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Monday, 3 April 2000
Page: 15008

Mr BEAZLEY (2:15 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, do you believe there was a stolen generation or not?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —The views on this matter of mine and the views of the government have been encapsulated on numerous occasions. It is clear that large numbers of children were taken away from their parents in circumstances that could only be described as forcible removal. It is also clear that the numbers that were taken away cannot be established after this lapse of time with total precision. It is also clear that many of them—

Mrs Crosio —So why argue on the numbers?

Ms Ellis —Why argue on them?

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Prospect and the member for Canberra, the Prime Minister has the call.

Mr HOWARD —Many were taken in circumstances where under today's laws they would be regarded as being properly and lawfully taken from their families in the interests of their own protection. I would clearly have in mind the operation of child protection laws in many parts of the country. As to the use of a particular term to collectively describe the practice, different people have different terms. I content myself with the submission that was made on behalf of the government. I content myself with the response that was made.

People have talked a lot about being semantic with statistics. I could equally say that the Leader of the Opposition is being semantic with words. The reality is that large numbers of children were taken in circumstances where they should not have been taken. Those practices, as I have often acknowledged in the past, represent the most blemished chapter in the history of this country. I have never walked away from that. The government has never walked away from that. But, equally, those people who are genuinely concerned about the process of reconciliation in our nation will not decry attempts to have a sensible, reasoned and as far as possible free of rhetorical flourish debate about this issue. We do not achieve anything on this issue by arguing the toss about a particular expression on either side. We do achieve a great deal by acknowledging facts and showing to the Australian community a willingness to debate facts. That is what the minister was doing. Those who deny him the right or impugn his motives for doing that I think are downgrading the debate and they are certainly not serving the interests of the indigenous people of Australia.