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If Lennon can do it, why can’t Howard?



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PETER GARRETT MP

Member for Kingsford Smith

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Reconciliation and the Arts

MEDIA STATEMENT

18 October 2006

If Lennon can do it, why can’t Howard?

The historic decision by the Tasmanian Government to recognise the severe hardships suffered by the Stolen Generations is in stark contrast to the Howard Government’s do-nothing approach to reconciliation.

The Stolen Generations of Aboriginal Children Bill 2006 represents a significant step in the reconciliation process, and backs up Premier Lennon’s election commitment to acknowledge and compensate Indigenous Tasmanians for the hardship caused by isolating them from their families.

Now Tasmania has taken the lead on reconciliation, despite the fact the Prime Minister promised in 1998 to commit himself “very genuinely to the cause of true reconciliation with the Aboriginal people of Australia by the centenary of federation”.

Actions speak louder than words. The Tasmanian Premier’s offer of compensation, along with the Tasmanian Parliament’s Statement of Apology in 1997, reinforces again that the Prime Minister is the odd one out on reconciliation.

Following a visit to the Parliament today, Canada’s National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine stated, “This decision sets an important precedent for Australia. It makes clear that Indigenous health and well-being is directly linked to the National Government advancing reconciliation.”

And earlier this month a message from Pope Benedict XVI delivered to a Catholic Council assembly in the Northern Territory argued, “That no one could be exempt from reconciliation if Australia is to achieve a harmonious future.”

Labor remains profoundly committed to the reconciliation process including addressing the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report.

I call on the Prime Minister to now make clear his intentions for the future of reconciliation; does he have a plan or is he content that others should take the lead while his government does nothing?

Contact: Andrew Palfreyman

0434 600 577