Australia will create knights and dames this year for the first time in the 21st century, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced in a surprise move on Tuesday. A staunch monarchist, Abbott plans to name up to four Knights and Dames of the Order of Australia per year, starting with Australia's outgoing governor-general Quentin Bryce and her replacement Peter Cosgrove (the governor-general is the Queen's representative in the country). Future bestowments will go to "Australians of extraordinary and preeminent achievement and merit," according to the plan.
Australia's political and media establishment quickly reacted to the unexpected announcement with snark. "Sure as knight follows dame, Tony Abbott's going to take us back to the good old days," claimed opposition Labor Party MP Ed Husic. "I think [he] wants to play Marty McFly." During the prime minister's question time on Wednesday, opposition leader Bill Shorten and other MPs began audibly humming "Rule Britannia," angering Abbott. The speaker of the house ejected some MPs from the chamber for disorderly laughter.
Australian newspapers joined in, with The Courier-Mail depicting Abbott and Bryce in the style of black-and-white photographs of yore:
Many former British colonies abandoned the "imperial honors system" and created their own national orders of merit and recognition, including the Order of Australia in 1975. "While in past centuries knighthood used to be awarded solely for military merit, today it recognizes significant contributions to national life," explains the British monarchy. "Recipients today range from actors to scientists, and from school head teachers to industrialists." No Australians have become knights or dames since 1983.