he announcement of the Queen's Birthday honours list created an unusual amount of debate the weekend before last. The toing and froing on titular honours in recent times has made any new knight or dame a contentious appointment. For the likes of Michael Cullen to be elevated to sir-dom after being part of an administration that did away with the title has the manifest ring of hypocrisy to it that we have come to expect from the political class.
So far as double standards go, it almost equals Sir Douglas Graham's achievement in holding on to his title after being convicted of leading those Lombardian mums and dads down the investment garden path. I suppose we should be grateful that Phil Goff was not likewise be-knighted in retirement for services to mediocrity.
It's the chaps who get the gong for being rich that really brass me off. Did that champion of telecommunications monopolies Roderick Deane deserve letters before his name? Are not his multiple CEO awards enough? Honouring Deane is in the best traditions of Bob Jones and Michael Fay, fellows with impeccable characters and spotless reputations commensurate to the size of their bank accounts. Any suggestion that titles are being bought should be banished from our thoughts as baseless and grounded in socialistic envy. Indeed, these men always put their fellow New Zealanders first and foremost, especially those fortunate citizens who happened to own shares in their companies. On second thoughts, perhaps you can't say even this much about Sir Michael. At least he tried to win us the America's Cup.
In contrast, surely no-one could take issue with John Kirwan's knighthood. It is years overdue. The former butcher's apprentice should have been elevated to the peerage immediately after the opening game of the inaugural Rugby World Cup.
Kirwan's graceful negotiation of the Italian team that day ranks as my favourite 20th- century moment, an expression of athletic excellence that aesthetically stands alone. I can only assume that for the Italians it brought back memories of 1940s battlefield humiliation. Kirwan's work since coaching Italy and then Japan could be seen as the sporting equivalent to the post-war Marshall Plan, a charitable, oval-ball ambassadorship to the former Axis powers notable more for its altruistic motives than end results. Kirwan must regret a sad lack of interest in rugby in Germany, but two out of three countries ain't bad. So far as lost causes go the Auckland Blues present challenges enough.
Of course, I jest. If knighthoods were handed out to wingers on talent alone we would have long ago bowed and scraped to Sir Ron Jarden, Sir Grant Batty and Sir Jonah Lomu and Bryan Williams would have enjoyed a KNZM for showing those Boers just how elusive a brown man can be back in 1970. No, Kirwan has been justly recognised for his endeavours in the mental health field. The way he fronts those depression advertisements is inspiring, a direct, bullshit-free tackling of the illness that is a testament to something more than an ex-All Black's ego-less honesty. Kirwan's actions suggest real societal growth both in the way we collectively deal with a sensitive issue and in New Zealand masculinity in general.
To have a sporting god admit that wearing the silver fern doesn't solve all of life's problems is a quantum leap in the direction of national maturity.
Sir Peter Jackson's incorporation into the Order of New Zealand cannot be on the strength of recent form. Considering that The Lovely Bones enjoyed a royal premiere before Prince Charles it seems extraordinary that the sovereign has seen fit to thus invest him. Either the heir to the throne has very poor taste in movies or the lines of communication between him and his mother are not what they ought to be.
I suppose it's possible that the Queen is a King Kong fan or of the belief that New Zealand screen thespians were foolhardy to throw their lot in with Australian Actors Equity. Whatever Jackson's achievements, he is not being honoured for services to industrial relations.
Perhaps it is the Duke of Edinburgh that's the King Kong enthusiast. He's a fan of blood sports and has a known fear of natives with spears. Phil the Greek has copped flak for joining our top honours list but personally I'm a fan. He has great comic timing, a respectable war record and stuck at his job for 60 years. You cannot say as much for Cullen or Deane.
- © Fairfax NZ News