In her Australia Day column for the Herald-Sun, Rita Panahi decried the giving of Order of Australia honours to former politicians and senior bureaucrats, notable Julia Gillard, former Queensland premier Anna Bligh and head of the Prime Minister’s department Martin Parkinson.
Panahi argued that people like these do pretty well out of the system, including generous pensions and other perks. On that she’s got a point, and certainly about the notion of public servants routinely getting gongs as part of their job description (remember the classic Yes, Minister episode about doing the honours?). Besides, having been sacked by Tony Abbott and brought back by Malcolm Turnbull, Parkinson’s AC is a calculated insult by Turnbull to Abbott. His award is political, not personal.
But don’t begrudge defeated or retired senior pollies, especially PMs, a gong where their contribution to the community merits it.
When it comes to prime ministers, to be sure the job has perks like Kirribilli House, a fat pension, a continued public profile and lucrative gigs, and a taxpayer-funded office for life. But it is also one of the toughest, most brutal and thankless jobs in the country. We should respect the office, even if we don’t respect the occupant, and therefore we should at least show some grace in an outward recognition of their undoubted contribution to Australia’s national life.
As far as Gillard’s gong goes, to us on the Right she may be Beezlebub’s spawn politically, but she still held our highest elective office for three years. That she was the first woman to do it is historically important, whatever else we think of her. While being mightily glad Gillard has moved on, it costs nothing to show respect to her holding the prime ministership and performing it to the best of her ability – and what she did wasn’t all bad. That she beat her arch-enemy and nemesis, the odious Kevin Rudd, to an AC is a schadenfreude bonus to enjoy.
The Left are born haters, they have no respect for opponents, nor do they give quarter to fallen foes: just ask Tony Abbott, who won’t expect a gong under a Shorten government. But we on the Right should be better than that sort of partisan petulance, and show a bit of grace and class to our former adversaries that reminds Lefties that we are bigger and better than them in every respect. After all, as John Howard OM AC was fond of saying, what unites us is greater than what divides us.
Or, as American humorist Art Buchwald once said, love your enemies – it drives ‘em crazy.
Order of Australia gongs are valued by their recipients, are a mark of community respect for individual contributions, and cost nothing besides providing the bauble and a Government House afternoon tea. As long as political honours are awarded sparingly, and not to serving MPs except in extraordinary circumstances, let’s put the tall poppy thing aside and show some respect for outstanding contributions made.
So congratulations Julia Gillard AC.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.