Ms Kennerley, who served as a community representative on the Council for the Order of Australia about 15 years ago, said it’s not hard to game the honours’ system.
“If you know the system, you know how to get good names of referees. They seem to hand it around to each bunch of business people,” said
“It’s not the Logies, you don’t get it for being famous. It should be ‘above and beyond’. That was always our overriding benchmark.”
Senators on Tuesday voted in favour of a motion moved by Labor pair Penny Wong and Kristina Keneally, that Ms Arndt’s comments were “reckless and abhorrent” and “the values that underpin Ms Arndt’s views” on the Baxter murders were “not consistent with her retaining her Order of Australia”.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said: “This must be above politics – and Bettina Arndt’s comments must be condemned”.
Ms Arndt, 70, was granted her gong in this year’s Australia Day honours for “significant service to the community as a social commentator, and to gender equity through advocacy for men”.
She is described as a “Sex Therapist, since the 1970s, and a Social Commentator and Advocate for Men’s Issues”.
The appointment was controversial even before Ms Arndt’s comments on the murder of Hannah Baxter and her children, largely because of a sympathetic interview she did in 2017 with convicted paedophile Nicolaas Bester, who sexually assaulted his 15-year-old student.
Ms Arndt said Bester’s victim had been “sexually provocative” and suggested young girls be talked to “about behaving sensibly and not exploiting their seductive power to ruin the lives of men”.
Ms Kennerley said she was not “judge and jury” on the Order of Australia awards.
“I vehemently disagree with her views on both [Baxter and Bester] but it’s not for me to say whether it should or be taken off her or not,” she said.
Ms Kennerley said during her time as a community representative on the council the honours process was “a very dedicated process with every single referee contacted”.
“My overall view of the whole thing is they’ve been giving them out willy nilly these days,” she said.
The push to terminate Ms Arndt’s appointment has gained pace this parliamentary sitting week.
On Sunday Liberal senator Sarah Henderson tweeted a copy of a letter to the chairman of the Council of the Order of Australia, former Liberal politician Shane Stone, urging him to rescind Ms Arndt’s award.
Victorian Liberal State MP Tim Smith, Labor frontbencher Catherine King, and Liberal senator James Paterson have all condemned Ms Arndt’s comments.
In the days following the announcement of the award Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy wrote to Governor-General David Hurley to ask him to consider revoking it.
A spokesman for the Governor-General said all correspondence relating to requests to cancel or terminate an award is forwarded to the Council for the Order of Australia for “advice and action”.
Questions about when the council might meet to consider the controversy were not answered before deadline.
Under the Order of Australia regulations, honours may be revoked if the recipient is subject to criminal or civil sanctions, has misrepresented their credentials, or if “the holder of the appointment or award has behaved in a manner that has brought disrepute on the Order”.
Jacqueline Maley is a senior journalist, columnist and former Canberra press gallery sketch writer for The Sydney Morning Herald. In 2017 she won the Peter Ruehl Award for Outstanding Columnist at the Kennedy Awards