774 ABC mornings with Jon Faine – 27 January, 2015

JON FAINE:

It’s a decision that has led to derision in some quarters directed at the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, a decision to make Prince Philip a Knight in the Australian honours system. You may of heard amongst others the Independent Senator from South Australia Nick Xenophon saying it’s a bit like giving an abacus to Bill Gates, what is the point. Well we’ve rung around this morning in particular speaking to Senior Victorian Liberals, and we’ve found someone who supports the decision and someone who doesn’t support it and thinks it’s straying in the wrong direction. We’ll hear from both of them and then looking forward to your calls as well.

The newly sworn in Minister for Defence in the Abbott Government is Kevin Andrews the Member for Menzies. Kevin Andrews good morning to you.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Good morning Jon.

JON FAINE:

And you support the decision to give Prince Philip the award, why’s that?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Three things Jon, firstly there is a provision in the Order of Australia awards for knighthoods, secondly there’s precedent for effectively giving awards to non-Australians and that’s happened on many occasions over the years. And then thirdly I think it is appropriate; Prince Philip has given over 60 years of public service to the Commonwealth to Australia, he’s the patron of numerous organisations. Many young Australians in particular are recipients of Duke of Edinburgh Awards and have gained much in their education through that and secondly if you look at other countries around the world, even our own area New Zealand and Papua New Guinea have given effectively their awards to Prince Philip. I think this is part of the international protocol and I think it’s quite appropriate.

JON FAINE:

Ah the fact that he has made a contribution to Australian life has been incidental to his life it’s been almost a part of his service and his duty, he’s not gone out of his way to do anything for the Australian people that I’m aware of, or can you direct me to something that suggests he has?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well as I said the Duke of Edinburgh Awards are very significant….

JON FAINE: (inaudible) in his name….

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Many young Australians are the recipients of those awards….

JON FAINE:

He doesn’t pay for that; he doesn’t personally make those decisions.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well he gives his name to it and it’s a…..

JON FAINE:

It doesn’t mean anything by either financial or emotional penalty, I mean there’s nothing to it for him, it’s his job.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

But it’s, you say it’s his job Jon but this is a man who has performed public service for six decades now. And you may say oh well he could have just been the…

JON FAINE:

He’s been the escort for the Queen…

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Consort to the Queen, but he’s been something more than that, he’s contributed in a very real way and look I think….

JON FAINE:

In what way?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

I think the criticism…

JON FAINE:

What can you point to?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

I think the criticism Jon is lacking the generosity for which we Australians are famed. It doesn’t cost anything for us to give him this award, its context is similar to what other countries have done and I think it is appropriate in the circumstances. I mean how else can we say in a sense thank you to someone who has given six decades of public service. I think it’s a phenomenal contribution, he’s still doing it in his 90s now and I think we should just be generous about it.

JON FAINE:

When Tony Abbott announced the return of knighthoods and dame hoods, that in itself was met with uh surprise, to put it politely Kevin Andrews but then he reassured us that it would only be used for the highest level of service and it would be universally endorsed so it would be the sorts of people where everybody would say ah yes now I understand, and what here we are a year later saying no we don’t.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look there’s a debate in this country and has been for a long period of time about things like the Republic, there’s a debate about whether or not you should have things like Knighthoods and Dame hoods, that’s an understandable ongoing debate, but in this circumstance I think a part of that debate is actually (inaudible) and a decision about giving this to Prince Philip but as I said there’s provision for it, there’s precedent for honorary awards and I think it’s quite appropriate.

JON FAINE:

And then your support for it means you too are at risk Kevin Andrews of being someone who’s pigeon holed as being out of touch and not aware of feelings of mainstream Australia.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well I disagree with that, there’s many Australians Jon who’ve received awards from overseas governments, even some of my Parliamentary colleagues have received awards from overseas governments. There are people, you know probably listening now who have received awards from Italy or France or other European nations and we don’t blink at that we think it’s quite appropriate. We’re doing something in return in this regard and I think it’s quite appropriate and I’m saying that as someone who actually supported a Republic at the convention in 1998.

JON FAINE:

It’s leading now to open speculation about the lack of proper process and lack of consultation by Tony Abbott and uh rumours of mutiny are being put down as and dismissed as going one step too far, but it won’t take too many more of this sort of decision for people to start to question Tony Abbott’s judgement on a bigger scale surely?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Oh not at all Jon. Tony Abbott is doing a fine job in difficult circumstances; economic circumstances, a Senate that makes it virtually impossible to get legislation through. He’s doing a great job and I have no doubt he’ll be the Prime Minister who takes us to the next election.

JON FAINE:

Isn’t it extraordinary that you even have to come out and say that?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well I was frankly answering your question Jon and that’s the situation as I see it…

JON FAINE:

Mate you went further than answering the question but either way I mean that in itself tells you something doesn’t it?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well Jon you know people like you ask these questions I’m always happy to answer them, my view is that the Prime Minister is doing a great job, we’re in very difficult circumstances and you know once this commentary passes over we’ll be talking about the things which are important to all Australians and that’s how we get this economy under control, how we pay back the debt. All of those things which are important for the lives of Australians.

JON FAINE:

I’m indebted you for your time this morning and when you are across the defence portfolio it would be terrific to sit down and hear your thoughts on how that complex area of Government administration, that ministry is going to change under your stewardship.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Happy to talk to you Jon.

JON FAINE:

Kevin Andrews thank you, Minister for Defence, newly sworn in in the reshuffle that happened before Christmas.