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A 'sorry' budget - about $3 billion

By Stephen Hagan - posted Tuesday, 11 December 2007

With perhaps the exception of some members of the National Indigenous Council and a small number of Indigenous liberal recruits who benefited under a coalition government, I feel confident in saying that Indigenous Australians were united as one on November 24 in support of a common cause: a Labor Party victory at the federal poll.

In the final analysis, of most importance to me, were three definitive announcements: a 5.9 per cent swing on a two-party preferred basis to Labor (Labor unseating the Coalition); 5.8 per cent swing in Bennelong (Maxine McKew unseating John Howard); and 10.5 per cent in Longman (Jon Sullivan unseating Mal Brough).

I know it’s not chivalrous to gloat over a win in any sporting contest but I’m sure I’ll be forgiven by family and friends just this once for what was an extraordinary outpouring of jubilation from me and which I imagine would have been audible to my neighbours.


I’m not sure of the demographics of the street I live in but gauging by the lack of proportionate excitement I gathered they may have had their money on the losing team.

This win was not only an emphatic statement from workers united against the unfair Industrial Relations laws but a confirmation I believe from a broad spectrum of Australians rediscovering their national ethos of giving everyone a “fair go”.

And I include in that national ethos the suite of controversial Indigenous policies; the Northern Territory intervention, abolition of ATSIC, canning of CDEP (work for the dole) and CHIP (community housing infrastructure program) and many other crucial long running programs that were critical to Indigenous Australians, that most caring Australians felt the outgoing government had also been heavy handed with.

I sat transfixed to the television set and heard John Howard concede to his shocked supporters from the Sydney Wentworth Hotel ballroom and waited for the man of the moment, “Kevin 07”, to present his acceptance speech from the Suncorp Stadium venue in Brisbane.

Although he said he would govern for all Australians, including Indigenous Australians, it just didn’t have that charismatic ring to it that matched the Paul Keating acceptance speech back in 2003.

Keating announced at 11.30pm on the close of polls on that famous night: "This is the sweetest victory of all. This is a victory for the true believers" - to celebrate a win achieved primarily because of John Hewson's proposal to introduce a goods and services tax.


Although it has only been a few short days it seems like a lot of water has passed under the bridge since Kevin Rudd gave his acceptance speech and every day since there has been growing conjecture and disquiet among journalists and Indigenous leaders in newsrooms and in Indigenous communities on whether he will say “sorry”.

Speaking on ABC radio, former ATSIC chairman Lionel Quartermaine says Mr Rudd, in the past week, has skirted around answering questions on Labor's Indigenous policy.

"He was asked that, if he was to get in and become Prime Minister, would he say ‘sorry’ and he went around that. He didn't actually say 'Yes, I'm going to say sorry', he said a whole range of other words which disappoints me," Mr Quartermaine said.

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About the Author

Stephen Hagan is Editor of the National Indigenous Times, award winning author, film maker and 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

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