Archive for the ‘Indigenous rights’ category

John Howard says sorry (almost)

October 12, 2007

John Howard has given a very interesting speech in Sydney dismorning. Its not his normal unapolegitc self, but instead talks about the need for reconciliation with the aboriginal people of Australia. He doesn’t quite says sorry for the past, but almost does. Andrey young has a good pieceĀ on it here (including the full text of the speech. The only real policy anounced in the speech is to hold a referendum to add a preamble into the Australian constitution to recognise the status of aboriginal Australians as the first inhabitants of Australia, their culture and “their special (though not seperate) place within a reconciled, indivisable nation”.

One can question if Howard is genuine or not. On one hand there is an election coming up, and this speech may have something to do with it. On the other hand, Howard is getting old (he’s 68) and likely to retire from politics whatever the election outcome. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is thinking of his legacy, and will prefer to be remembered as the PM who started a national reconciliation process than the one who refused to apoligise for the stolen generation. As he will probably get voted out at the election, we probably won’t get to find out.

The other question is wether or not he will be believed. Howard does have a record of being economical with the truth during the “children overboard affair“. And Howard has a long history of not doing much about aboriginal rights during his 11 years as Prime Minister. Despite this, it appears some aboriginal Australians are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I have doubt if the electorate will.

Overall I agree with a lot of what Howard said in that speech. Australia needs some form of reconciliation and will have to one day address the issues surounding how the aboriginal people were treated unfairly in the past. But it must do so in a way that does not involve racial seperatism, or giving special treatment to one race over another (i.e. “affirmative action”). Unfortunately, with all Howard’s political baggage he will not be taken seriously on this. Hopefully a future Australian government might.