The thin edge
This article was published in 2008 but could have been written at any time over the past decade. It's almost Howard-Costello in its sheer lameness.
But the fact is, problems remain with the practicalities of an apology. Getting it right is more important than getting it done in the first week of Parliament. Labor’s indigenous affairs spokeswoman Jenny Macklin acknowledged this today when she refused to put a deadline on saying sorry.
A few weeks ago, Sam, she announced that the consultation process could take months, and that it was inextricable from practical measures such as the NT intervention.
And practical responses to Aboriginal disadvantage will ultimately deliver more lasting solutions than pretty words.
Any suggestions as to what these might be? Any examples you can point to?
On a grubbier note, the great Sorry debate should also provide a fascinating opportunity for the new Labor government to turn the tables and “wedge” the battered Liberal opposition, who used the issue of an apology for years to divide and conquer the ALP.
Now, it is the Liberals who remain divided over the issue, which flared during the recent leadership vote and ultimately played a role in denying Mr Turnbull the top job.
Can you imagine people who might be even more directly affected by this issue, such as actual Aborigines? What do they think? What do you mean, you didn't ask them?
“Well, this whole question of a formal apology, I think the proponents, no less than the opponents, are getting hung up on semantics,’’ Mr Abbott said last year.
“Because, let’s face it, back in 1999 the parliament unanimously carried a resolution of profound and sincere regret about the various mistakes that had been made in terms of indigenous policy over the years.
“So who is playing word games here? This apology ... I would like to see precisely what words the incoming Government is proposing, because finding a form of words that is acceptable to everyone is going to be an extraordinarily difficult business. One of the other issues is going to be trying to find a form of words that doesn’t look like it’s an admission of legal liability.”
Let's be clear: Abbott said all that last year. These remarks were reported at the time and inserted into the political context of that time. You'd expect today's pap(er) to reflect the (very different) political context of today - unless, of course, you were an Australian reader. There is no indication that Brendan Nelson or anyone else in the Liberal Party is in violent disagreement with any of that (apart from, perhaps, Bronwyn Bishop or her mini-me, Sophie Mirabella). So much for "Libs divided over ‘Sorry’", Sam.
All Liberals, and everyone else too, can agree that the "resolution of profound and sincere regret" in 1999 made bugger-all difference to anyone and anything.
This article relies on stale information and stale assumptions (i.e. that wedging the Liberals is somehow important). It also assumes that symbolism can be divorced from practical measures, at the very time when everyone who works in and with Aboriginal communities agrees that it absolutely can't. For all their differences, the unity of symbolism and practicality is the one thing they agree on: so why is it an issue, why worth investigating with the eagle eye of Samantha Maiden, why now?
The articles we need now are about how to unify the symbolism and the reality of Aborigines in Australian society. You'll need people to think about that and depart from tired old standpoints that haven't really worked for anyone (except, perhaps, John Howard). It seems that you won't get that from Samantha Maiden or her employer.