Honours and awards evoke a range of emotions. There are those who are famous for rejecting honours, others who crave honours and those who take them in their stride as a grateful acknowledgement of their contribution. I fit into the latter and what I am particularly proud of is that my family has now been acknowledged over two generations. This for me is positive re-enforcement of the Stone family's ethos of community service.
My late father Les Stone died at the relatively early age of 54 years, before he reached that stage in life when an Imperial honour would most certainly have been forthcoming. However, the Les Stone Park in Wodonga is an appropriate and fitting acknowledgement of a local government leader who gave his all to civic and community service (Archives Article Les Stone). My mother Pam Stone, Wodonga’s first woman Councillor, Deputy Mayor and Mayor, has the triple whammy of the Pam Stone Park named in her lifetime, acknowledgement as one of the Border’s Top 10 Pioneers celebrated in the Centenary Year1 (as was my father) and the Medal of the Order of Australia conferred Australia Day 26 January 1994. Her citation read:
'’For service to local government and the community’’
Likewise, I was very proud of Josie’s recognition for her community and charity work both before, during and after my term. Her stand out performance as Chairman of the Katherine Floods Red Cross Appeal in 1998 raised a record amount of money to help fund victims. Josephine’s involvement with St. Mary’s School Council and Alumni Association culminating in publication of the St. Mary’s Centenary publication2 rounded off a decade long association with the school.
Josephine’s involvement on the Women’s Advisory Council where she advocated major superannuation reform that impacted on women was carried into effect by the NT Government and led the way in Australia. Further, Josephine’s contribution to the regulatory and disciplinary framework governing lawyers in the NT delivered a level of certainty in an area that previously had been ad hoc at best and at time inequitable for complainants and practitioners.3 Josephine was conferred a Member of the Order of Australia on Queens Birthday 11 June 2007. Her citation read:
'’For service to the community of the Northern Territory, and to the law’’.
It might be said that the largely volunteer unpaid contributions of my mother and wife were far more deserving of recognition than what came my way. When it comes to honours and awards the foregoing is consistent with Paul Keating’s views on honours and awards.4 That said, I strongly challenge the proposition that paid official office bearers be excluded from our honours system. In the era of Imperial Awards certain roles attracted certain honours - it was part of the package and helped entice people away from the riches and rewards of the private sector to either accept or remain in ‘‘public service’’. In my view, there was nothing wrong with that approach nor for that matter rewarding leading business people who created wealth, jobs and prosperity for their fellow Australians. Nowadays, an award within the Order of Australia presupposes a nomination from the public with broad community endorsement. It often surprises people to learn that the Prime Minister of the day cannot ‘gift’ an award within the Order of Australia - that’s the role of the Council of the Order of Australia signed off by the Governor General.
My contribution and commitment to the Asia Pacific engagement has been widely recognised by Australia and in the Region at a number of different levels. A highlight was when invited to deliver the Thirteenth Asia Link Lecture in 19975 (See Archives Documents). For a period I spoke at conferences on the topic of Australia’s engagement of the Asia Pacific. These invitations were a very public and welcome form of recognition and acknowledgement. It is one thing to pin a medal on you, another to be held up as a pioneer and icon in your area of expertise. I speak less so these days as business commitments have overtaken an otherwise busy work schedule. I did, however ,agree to speak at the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN held in Adelaide on 12 February 2014. My ICAPP and IDU activity remains an exception as I regularly speak and contribute within the framework of their forums.
In 2006 I was conferred a Companion of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.6 I was surprised and immensely pleased with the level of the Award. The Companion of the Order of Australia is awarded for eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to Australia or humanity at large. Companion of the Order of Australia at the time 7was the most senior civilian award conferred in Australia.8 My citation read as follows:
‘For service to politics contributing to strengthening Federal-State-Territory intergovernmental processes, to furthering the bi-lateral relationship between Australia and the Asia/Pacific region, and to the oil and gas industry’.
See also my Channel 9 interview at the time which can be viewed under the Archives Videos tab.
I share with six Territorians this level of the award - former Administrators and Chief Justices the Honourable Jim Muirhead AC QC (deceased) and the Honourable Austin Asche AC QC, ophthalmologist and missionary priest Father Frank Flynn MSC AC and Nick Paspaley AC international businessman and majority owner of Paspaley Pearls. In the Australia Day 2014 honours list, the Administrator the Honourable Sally Thomas AC joined our ranks - a very worthy and overdue award for an outstanding Territory lady. Also Mandawuy Yunupingu AC (deceased) former front man of the Aboriginal rock group Yothu Yindi, singer-songwriter and guitarist.
I had previously been accorded the appellation the Honourable for life by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Australia in 1999 (See Archives Documents) on my retirement as Chief Minister.9 Later again I was granted our families Armorial Ensigns by the United Kingdom College of Arms on Australia Day 26 January 2008 (see Coat of Arms section). As a family we travelled to London to accept the Letters Patent from the Windsor Herald, William Hunt TD at the College of Arms.
