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Letters - November 2008

November 2008, no. 306

Letters - November 2008

November 2008, no. 306

Do we need them?

Dear Editor,

Forgive me for taking advantage of the hospitality of your letters column to reflect on the matter of our national honours. Evidently some professions are better than others at nominating and supporting worthy candidates. If eminent writers and artists tend to go unacknowledged, to some degree we have only ourselves to blame for not taking more active steps to insure that a case is made through the Australian Honours Secretariat in Yarralumla. The procedure is relatively time-consuming, but all relevant particulars may be found at (I do not find the name of this website particularly reassuring.)

The Council of the Order of Australia is responsible for determining the rank of each honoree (OAM, AM, AO, AC), and it is this aspect of the present system that is most open to criticism, because too often our highest honours acknowledge, for example, formidable acts of philanthropy ($$$), or senior ambassadorial, judicial or gubernatorial rank (ex officio), or the leavings of some political hack, and not commensurate levels of attainment in cultural matters. The Council does its best to insure that assessments are fair, but there are complications. Some people evidently use the opportunity of supplying a confidential written recommendation on behalf of a nominee to shaft a colleague against whom they harbour some private grievance, safe in the knowledge that this devious act will never be discovered. Other people decline honours when they are proffered, either out of genuine humility or because they do not wish to state in writing that they are willing to receive an honour from the queen. Occasionally this is made known, but not by the Council. It is worth remembering that many of the professed republicans who sport those thrilling post-nominal letters have at one time or another written such a letter.

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