}

Monday, June 04, 2018

A good holiday

Today was the Queen’s Birthday public holiday, the last public holiday until Labour Day the end of October. The day is technically the Reigning Monarch’s Birthday, not just of the current Queen, because her actual birthday is in April. So, it’s a symbolic date at a time of year we need a public holiday. It’s also one of two days a year that Honours are announced.

The annual Queen’s Birthday Honours were announced today (the other day Honours are announced is New year's Day), and to say they’re a departure from the past would be an understatement. My friend, Auckland Councillor Richard Hills, noted on Facebook that “For the first time in 170 years of honours, the majority are for women.” That’s remarkable in itself, but also five women received a knighthood, and only three men did. The female recipients included some surprises.

Among the new female knights (called “Dame”), Catherine Alice Healy received hers “For services to the rights of sex workers”. She was founder of The Prostitutes Collective, and a champion of legalisation of prostitution. This award shows better than most things how much New Zealand has changed over the years.

Also becoming female knights were Julie (Jools) Bethridge Topp, MNZM and her twin sister, Lynda Bethridge Topp, MNZM, who together are known as “The Topp Twins”. They have entertained New Zealanders for some 30 years. The sisters are both lesbian, and have a long history of activism, including the nuclear-free movement, for Homosexual Law Reform, and against South African apartheid. As Jools told Stuff, “The rebels got their medals."

Among the men (called “Sir”), former Prime Minister Bill English received a knighthood “For services to the State” following his 30 year career in Parliament. I hardly ever agreed with English when he was in Parliament, and sometimes I quite disliked him. Nevertheless, I think if there are to be knighthoods, and there clearly are, then he deserved one—arguably more than his predecessor, John Key did. But the tradition of giving former prime ministers—and, indeed, many former long serving politicians—high honours I think is justified. Whether I supported them during their career or not is entirely beside the point.

There’s talk every year of ditching Queen’s Birthday favour of Matariki, which is also known as “Māori New Year”. Matariki itself is the name for the constellation known as the Pleiades or Seven Sisters. The rising of the constellation was often seen by Māori as the start of their new year, and in 2018 that will fall 6-13 July. Assuming that a single date for the public holiday were ever agreed to, it would be something of a battle to get the switch approved. Personally, I can’t see it happening for many, many years, maybe not even until New Zealand becomes a republic.

Still, this was a holiday weekend, which, despite all the rain, was nice to have. And, this year for a change I’m not very criticial of the Queen’s Birthday Honours. I’d say this year’s holiday was a success all round.

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