Howard pans return of knights and dames

Last updated 11:34 27/03/2014

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Former Australian prime minister John Howard has disagreed with the decision to reinstitute knights and dames into the Australian honours system and said it was "unlikely" he would accept an offer of a knighthood should it be offered.

The Australian Financial Review reports that Howard - a staunch constitutional monarchist - stood by his long-held view that such a move would be considered "somewhat anachronistic", even by conservatives.

Howard indicated that because of his views, and the fact that he never entered politics to receive honours, it was unlikely he would accept a knighthood should one ever be offered.

As Prime Minister Tony Abbott spent much of Wednesday defending what appeared to be a unilateral decision, Howard said his views on dames and knights - which he formed in 1996 upon taking power - had not changed.

"Despite urging from a number of ­people, I did not restore knighthoods," he wrote in his book titled Lazarus ­Rising. "For me, this was an on-balance decision as in some respects the ­knighthood system, properly applied, was a way of giving special recognition to certain people."

Howard, who was awarded in 2008 what was then the nation's top honour - a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia - stressed that he never entered politics for rewards and that being prime minister was honour enough.

He said he did not want to be critical of Abbott, just that his own views on the subject had not changed.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused Abbott of losing focus on what mattered to voters and indicated that when Labor was next in power, it would rescind the changes which he, too, labelled anachronistic.

"Labor has had a policy since 1918 which I don't foresee as changing any time soon against imperial honours," he said.

Abbott's office has been contacted for comment.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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