After all of Kevin Rudd’s showboating over “finally” offering “an official apology” to the “generations” of Aborigines who were allegedly “stolen solely due to racist government policies,” is he really going to come up with anything more honest, more heartfelt and more sincere, than this? We’ll post the text of Rudd’s Official Apology when it becomes available.
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Howard puts the motion of regret to Parliament
Archive – Thursday, 26 August , 1999
JOHN HOWARD (in the House today): …House to move a motion relating to reconciliation.
SPEAKER IN THE HOUSE: Is leave granted? Leave is granted. I thank the Leader of the Opposition. I call the Prime Minister.
JOHN HOWARD: I thank the House. Mr Speaker, I move that this House:
a.) reaffirms its wholehearted commitment to the cause of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians as an important national priority for all Australians;
b.) recognising the achievements of the Australian nation, commits to work together to strengthen the bonds that unite us, to respect and appreciate our differences and to build a fair and prosperous future in which we can all share;
c.) reaffirms the central importance of practical measures leading to practical results that address the profound economic and social disadvantage which continues to be experienced by many indigenous Australians;
d.) recognises the importance of understanding the shared history of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, and the need to acknowledge openly the wrongs and injustices of Australia’s past;
e.) acknowledges that the mistreatment of many indigenous Australians over a significant period represents the most blemished chapter in our national history;
f.) expresses its deep and sincere regret that indigenous Australians suffered injustices under the practices of past generations and for the hurt and trauma that many indigenous people continue to feel as a consequence of those practices; and
g.) believes that we, having achieved so much as a nation, can now move forward together for the benefit of all Australians.
MEMBERS: Hear, hear.
JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: Mr Speaker, it will be no secret to the House or indeed to many Australians that over the past few days, indeed over the past few weeks, I and a number of my colleagues and others have been giving thought to the issues that are the subject of this resolution. It is an historic resolution. It’s a very important resolution because it goes to the issues of the spirit and the heart and the character of our country in a way that many of the issues we debate in this chamber, important though they are, do not.
As all members know, Mr Speaker, we are approaching that momentous event in Australia’s history when we will celebrate 100 years of federation, 100 years of the Australian nation. And that will be an occasion when all of us will want quite legitimately to focus on what this nation has achieved. We will quite legitimately in the Year 2001 celebrate with pride in an unqualified way the immensity and the scale of the Australian achievement. And that has been a great achievement. It’s been an achievement that has delivered to our country a reputation for achievement, for tolerance, for understanding, for compassion, for independence of spirit and an ability to work together to overcome adversity.
And I would imagine, Mr Speaker, that whatever our views are on political issues; whatever our ethnic or national origin might be, whether we practise this or that religion or whether we profess any religion at all, that we would want in the Year 2001 to focus overwhelmingly on those things that unite us as Australians and not those things that divide us and set us apart as Australians.
Mr Speaker, I have come to the view that an important element of that celebration of the unity of the Australian nation is undoubtedly achieving an effective and lasting reconciliation between indigenous Australians and other members of the Australian community. And I know that that is a desire that everybody in this chamber shares because in reality there is an extent to which the sense of the unit of the Australian nation is qualified and diminished so far as indigenous Australians are concerned unless, in their hearts and in their understanding, there is a proper basis of an achievement of reconciliation.
And it is in that context and against that background, Mr Speaker, the desire on the part of the government to make the maximum contribution towards achieving the conditions of reconciliation which will enable all of us, whatever our views are on constitutional reforms, whatever our views are on taxation, whatever our views are on foreign policy or health policy or all the other things that we debate so passionately in this chamber, so that all of us can pause in the year 2001 and reflect unqualifiably and without any sense that one sector is diminished or restrained because of unfinished business, can celebrate the scale and the immensity of the Australian achievement.
And we need to do that as a people. We want to do that as a people. And I want all of the Australian people to feel an equal measure of pride and satisfaction in the Australian achievement. But I think we in this chamber must recognise that that can’t be done in quite that unqualified way by indigenous Australians without a sense of reconciliation.
In approaching this motion today, people are entitled to reflect on what I’ve said in the past. People are entitled to say that I said this on one occasion. Some will criticise me. Some will say that I’ve changed my position on some aspects of this. I don’t mind if they do. I don’t think to change your position on something really matters unless you are changing to a less worthy position.
MEMBERS: Hear, hear.
PRIME MINISTER, JOHN HOWARD: And what I’d sought to do is to bring to an understanding and a comprehension of this issue, Mr Speaker, what I can to make as Prime Minister a practical contribution and a genuine contribution to the cause of reconciliation.
When my government was returned in the election last October, when I spoke on election night, I said I wanted to commit the government to achieve reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. And I believe that the resolution that I’m putting to the House today, Mr Speaker if carried, will make a very significant contribution towards that cause.
COMPERE: Well there it is, the Prime Minister, John Howard, in the House of Representatives in Canberra putting forward a motion to the Parliament for deep and sincere regret for injustices suffered under the practices of past generations.
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also at Tizona’s: Mal Brough’s 2007 Deakin Lecture