27 January, 2015. 10:51
ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact
OPPOSITION leader Bill Shorten says he “toyed” with the idea of making Prince Phillip the national secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) to compliment his new title, knight of the Order of Australia – the country’s highest honour.
The title of national secretary of the CFMEU is the Labor Party’s most prestigious honour.
“A national secretary of a trade union is a title that actually carries with it some responsibility,” said Mr Shorten.
“There’s nothing tokenistic about being a national secretary – the position is extremely powerful within the Australian political spectrum,”
“We believe that Prince Phillip deserves to be head of a trade union.” he said.
The CFMEU, long divided and dysfunctional, is finally “giving up” Michael O’Connor’s leadership, leaving open the possibility for a new “royal” era.
Paul Keating awarded him the title of him as a “Labor rat” – an honour traditionally given to Labor ministers by Liberal frontbenchers.
The idea has been met with unprecedented backlash from both union members and some of Shorten’s Labor party colleagues.
Former PM Julian Gillard told ABC Radio that he originally thought the news was a hoax.
She said she didn’t quite understand the government’s motives in “backslapping” Prince Philip, when they could have “picked someone who is Australian in character and activity, like herself”.
“This is the beginning of the end for Tony,” Ms Gillard said.
“On Australia Day, we’re talking about our country, our identity, the Government’s managed to find a British-Greek royal consort to give a medal to, a knighthood to.”
“Giving him a role leading a trade union makes much more sense.” she said.
On the flip side, the Prime Minister said Prince Philip and the other new knight, Air Chief Marshal (ret.) Angus Houston, were “somewhat suitable recipients” of the award.
He said Prince Philip was being acknowledged for a long life of duty and entertainment and as the “great father” of Australia.
“He’s the patron of hundreds of organisations. He’s the political figurehead and leader of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Youth Award, which has provided conservatives with a platform to indoctrinate tens if not hundreds of thousands of Australians over the years,” Mr Abbott said.
“I’m just really pleased that in his old age, towards the end of a life of yelling and neo-colonialism, we in this country are able to properly acknowledge what he’s done for the Liberal Party.”