right Honourable Sir Robert Menzies, whom Mr Howard particularly admires.