I am also a recipient of the Commander of the Most Honourable Order of Kinabalu Sabah Malaysia (Panglima Gemilang Dariah Kinabalu Yang Amat Mulia) with the grand title of Datuk10 and the Order of Service Republic of Indonesia (Bintang Jasa Pratama). I was made a Life Member of the Philippines Australia Business Council in Manila in 1998 (see Archives Images and Documents).
I led a delegation of Territory business people to Sabah Malaysia on a trade mission from 16 to 18 April 1998. I had also agreed to meet Janet Homes ‘a Court Chairman and owner of John Holland who was owed a considerable amount of money resulting from the construction of a dam by their subsidiary John Holland Asia Ltd. My host was an old friend Chief Minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee. I was unaware of the impending honour when we arrived at the Governors Palace when I was marched forward and bestowed the award. As the DFAT cable later noted:
‘’Shane Stone was genuinely surprised and pleased at the award of the PGDK that carries the title of Datuk. It was testimony to the high regard in which he is held in East Malaysia and we would imagine in the BIMP-EAGA Region. To our knowledge it has been quite some years since an Australian has received a Malaysian award’’.
The cable also noted:
‘’Shane Stone and the Northern Territory delegation can be well pleased with the visit. It reinforced again in Sabah minds the long-standing and positive links between the NT and Sabah’’.
‘’The Chief Minister was able to promote the NT and its business skills and strengths with a good deal of flair. The signing of the contract to provide Kota Kinabalu and its environs with its optical fibre network is testimony to the Northern Territory’s skills in the commercial field. Shane Stone’s reassurance of our long term commitment to Sabah and the region went down well’’.
I took a conscious decision not to make big deal of the Award on my return to Darwin although privately I was very pleased for the reasons elaborated on by DFAT as it underscored the NT’s standing in the region and in BIMP EAGA. I instructed that no media release would accompany the Award as such ran the dual risk of a mocking commentary from Australian media and a sense of triumphalism on my part that might be misinterpreted by my Asian hosts. Colin Wicking wasn’t to have the opportunity to depict me as a Malaysian potentate complete with songkok; his cartoons have the capacity to be a devastating political commentary at times. Wicking to one side, some Australian media have over the years seriously damaged the Australian ‘national interest’ by their commentary and I was not about to allow them to ‘take the piss’ out of Datuk Shane. On such occasions it is best to be gracious in private and express appreciation in other ways knowing that we continued to reinforce our position in the region. Australians need to learn the lesson that a dose of humility goes along way in our relationships with our Asian neighbours.
My Award of the Bintang Jasa Pratama from the Republic of Indonesia was awarded against a different background. The manner of my premature departure had outraged Franz Seda who saw events culminating in my resignation as disrespectful to the bi-lateral relationship.
Ali Alatas was equally upset by the turn of events and felt deeply for my predicament. Franz had wanted to resign as the NT’s representative but nothing would be served by such a course of action. Had Burke and Reed stuck to the script I would have done the rounds in July to ensure a smooth transition which in Asia would have been accepted and understood but it was not to be. Ali Alatas made a recommendation to President Habibie and the Award of the Bintang Jasa Pratama was advised 13 August 1999. At about this time, the conflict in East Timor broke. In the aftermath members of the Carrascalão family were slaughtered by the rampaging militia.
I was outraged by the militia actions and declined the Award. Later when relations were returned to an even keel I was contacted to see whether I would reconsider my decision. It was put to me that the bi lateral relationship required some symbolic gestures to demonstrate that we were all making an effort to get back to a normal working relationship. Four years later the Bintang Jasa Pratama was formerly invested on Indonesia Independence Day Celebrations at the Indonesian Consulate Darwin 24 August 2003. The ABC reported the award in the context of my Federal Presidency of the Liberal Party;11 the NT News got it right reporting the Award was all about the NT and our relationship with Indonesia.12 In a perverse way, Burke’s actions had delivered me a National Award from Indonesia – it was Indonesia’s way of showing support and appreciation.
Life Member of the Philippines Australia Business Council in Manila was an accolade from the business community that I greatly value.13 Governments can be catalysts for commercial activity but unless business picks up the threads it all counts for nought. I have stressed over and again the role of Governments is to encourage, make those vital introductions and help build capacity. Governments don’t do business - at best they are a facilitator. The Philippines business community greatly appreciated the connections over many years with Territory business particularly with the advent of BIMP EAGA and the Life Membership was their way of saying thank you.
The Keys to the City of Davao the regional capital of Mindanao and also the Keys to General Santos City on 9 December 1993 were very welcome gestures from a part of the Philippines that was very important to the NT’s trade ambitions and the live cattle trade. It was their way of telling us their doors were open for business and we didn’t hesitate.
