Thursday, February 14, 2008

Stand by us

Stunning day!

It was so good to see Australians taking a meaningful part in our democratic processes. Parliament house is usually a remote, unwelcoming place. Television broadcasts rate lower than the cable chess channel. We have had a two day celebration on Capitol Hill which has engaged most of us around the country. People were up in the West at 7am to watch the apology speeches and ceremony. Members of the stolen generation travelled to Canberra from places like Broome and further away to be there. No easy trip I can assure you.

Kevin Rudd did us proud. Brendan Nelson has a way to go. He seems to want to be liked by everyone, an impossible aim in politics. Yesterday was not a debate about the Northern Territory intervention or the appropriate place to placate the white armband, whitewash view of aboriginal history.

It's worth recording the names of those Members of the House of Representatives who were deliberately absent: Sophie Mirabella Wilson Tuckey, Don Randall, Alby Schultz and Dennis Jensen. Theirs was not just a parliamentary gesture it was an insult to the Australian electorate whose views are clear. They are paid to be there on occasions like this, even when they lose the argument. As opponents of the apology, their presence would have been a powerful part of the reconciliation process.

More importantly it was a deliberate insult to all the aboriginal people in the chamber, the great hall, those outside on the lawns, in places like the Broome's Sun Pictures or just watching at home. The boycotting MPs did not show the respect that is customarily shown by indigenous people to their guests.

The rest of the nation acknowledged the wrongs of the past and stood up for a better future.

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