Australian prime minister Tony Abbott is to reintroduce knights and dames into the honours system.

Abbott, a monarchist, announced that up to four knights and dames would be appointed each year on the Order of Australia honours list, starting with outgoing governor general, Quentin Bryce, and her successor, Peter Cosgrove.

It would be the first time the honours have been handed out since 1989 after Australia introduced the Australian Honours System in 1975.

Under the new system, Australia's new knights and dames will be appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Australian government - much like the process in Britain.

The awards will go only to "pre-eminent" Australians under the change.

The reform has drawn criticism from opposition MPs who say Abbott should be prioritising job creation rather than focusing on the honours system.


Australians were previously eligible to receive British imperial honours until 1975 when on the advice of then prime minister Gough Whitlam, Queen Elizabeth II, introduced an Australian Honours System. British-based Australians continue to be eligible for nomination to imperial honours.

The Commonwealth of Australia ceased making recommendations for imperial awards in 1983, with the last Queen's Birthday Australian Honours list submitted by Queensland and Tasmania in 1989. However, the Queen still confers upon Australians imperial honours that she has chosen, rather than through the Australian government.

Source: Who's Who Australia