I view all these awards through the prism of what the Territory meant for the region. I never thought them personal to me but rather recognition that we Territorians had found our place in the Asia Pacific. Our neighbours knew who we were and where we came from. We Territorians were firmly imbedded in the consciousness of our near neighbours - the ‘Gateway to Asia’ was not just a slogan, it was a brand. How much of that persists is today a matter of speculation.
In more recent times, together with a number of other similarly interested individuals world wide, I have become involved in a water initiative in Ethiopia sponsored and supported by the Ethiopian Crown Council in exile chaired by HIH Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, grandson of the former Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. The Crown Council now operates openly in Ethiopia with the concurrence of the elected Government with members of the Royal family recognised with the issue of new passports. As to whether longer term there will be an accommodation between the Republic and the old monarchy remains to be seen. In the meantime the Crown Council concentrates on it’s charitable works including this important water initiative that benefits poor rural communities. This project has struck a chord with me as my Government supported such projects to deliver potable water to villages in the Province of the Moluccas (Ambon) in the early 1990’s.
This connection with Prince Erimas has led me to a better understanding of the growing crisis facing the Christian minorities in North Africa and the Middle East especially Iraq and Syria. Orthodox, Coptic and Catholic communities are progressively being eliminated in these countries and Australians should be vitally concerned about such events. My continuing involvement with the Crown Council has led to the Award of Knight Grand Cordon of the Order of the Ethiopian Lion by the Ethiopian Crown Council styled GCEL.
Finally, may I make a very public plea to both sides of politics and community organisations in the NT. Please show an interest and nominate worthy Territorians for an award within the Order of Australia. Unless nominated there can be no Award. Chief Ministers have responsibility to be active nominators since they have all the resources of Government at their finger tips to identify those many Territorians deserving of ‘a slap on the back’. As matters stand, I remain the single largest nominator for awards in the NT and it’s time the NT Government stepped back up to its responsibilities largely neglected over the past decade or so.
Selection of Pam and Les Stone as Centenary Pioneers of the Border area marking the Centenary of Federation ↩
Phelps, B ‘St Mary’s Primary School Darwin It’s Life and Times 1908 - 2008’ Colemans Printing Darwin 2008 ↩
We live in a democracy where choice is a feature of our freedom. When it comes to honours people may choose to accept or reject such an honour – for themselves, not others. It does not fall to a person to make that decision for another or for that matter begrudge a fellow citizen an award. Paul Keating is the only prime minister to decline a post-office honour. He is quoted thus: “For my part, I could have had no greater honour in my life than to have been Prime Minister of Australia and that is sufficient public recognition for me.” Also attributed to Keating: “I have long held the view that the principal role of any system of national honours should be to reward those whose outstanding work in any capacity has been largely unrecognized by the broader Australian community”. However, what I can’t reconcile is Keating’s decision to decline his country’s award but to accept Thailand’s ‘Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant’. Keating, as was his right also adopted the appellation the Honourable - as to whether he formally petitioned the Palace and was gazetted accordingly or just assumed the use (the font of which is the Sovereign) I have not been able to verify todate. Marshall Perron, the NT’s 4th Chief Minister also declined a senior award within the Order of Australia as was his right and has never petitioned for the appellation the Honourable ↩
13th Asia Link Lecture ‘Engaging the Asia Pacific : Indonesia and Life after Suharto’ 27 March 1997 Melbourne attended by then Foreign Minister Hon Gareth Evans MP QC ↩
On 26 March 2014 Prime Minister Abbott restored the grades of Knight and Dame of the Order of Australia. The grade was abolished by the Hawke Government in 1986 without a mandate. The first two new recipients were retiring Governor General Her Excellency The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD and incoming Governor General His Excellency The Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC. I applaud the decision notwithstanding it’s impact on other grades including mine. The reality is regardless of the level of the award the honour lies in being admitted to the Order of Australia regardless of level. Media reaction was predictable - misinformed, inaccurate and partisan. For the sake of clarity the reinstatement of the grade has absolutely nothing to do with the Imperial system, it’s not a peerage, enoblement relates to the House of Lords (where a number of Australians sit) and it is a misdescription to refer to all recipients as AO’s (that’s actually a grade of the Order). ↩
The Commonwealth Government Gazette No. S173 23 April 1999; the Northern Territory has an approved protocol for awarding the appellation ‘the Honourable’ to those who qualify. This approach differs from where an historical right was conferred through membership of a Legislative Council or more commonly today where it is simply assumed as of right. NT recipients on my watch included Paul Everingham, Rodger Steele, Fred Finch and Jim Robinson. The Martin and Henderson Labor Governments abandoned the practice however I understand the Giles Government has rightly resumed the practice ↩
State of Sabah. State Honours Enactment 1963 (Sabah No. 33 of 1963) ↩
ABC ‘Indonesian Government Honours Stone with Presidential Award’ 24 August 2003 ↩
NT News ‘Stone given Indonesian gong’ 25 August 2003 ↩
Also received Philippines Centennial Award 12 June 1998 from the Filipino Australian Association of the NT 12 June 1998 ↩