CANBERRA -- The Prime Minister has brought his predecessor's short dalliance with Australian knights and dames to an end, with monarchists now accusing Malcolm Turnbull of “republicanism by stealth”.
Turnbull said it was a recent decision of Cabinet that Knights and Dames are "not appropriate in our modern honours system” and the Queen has agreed to remove them from the Order of Australia.
"Knights and dames are titles that are really anachronistic, out of date, not appropriate, in 2015, in Australia," Turnbull told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
Former Prime Minister and avowed monarchist Tony Abbott was roundly criticised, including from within his own party, when he brought them back last year.
The criticism reached a crescendo earlier this year, and was widely regarded as significantly contributing to Abbott’s downfall, when he bestowed an Australian Knighthood on the Queen’s consort, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip.
Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy were expecting the honour to be dumped, but have questioned the timing of the announcement.
The ACM’s Executive Director, Jai Martinkovits said Turnbull should have sought an election mandate for the move, or at least passed the move through the joint government party room -- not just Cabinet.
He has described the axing of the honours as “republicanism by stealth” and has agreed with assessments by ACM’s head David Flint, that Turnbull is enacting “revenge” for the defeat of the 1999 republic referendum.
Although it was described at the time as one of Abbott’s “Captain’s picks”, the Opposition it still blaming Turnbull for a “farcical” honour that never should have come back.
“It was a farce, a joke, a national disgrace that the Liberal national Government, of which Mr Turnbull was a cabinet minister, decided to set the rewind button on Australia's national institutions and reinstate Knights and Dames,” Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen told reporters in Sydney.
“(But) of course we are glad that this rolling farce has been corrected.
“We shouldn't be celebrating the fact that knights and dames are gone, we should be lamenting the fact that they came back under this Government.”
The Australian Republican Movement has welcomed the removal o “national embarrassment.”
"The ARM renews its call to our former chair, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, to commit to advancing an Australian republic during his time as PM", said ARM Chair Peter FitzSimons.
"Our platform is for an initial non-binding vote by 2020 and we would be delighted if the Prime Minister would adopt that plan as his own.”
Greens Leader Richard Di Natale is welcoming the move, but wants the Prime Minister to go further.
“Now that knights and dames are out of the way, how about Mr Turnbull dumps Tony Abbott's pathetic climate targets and takes something meaningful to Paris?” he said.
The change will not affect existing knights and dames of the Order, including the current Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove.
Since the Order of Australia system was changed last year, the honour had also been given to former Governor General Quentin Bryce, former Defence Force chief Angus Houston and former NSW Governor Marie Bashir.