Top 10 Prince Philip gaffesFACTBOX: Knights and Dames in Australia

Tony Abbott’s decision to honour the Duke of Edinburgh has sparked mockery on social media and condemnation from some fellow politicians.

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Prince Philip was announced as one of two men honoured as Australia’s next knights today, almost a year after Mr Abbott reintroduced the honours.

The news sent “Philip” trending on social media, ahead of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s comments that the decision was outdated.

Mr Shorten told Fairfax Radio that he originally thought the news was a hoax.

He said he didn’t understand the government’s priorities in nominating Prince Philip, when they could have “picked someone who is Australian in character and activity”.

“It’s a time warp where we’re giving knighthoods to English royalty,” Mr Shorten said.

“On Australia Day, we’re talking about Australia, Australian identity, the Government’s managed to find a British royal to give a medal to, a knighthood to.”

Liberal leader Colin Barnett said he was also surprised at the news.

“I admit to being surprised,” Mr Barnett said.

“The Australian honours are generally for Australian citizens, however I don’t think it’s a big deal.

Meanwhile Northern Territory chief minister and Country Liberal Party leader Adam Giles was more scathing.

“It makes us a bit of a joke. It’s Australia Day, we’re not a bunch of tossers,” he said.

The prime minister dismissed that form of public opinion, standing “absolutely” by his decision.

“Social media is kind of like electronic graffiti. In the media, you make a big mistake to pay too much attention to social media,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra.

The monarchy has played an important part in Australia’s life since 1788, he said.

“Prince Philip has been a great servant of Australia, he’s been a great servant of all the countries of the Commonwealth.”

“He’s the patron of hundreds of organisations. He’s the inspiration and wellspring of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards.”

Mr Abbott has been facing calls from within coalition ranks to lift his game, following a chaotic end to 2014 and an uncertain start to the new year.

He told reporters his government probably needed to be more consultative and collegial, but it seems he didn’t consult his colleagues about awarding a knighthood to a British royal on Australia Day.

“He didn’t really knight a prince, did he?” queried Labor MP Terri Butler, echoing the sentiment on social media.

Queensland Liberal Ewen Jones agreed with knights and dames for governors-general but no one else, especially British royals.

However Tasmanian MP Andrew Nikolic and West Australian Liberal senator Dean Smith were supportive.

“No one can deny the warmth Australians feel towards the Queen, and by extension her partner in her life long service, Prince Philip,” Senator Smith told AAP.

Mr Abbott announced the new honour last March as a special recognition of those of pre-eminent achievement and merit.

The Hawke government had ended knighthoods in 1986.

The first were conferred on retiring governor-general Quentin Bryce, her successor and former defence force chief Peter Cosgrove, and retiring NSW governor Marie Bashir.

Prince Charles was make a Knight of the Order of Australia in 1981.