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Australia drops royal titles, again

Australia has again dropped knights and dames, hangovers from Britain's monarchy. Premier Malcolm Turnbull says last year's reintroduction of such titles by his predecessor Tony Abbott was inapt.

Australia again removed knights and dames from its honors list on Monday. Turnbull, who has long promoted a republic-styled Australia, ousted Abbott, a staunch monarchist, in September.

Announcing the policy about-turn in Sydney, Turnbull (pictured right, with Abbott left) said Queen Elizabeth II at his cabinet's request had agreed to revert to Australia's non-monarchist honors for persons serving the public in place since the 1980s.

Australia still retains the Queen as its ceremonial head of state but has long debated a switch to home-grown republicanism, especially during a 1999 referendum.

At the time, Turnbull chaired the Australian Republican Movement, whose campaign was defeated.

Abbott ridiculed

London-born Abbott reintroduced knights and dames in 2014 and then decided to knight the queen's husband, Prince Philip.

That move was widely ridiculed and was later cited as the beginning of the end of Abbott's premiership at the head of Australia's conservative Liberal government.

Turnbull, a multimillonaire investor, former journalist and lawyer, told reporters on Monday that the ancient British awards practice was "really anachronistic."

Knights and dames are "out of date, they're not appropriate in 2015 in Australia," he said, but added that existing knights and dames would retain their titles.

Turnbull followed his inner-party ouster of Abbott in September by saying he wanted a "more innovative, more optimistic" form of government.

'Farce,' says opposition

The opposition Labor party described the about-turn the conservative Turnbull-led government as a "farce."

"We should be lamenting the fact they they came back under his government," said Labor member of parliament Chris Bowen.

Opposition Greens Party leader Richard Di Natale mocked the government.

"It says something about the standard of leadership in this country that installing knights and dames was one of the most significant acts of our former prime minister, and undoing that folly is so far one of the most significant acts of our new one," Di Natale said.

Monarchists upset

Australia's Monarchist League accused Turnbull of "republicanism by stealth."

A Fairfax-Nielsen survey in 2014 found that 51 percent of Australians sampled favored the hybrid status quo of Australian titles but with the Queen as head of state, while 42 percent back the idea of turning Australia into a full republic.

The Queen's eldest son Prince Charles and his wife Camilla are due to visit Australia and New Zealand next week.

ipj/kms (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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