Australia's decision to award Prince Philip a knighthood sparks political row

Prince Philip has been awarded a knighthood by Australia - sparking a political row in the country.

The country's Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the Duke of Edinburgh, 93, should be recognised for his "long life of service and dedication".

But the decision to award the Duke with Australia's highest honour has been criticised, with former Western Australia premier Geoff Gallop describing it as a "sad reflection" on the country and others believing it was a joke.

Announcing the award as part of the country's Australia Day celebrations, Mr Abbott said: "This honour recognises the contribution of the Duke of Edinburgh to Australia throughout the Queen's 62-year reign.

Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister, has been criticised for award Prince Philip a knighthood. Credit: Reuters

"Prince Philip's long life of service and dedication should be honoured by Australia.

"For three quarters of a century, Prince Philip has served the Crown, and the wider Commonwealth."

Abbott hailed the impact of Prince Philip's Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, saying it had helped thousands of young people in Australia for more than 50 years.

The announcement was mocked in some quarters online.

"So proud. Australia knights Prince Philip. Who needs satire?" one Twitter user said.

Another said: "Congratulations Prince Philip on your knighthood, and congratulations the Middle Ages on becoming a thing again!"

The leader of the country's republican Labour party, Bill Shorten, said giving an Australian honour to a member of Britain's Royal family creates "a time warp".

"I think that on Australia Day, where we're talking about Australia, Australian identity, the government's managed to find a British royal to give a medal to, a knighthood to.

"I've just been at citizenship functions, local breakfasts - some people there wondered whether it was an Australia Day hoax," he told Fairfax Media radio station 3AW.

Asked by Australian media for his reaction to the backlash, Mr Abbott said:

I'll leave social media to its own devices. Social media is like electronic graffiti and I think that in the media you'd make a big mistake to pay too much attention to social media.

Tony Abbott

The Duke last visited Australia in 2011 while completing an 11-day tour alongside the Queen.