PM weighs in on Margaret Court honour outrage
Margaret Court's Australia Day honour has already ignited controversy, with the embargoed news broken four days before it was to be made public.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to comment on Ms Court's award, saying he was not aware of who was being recognised on Australia Day.
"I can't comment on an award that's done through an independent process that hasn't been announced or I have no official knowledge of those," Mr Morrison said.
"This is a completely independent set of processes. It is an announcement that will be announced on that day. It is a system that recognises the full spectrum of individuals across this country. I comment on that."
Meantime, outrage is growing over the decision.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews was asked at a press conference this morning about Ms Court's Companion of the Order of Australia award, which was to be revealed on Monday night.
Mr Andrews hit out at the decision, saying Ms Court did not exhibit the values or hold the attitudes supported by the majority of Victorians.
Describing Court's views as "hateful" Mr Andrew's said he was "sick of talking about that person every summer".
"Do we really have to do this every single summer? Others have saw fit to honour her, they're not decisions I make," he said.
Greens acting leader Nick McKim demanded Mr Morrison "stop one of Australia's worst bigots from getting our highest honour".
"This is like awarding Pauline Hanson for her work in the fish and chip industry. Australia's top award shouldn't go to a racist, homophobe, or transphobe just because they were good at their day job," he said.
"Scott Morrison and Margaret Court need to understand that the rally is long over - and unlike in tennis, love always wins."
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said that Court had already been honoured for her "tennis prowess", having previously been named an Officer of the Order of Australia.
"I think it's clear to everyone to see that making her a Companion of the Order of Australia has nothing to do with tennis," he said on Twitter.
The details of those being honoured on Australia Day are issued under embargo to media outlets.
Broadcaster and writer Justin Smith revealed Court's honour on social media this morning, saying "the debate that'll follow after the 26th will be pointless and tedious".
"So let's do it now," he said.
"Court's extreme views on same-sex and transgender people have been well reported.
"I think they've been an international embarrassment and belong in a very different era.
"Australia is beyond believing other are less than equal or suffering from a form of abnormality that needs correcting."
Smith said despite Court's "giant achievements in tennis", honouring her with a Companion in the General Division would "puts "humanity at large" and "Australia in reverse".
He called for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Governor General and the Council of the Order of Australia to reconsider the honour.
Seventy-nine-year-old Court was one of four people to be made a Companion this year, the highest level in the Australia Day honours system, which is conferred for "eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to Australia".
But her phenomenal achievements on the tennis court are expected to be overtaken by fresh debate about her public comments on same-sex marriage.
These have drawn considerable ire, leading to calls for the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne to be renamed. The calls reached a peak at the 2020 Australian Open, when tennis greats John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova, and Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour all criticised Court's public statements.
Speaking to News Corp, Ms Court said she had been bullied and treated unfairly by the press.
Asked whether any of her concerns about same sex marriage had been realised or allayed since it was legalised in 2017, Ms Court said no
"I'm never going to change. We have transgenders and gay people come into our community services, we accept everybody nobody what colour, where you're from, your background and we love all people," she said. "A lot of (the controversy) was created through press and things that were said about me. A lot of it was taken out of context but I still always believe what I say from the Bible, and I should be allowed to say that, being a pastor."
The honour recognises Ms Court's performances on the tennis court between 1960 and 1977, where she smashed her way into the history books with an unbeaten 24 Grand Slam singles titles, and a total of 64 Grand Slam titles, inclusive of doubles and mixed doubles. Both world records still stand today. (Serena Williams has 23 Grand Slam singles titles, despite a longer playing career than Court.)
Ms Court told News Corp the honour was a "lovely surprise" and she "had no idea it was coming".
She said her record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles was "there to be broken" and suggested that of today's players, Rafael Nadal was still young enough to one day achieve it. (He's currently sitting on 20.)
"But I don't think any of them will do the 64 that I have in the singles, doubles and mixed, and I've held that one for 40 or 50 years or something like that," she said.
"Back in those days we played singles, doubles and mixed and that wasn't easy. I remember being in three slam finals on the one day at Wimbledon, I had to play my singles and then doubles and then mixed doubles.
"There's no way anybody would do that today."
Since 1995 Court has been known for her ministry work and humanitarian efforts with the Pentecostal Victory Life Centre in Perth. The Centre had distributed 75 tonnes of food to the needy since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, Ms Court said.
Originally published as PM weighs in on Margaret Court honour outrage