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Australia Day Greetings – and “Phil the Greek”

  • January 26th, 2015
  • Posted by EU Australia



Aust flag flyingEUAustralia Online emerges today from an extended recess, appraising events in Greece, where people have been voting to try and settle matters in a democratic process, and in Ukraine, where they have not been able to do that.

EU flag movementEUAustralia was started at Brussels late in 2006; this will be its tenth calendar year of publication.

Australia Day commemorates the proclamation of settlement of the British First Fleet, at Sydney Cove, on 26 January 1788, a national day celebrated in mid-Summer with parades, fireworks, sports, barbecues and naturalisation ceremonies for new citizens. An awkward aspect is the focus on colonisation, often deplored by indigenous Australians, proposing that a different date be found. The day vies for status as the true national day with Anzac Day, on 25 April, a highly emotional event set aside for remembering those killed in war, of whom there are many.



The holiday fun was defrayed, or enhanced by the gesture of Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, in having England’s Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh made a Knight of the Order of Australia. Abbott last year determined independently to restore the rank of Knight and Dame in Australia, and to date has nominated five – three men and two women.

It went against consensus, seen even as a potential put-down to many of the country’s best and most revered leaders, proud to accept an Order of Australia award, without going so far as to change their name to Sir, Dame, Lady or Lord.

The Order of Australia was  set up in 1975; it replaced Imperial Honours – Order of the British Empire, Garter, Thistle and so on – at both federal and State areas, but with no Knights or Dames since 1992. They stopped within the Order of Australia in 1983.

British-born Abbott, former spokesman for the Monarchist movement, did not let on about bringing back the top Royal prize before his election late in 2013, and went ahead without or in spite of advice from members of his own government.

Reaction to this latest move by the Prime Minister prone to blunders, and going through an extended run of unpopularity, was mostly a sustained burst of ridicule. This was faithfully reflected in mainstream and social media as one. A few government Ministers, but far from all, kept ranks and pointed to the successes of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, and support given to community causes by the ageing Royal consort.

The Labor Opposition observed the head of government was displaying a “strange personal obsession with Monarchy”. It disputed his claim that thoughts of an Australian republic had been killed off with the 1999 referendum that defeated the proposition 55-45%.

An aspect was the idea of a highest Australia Day Honour for not only a non-Australian recipient, but in Prince Philip, one symbolically out of step with Australian self-images of irreverence and equality. Hanging a new ribbon around his neck, of-all-times on national “barbecue day”, was bound to raise a few laughs.

Australians in the 1940s, captivated by the young Princess Elizabeth, were interested to learn that the lanky Brit by her side had lineage ties with the Royal family of Greece. No matter that those ties might have been through Western Europe, he became “Phil the Greek”. Amid the jokes this week, continuing  three days after the national holiday itself, is that he is a man already well-stocked with uniforms,  medals, titles, baubles and awards, even, Australians were told, the Collar of the Queen of Sheba, from Ethiopia.