The Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, announced earlier today that The Queen has amended letters patent constituting the Order of Australia.
This means that Her Majesty can now award, on recommendation from the Australian Prime Minister, the title of Knight or Dame of the Order of Australia. Four titles per year can be awarded, and two for the year 2014 have already been planned.
The first is being awarded to the Honourable Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO, the outgoing Governor-General, whose term comes to an end tomorrow, on the 25th March. The second title is being awarded to the incoming Governor-General, General Peter Cosgrove AC MC, who will be sworn in this Friday at a ceremony at Parliament House.
Mr Abbott has said: “It is fitting that The Queen’s representative be so honoured”. He continued by saying: “My intention is that this new award will go to those who have accepted public office rather than sought it; and who can never, by virtue of the office they have held, entirely return to private life.”
This change will not affect existing Companions, Officers or Members of the Order of Australia.
The title of Knight and Dame of the Order of Australia was originally created on advice to Her Majesty by Malcolm Frasers’s government in 1974. It was then subsequently withdrawn from the Australian Honours System in 1986 on advice of Prime Minister Bob Hawkes’s government.
During the 12 years that the Honours System was installed, the Australian Government awarded eleven Knighthoods and two Damehoods to prominent Australians. One knighthood was also bestowed upon the Prince of Wales in 1981. Prince Charles and former Governor-General and High Court judge, Sir Ninian Martin Stephen KG AK GCMG GCVO KBE PC QC, are the only two living holders of a Knighthood of the Order of Australia.