News October 12, 2021

Council of the Order of Australia not cancelling Denis Handlin’s AO honour

Council of the Order of Australia not cancelling Denis Handlin’s AO honour

The Council of the Order of Australia has issued a statement to The Network following calls for former Sony CEO Denis Handlin to be stripped of his Order of Australia Honours.

Handlin was appointed to the national order in 2005 when he became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) which recognises “service in a particular locality or field of activity or to a particular group”.

In 2017, he was elevated to Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), which rewards “distinguished service of a high degree to Australia or to humanity at large”.

The Council provided a statement to TMN which noted “unanimous approval is not a criteria” for the award. It also appears that as Handlin has not been convicted by a court or found guilty of any law breaches, his Officer of the Order of Australia will continue to stand.

Asked by TMN if the Governor-General’s Office is looking into Handlin’s place within the order, what action (if any) is taken to ensure the integrity of the Order of Australia, and what action can be taken if circumstances such as the allegations against Handlin come to light, a spokesperson said the Council does not comment on individual nominations or appointments.

“In all matters relating to appointments to the Order of Australia, or the termination of appointments, the Governor-General acts on the recommendations made to him by the independent Council of the Order of Australia,” a spokesperson told TMN.

The spokesperson also attached a previous statement from the chairman of the Council last year, which was issued when there were mounting calls for both Bettina Arndt and Mike Carlton to be stripped of their Member of the Order of Australia (AM) appointments.

This statement said the Council takes great care in exercising responsibilities both in relation to appointments and in considering whether an appointment or award should be terminated or cancelled.

It outlines circumstances in which it would consider cancelling one of its honours, namely when an individual has been convicted of a crime or offence under the law, received a civil penalty under the law, or has been subjected to an adverse finding by a court, tribunal or other body exercising judicial or administrative power under the law.

The Council said it required the judicial process to be exhausted before it would make such a recommendation.

The Council does have a clause about bringing disrepute on the Order – which could result in honours being withdrawn – however this too appears to be related to the law.

“In the Council’s view, and as a general principle, for the Order to be brought into disrepute a conviction, penalty or adverse finding must have occurred,” the statement explained. “In essence, the Council recognises that the law prescribes behaviours and expressions, which are abhorrent to society and therefore uses law as the threshold for termination and cancellation.”

The Council would also consider cancellation if the information contained within the initial recommendation was found to be based on false or misleading information.

The Council noted that in a system which recognises hundreds of people each year “it is inevitable” that some people will end up on the list whom others deem not worthy.

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

In recent months evidence has mounted about Handlin’s tenure as CEO of Sony Australia and the culture he fostered while at the top. Long-held whispers, rumours and anecdotes entered the public domain this year, culminating in the major label’s New York HQ launching an investigation.

Handlin was subsequently sacked from his position and a number of other executives have also departed.

Handlin has thus far denied the claims and not much was on the record about his alleged behaviour.

Last night, however, the ’s Four Corners aired a special investigation into Handlin, as well as the toxic culture within the major record label under his leadership. It included claims of bullying, harassment, intimidation and abuse over decades, as well a story about a sexual assault survivor leaving the organisation with an $80,000 payout while the alleged perpetrator continued with the company for years.

He has this afternoon been stripped of his QMusic Honorary Award, and calls are mounting for his Icon Award and his Order of Australia Honours to also be removed.

How did we get here? A timeline of Sony Australia’s upheaval 

12 April: Tony Glover sacked by Sony Music Australia over allegations of inappropriate behaviour
15 June: 
Sony Music Australia under investigation by head office for harassment & bullying
21 June: Sony Music Australia and New Zealand CEO Denis Handlin to depart
22 June: 5 questions that need answering after Denis Handlin’s exit
23 June: 
Sony Music’s Pat Handlin & Mark Stebnicki stood down as work culture investigation continues
24 June: ‘It is time for change’: Denis Handlin sends note to Sony Music Australia staff
24 June: Lawyers who previously represented Titus Day in battle against Guy Sebastian could bring class action against Sony Music Australia
28 June: Inside the Australian music industry’s toxic underbelly
12 July: Law firm considering class action against Sony Music Australia inundated with responses
26 August: Everybody Knows: A five-part investigation into Australia’s toxic music industry launches
31 August: Inside the investigation that will expose Australia’s music industry
1 September: Denis Handlin speaks: ‘I would never tolerate treating women in an inappropriate manner’
24 September: Wayne Ringrow departs Sony Music Australia
11 October: ‘Systemic bullying, discrimination & misconduct’: Over 100 people break their silence on Sony Music Australia
12 October: Sacked Sony executive Tony Glover denies sexual harassment allegations & says he was a ‘scapegoat’
12 October: Four Corners episode investigating Sony Music watched by 602,000 metro viewers
12 October: ARIA releases statement in the wake of Four Corners’ Sony Music report as artists stay quiet
12 October: QMusic revokes Denis Handlin’s honorary award
12 October: ‘Distressing and disheartening’: APRA AMCOS issues statement on Sony Music

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