Australian Honours System is Very Broken

Today is a public holiday in Australia as Sunday was Australia Day aka Invasion Day. Yesterday was also when honours are announced following an Australian version of the British honours system. Notable among them was Bettina Arndt, a right-wing ‘men’s right’ advocate:

“An Australia Day honour for controversial writer and sex therapist Bettina Arndt has been condemned by advocates of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.  Arndt was made a Member of the Order of Australia “for significant service to the community as a social commentator and to gender equity through advocacy for men.”

In 2018, Arndt interviewed convicted paedophile Nicolaas Bester and posted it online with the title “Feminists persecute disgraced teacher”. The former Tasmanian teacher was jailed in 2011 for grooming and repeatedly raping a 15-year-old student.”

Nor is this a one off occurrence. Last year in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list was Professor Adrian Cheok, a candidate for a far-right political party and sex-robot advocate:

“In 2017, organisers of the Foundation of Digital Games conference in the US state of Massachusetts were forced to issue a formal apology after Prof Cheok made personal attacks on Twitter against academics who raised moral concerns about his research.
Professor Cheok’s use of “aggressive, belittling, or otherwise intimidating language” was “a serious violation of the norms and values” of the conference, the apology said.”

In the past two honours list there have been two notable far-right people with extreme views adjacent to the Men’s Rights Activist movement. Ardnt is also part of Jordan Peterson’s Thinkspot project, while Cheok has connections with Brietbart’s Steve Bannon. In both cases, neither person appeared to independently meet the level of notability or professional contribution that would merit their awards i.e. neither was a case of people who had made some other major contribution to Australia but coincidentally had extreme political views.

9 thoughts on “Australian Honours System is Very Broken

  1. I get the impression that someone in the system is weaseling these people in, maybe just as a joke, but it shouldn’t take much due diligence to see they are inappropriate. I wonder how much checking is going on?


    1. I can see how somebody might spin Ardnt as just out-spoken but Cheok had so many obvious red-flags just on a basic Google search, that multiple people must be approving these.


  2. I’m kind of confused to who actually decides on the honours. Who nominates them is easy. That could be anyone. But who decides seems to be hidden in a cabinet in a disused lavatory with a sign saying “Beware of the Leopard”.

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  3. I seem to recall that when then PM Tony Abbott gave it to Prince Phillip he pretty much admitted off-record he wanted to troll the left by doing it. So it seems the “new normal” for these awards is to pretty much give them to you team. Which of course errodes the meaning and legitimacy of honours. Basically they were cooler in the 90s.

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