Bettina Arndt and Mike Carlton can keep their orders of Australia, council decides

The Council of the Order of Australia reviewed the two honours following a public backlash

The sex therapist Bettina Arndt and writer Mike Carlton will retain their orders of Australia, after the council responsible for the awards refused to revoke them.

In a statement on Friday, Shane Stone, the chairman of the Council of the Order of Australia, said the awards were not an endorsement of recipients’ social or political views, and revocation was generally reserved for criminal convictions, adverse court findings or misrepresentations about personal achievements.

Arndt’s 2020 Australia Day honour was referred to the Council of the Order of Australia for review after public backlash that she had been awarded it for services “to gender equity through advocacy for men”.

Arndt came under fire for a 2018 interview with the convicted paedophile Nicolaas Bester in which she described the behaviour of female students as “sexually provocative”. Arndt was also forced to defend claims she had misrepresented herself to be a clinical psychologist, despite not being legally registered.

Carlton’s award was referred after the News Corp columnist Sharri Markson complained about swearing and violent imagery in his tweets and claimed that cabinet ministers were unhappy with the award.

In a statement on Friday, Stone said the council had “considered requests for the cancellation of appointments … and will make no further recommendations to the governor general”.

Stone said that in a system that honours hundreds of people each year “it is inevitable that each list will include some people who others believe should not be recognised”.

“Unanimous community approval is not a criteria for council to make a recommendation,” he said.

Although nominations for the awards were sourced from the community, the decision to grant or revoke awards was not “directed by governments or influenced by lobbying or public campaigning”, he said.

“Similarly, individuals are neither qualified nor disqualified on the basis of their political leanings, social views or religious convictions.”

Stone said recommendations for an award were not “an endorsement of the political, religious or social views of recipients, nor is conferral of an honour an endorsement of the personally held beliefs of recipients”.

Stone said the order’s constitution and precedent set out that revocation of awards will be considered “where an individual has been convicted of a crime or offence under the law, received a civil penalty under the law or has been subject to an adverse finding by a court, tribunal or other body exercising judicial or administrative power under the law”.

Although the constitution allows cancellations “where an individual has behaved or acted in a manner that has brought disrepute on the order” this is generally reserved for convictions or adverse court findings.

“The council will also consider cancellation or termination where information on which the initial recommendation was made is found to be based on false or misleading material.”

New Matilda revealed close to 200 instances where Arndt had been interviewed on TV or radio or referred to in articles, in parliament or at conferences and was introduced as a psychologist, a clinical psychologist or a doctor, despite not being registered with the regulator, Ahpra (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency). This included the Guardian in 2010.

Arndt has explained that when she obtained her Master of Clinical Psychology in 1973, it was not a requirement for psychologists to be registered.

“As professional registration of psychologists tightened up, I tried to control how I was described more carefully when being introduced on radio and television,” she said in February.

“This isn’t always so easy. Producers and researchers looking after these programs change jobs frequently and it requires constant monitoring,” she said.

Arndt said she refers to herself as “trained as a clinical psychologist.”


Paul Karp

The GuardianTramp

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