Originally I wasn’t going to write about today’s Parliamentary Apology to the Stolen Generations. But the event has so captured the nation that writing will clarify my own thoughts. So here goes…
I’ll get the obvious comments out of the way first. Kevin Rudd delivered the Apology with dignity and grace. Brendan Nelson’s speech was moving in parts, but fortunately his attempts to weasel it failed to sour the overall occasion. I agree with Paul Keating’s comment that Nelson missed the point of the day.
I was disgusted to hear that Chris Pearce, the Member for Aston, was reading a magazine and cracking jokes during Rudd’s speech.
As Chris Graham, editor of The National Indigenous Times reports in Crikey:
At the part where Rudd was talking about the tragedy of infant mortality,Â the “little ones” in Rudd’s words,Â Pearce was cracking a joke to the rather uncomfortable looking member of parliament sitting next to him.
In fact, Pearce was so against an apology, that he also sat and read through his own leader’s entire speech. When Rudd finished and received a standing ovation, Pearce was the only member of parliament to remain seated. It begs the question, why did he even show up?
Who voted this ignorant yobbo into Parliament? Mr Pearce, you’re entitled to hold an opinion, but at least show some manners in the House. You could hardly accuse Wilson Tuckey of being Australia’s best-mannered parliamentarian, but at least when he decided against the Apology he didn’t turn up.
The negative radio talkback callers were the people we always hear on these occasions: the whining, selfish, ignorant, bitter white-trash who seem incapable of seeing the world through anyone else’s eyes.
HEART FM Hobart 09:44 AM: Caller Ron says white man and the Aboriginal men will never assimilate, like in the north of America. As the white man made the farming lands Ron is looking at now. Ron says an Aboriginal burned an Australian flag that soldiers fought under…
2UE Sydney 09:37 AM: Caller Helen doesn’t agree with the apology to the Stolen Generations because Governments shouldn’t apologise every time there is a bad law. Says she has Aboriginal friends but says there are Aboriginal people out there that, no matter what you do for them, are never happy.
When I worked for ABC Radio I produced some 4000 hours of talk and talkback programs, and I heard far, far too many of these people complaining about the riches and luxuries supposedly showered on the blacks, dole-bludgers, single mothers, poofters, arts students, immigrants and anyone else who didn’t precisely match their own experience. They, of course, had always suffered through the depression, or the War, drought, floods, bushfires, poor health, hard work and high interest rates and were deserving of their handouts.
There probably weren’t ever that many of these folks. They just seemed to have so much spare time in which to phone talkback programs — probably because they’d driven away all their friends through constant whingeing.
Thankfully, it won’t be long before they’re all dead. It’s just a shame that certain legal impediments prevent us from hurrying things up a bit.
But I digress…
Chairman Rudd has set himself an interesting challenge with talk of a bi-partisan “war cabinet” and a referendum. Once the emotion of today’s grand symbolic gesture fades, how will all unfold, I wonder?
A grass-roots call rippled through Facebook for people to change their status message to “…is sorry”. Of the 65 of my friends who’d updated their status recently enough to count, 60% of them had done so — roughly two-thirds of them with the simple “…is sorry”, the rest with additional comments. Another 8% changed their status to some acknowledgement of the day.
By any measure, today was a major milestone in Australia’s history.