SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott marked his country's national day Monday by honouring Britain's Prince Philip with a knighthood, sparking criticism from his political opposition of being in a "time warp".
Abbott said Queen Elizabeth II had accepted his recommendation that her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, be awarded the nation's highest honour as a Knight of the Order of Australia.
"This honour recognises the contribution of the Duke of Edinburgh to Australia throughout the Queen's sixty-two year reign," the conservative leader and keen monarchist said in a statement.
"Prince Philip's long life of service and dedication should be honoured by Australia," he said, adding that Prince Philip's son Charles, the Prince of Wales, was appointed a Knight of the Order of Australia in 1981.
Abbott reintroduced knights and dames to the country's honours list in 2014, prompting ridicule from opposition Labor lawmakers who said it was proof the prime minister was behind the times.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Monday's decision was out of step with mainstream Australia.
"I think that on Australia Day - where we're talking about Australia, Australian identity - the government's managed to find a British royal to give a medal to, a knighthood to," he told Fairfax radio.
"I just think giving our top award to a British royal is anachronistic. To be honest it's a bit of a time warp. I wasn't quite sure it was serious until I realised it was." Shorten said his complaint was not with Prince Philip, simply the fact he is a British royal.
"Why would we give him our top Australian honour? He's already got a lot of them," he said.
Prince Philip was named a knight along with retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who has recently led Australia's response to the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft MH370 and downed flight MH17 in Ukraine.
Houston, who served in the armed forces for more than 40 years and became Chief of the Defence Force in 2005 before retiring in 2011, said he was surprised by the honour.
"I am still Angus Houston and most of the things I've been involved in have involved leadership, but I would be very quick to say that it's the people I've worked with that have delivered the outcomes that have been achieved," he told the ABC.
"It's a great honour to be recognised in this way but I'd like people to still call me Angus." Knights and dames were introduced into Australia's system of honours in 1976 by then-prime minister Malcolm Fraser, but abolished a decade later by Bob Hawke. Previously, Australians had been honoured through the British Imperial System.