Fresh details on timing of royal approval for Aussie knighthoods

The Government Gazette of April 17, 2014, answers some of the questions raised in my earlier post over the return of Australian Knighthoods and Dames.

A notice published in the Gazette says that Royal approval was given for the changes “Under the Great Seal of Australia and Our Court at St James’s on March 19.”

This was the same date as the Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff, Peta Credlin, sent a letter to Buckingham Palace advising them of changes being sought by her boss, Tony Abbott.

ElizabethR

Abbott publically announced the return of Aussie knights and dames on March 25.

Thanks to reader Seb Chartwell for drawing my attention to the notice published in the Government Gazette.

A link to the Gazette is here http://t.co/jtjxEHSjag

When did The Queen sign off on Australia’s return to Knights and Dames?

Peta Credlin personally advised Buckingham Palace of last year’s decision to reintroduce Australian knighthoods, according to documents released under freedom of information.

The Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff wrote a covering letter to the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, dated March 19 ahead of the decision being publically announced in Australia on March 25.

In her covering letter, Credlin says that a letter from Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the Queen was attached, which recommended amendments to the Letters Patent for the Order of Australia for the appointment of Knights and Dames.

Credlincoveringletter

On March 25, Abbott announced that, on his recommendation, the Queen “has amended” the Letters Patent constituting the Order of Australia.

“There may be up to four Knights or Dames created in any one year,” he told a press conference in Canberra. “This special recognition may be extended to Australians or extraordinary and pre-eminent achievement and merit.”

However, another letter released under FOI in August 2014 raises questions over the timing of the changes to the Letters Patent.

A letter from the chief clerk at Buckingham Palace, Christopher Sandamas, to Credlin is dated April 2, about a week after the change was announced by Abbott.

“Please find enclosed the Prime Minister’s submission and Letters Patent for the Orders of Australia for the appointment of Knights and Dames of the General Division, which has now been signed by The Queen,” the letter says.

BuckinghamPalaceletter

So when did the Queen sign the Letters Patent? Before it was announced on March 25 or afterwards?

It’s possible that Buckingham Palace indicated to the Prime Minister that the Queen would agree to the recommendation and Abbott went ahead with the announcement based on that understanding.

Furthermore, in a purely legal sense, the Queen’s agreement to the recommendation was probably just a formality once the official request was received from the Prime Minister.

This writer is no expert on royal protocol and would appreciate informed comment from readers on whether it is usual for the Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff to write a covering letter to the Queen’s private secretary.

I’m also seeking comment on what are the usual channels for correspondence between the Prime Minister and Buckingham Palace. The PM personally, the departmental secretary of PM and C, the Executive Council or perhaps the Governor-General?

I don’t know but would like to find out.

But while Credlin might have written the covering letter, Abbott has to take responsibility for the original decision and for who has been made a Knight or Dame since then, including the Duke of Edinburgh.

In my view, some of the criticism of Credlin has been sexist and I don’t want to climb on any such bandwagon. Particularly now that Rupert Murdoch has called for her to dumped.

The letters are available from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s FOI disclosure log which is here https://www.dpmc.gov.au/pmc/accountability-and-reporting/freedom-information/foi-disclosure-logs/foi-disclosure-log

FOOTNOTE: Readers might note that this is my first post since June 2014. My apologies. I got caught up on the home front and trying to make a living as a freelance journo. My blog will be updated regularly in 2015.