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Australian prime minister Tony Abbott reintroduces knights and dames

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.