Sorry, Rudd claims need testing



Australian Financial Review

18th February 2008


Kevin Rudd has certainly scored some political points in making an apology to Aborigines who have been removed in the past from the care of family members. He was greatly assisted in doing so by the emotional support received from people either specially brought to parliament or attending government-arranged presentations elsewhere.


These people were, however, clearly known predominantly as believers in the stolen generation claims and could not be said to be representative of public opinion.


This raises the question of whether Mr Rudd  has in fact  "bought himself an extraordinary bank of trust", as Laura Tingle suggests ("A historic moment , and a lesson  in smart politics", February 14).


The basis of the Prime Minister's apology was his claim that between 1910 and 1970 some 50,000 Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families under policies authorised by state laws and administered in an extreme manner "as part of dealing with the problem of the Aboriginal population". However, this is, to say the least, disputed both by experts who have examined the history and court decisions on claims. Nor does Mr Rudd make any reference to removals needed to protect the interests of children, a welfare policy which all states continue to operate including for both Aboriginal and white children.


In short, it is extremely worrying that Rudd should have made a racist-based claim and apology based on assertion and without publishing supporting evidence. If Rudd is to establish a  bank of trust, he should now publish evidence to support the case he has made. If he does not, the dispute will continue, the apology will be seen as political opportunism, and future claims on this and other matters by Rudd will be heavily discounted.