No real Australian would ever knock back the chance of a day off. But having said that. surely it is time for the meaningless ritual of the Queen’s birthday to be consigned to its use by date.
For starters it is not even Liz’s actual birthday, and the public holiday varies from state to state. New South Wales loyally follows the mother country, where the anniversary of some long forgotten dead monarch is celebrated as an excuse for a long weekend in what England laughingly calls summer. In Australia, there has to be better reason for a beer and a barbecue.
And the idea of conferring Australian honours to Australians in the name of Elizabeth I is more than anachronistic; it is plain silly, as Tony Abbott found out in 2014 when he bestowed his own knighthood on the queen’s consort. The country chortled and Abbott never really recovered from the humiliation.
But now he has himself been awarding the glittering bauble of Companion of Australia, the top gong. There is nothing remarkable about that; it goes with the job of prime minister – that is, for those prime ministers vain and unthinking enough to accept it. And it has nothing to do with achievement – if Vlad the Impaler became prime minister, he would automatically collect a Companionship.
Abbott himself points to his attempt to bring down the deficit – the horror budget rejected as unfair and partisan. He also wants praise for stopping the boats and ending the carbon tax, triumphs seen by many as being on a par with those of Rio Tinto’s achievements in Juukan Gorge.
But if Abbott’s record is at best contestable, what can one say of Bronwyn Bishop’s legacy – serial failures on all levels. She was dropped from the front bench as spokesman for health, aged care and veterans affairs from successive Liberal leaders before securing the plum sinecure of the speakership, in which role she was seen as the worst and most biased ever to have held the job.
She was forced to resign over the misuse of a helicopter for party purposes and lost preselection from her safe seat shortly afterwards, retiring to become a commentator at Sky news, where she has spent her retirement ranting about imaginary socialist conspiracies.
Presumably her order of Australia was a reward for her support for the monarchy
But another prize went to the acerbic commentator Mike Carlton, an acerbic passionate republican who had to explain that the gong had been the brainchild of Gough Whitlam – the queen had nothing to do with it. True enough, but then, why was it – and all the others – announced on the queen’s birthday?
If there was ever a reason for this post-colonial grovel, it should have been long ago swept away by an independent Australia. If we have to throw lollies to the massed hordes of bureaucrats, the smattering of sports people and scientists and the ambitious politicians, let’s just do it quietly and preferably in a darkened room somewhere.
Some have earned recognition, but most have done no more than done their jobs without badly stuffing up – Bronwyn Bishop, of course, excepted. We can really do without celebrating Dennis Napthine (who?) and we can most certainly do without the nonsense of the Queen’s Birthday. If we have to acknowledge it at all, wishing her many happy returns on a Hallmark greeting card will be quite sufficient.