Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 2488 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
I am hopeful also, Mr Speaker, that in May 2000, when the final report is launched, it contains a finalisation event, because one of the other definitions that I did not mention before is "to purify by special service after profanation or desecration". I think the opportunity is here for us to say, "Let us reconcile with a particular event, a particular service". I urge those behind the actual compilation of that report to give that some thought. What I do not want to see happen with the reconciliation is what I believe Mr Howard is trying to do, that is, to make it acquiescent or contentedly submissive. We should get behind this sort of thing. I commend the motion to the Assembly. I commend the Government for bringing it on and for providing the moment for it. I commend my leader, Mr Stanhope, whose commitment to it is a great example to us all. He is constantly coming up with different ways in which to express our collective views. I urge the Assembly to support the motion.
MR KAINE (11.53): My sentiments on this issue are quite straightforward and can be stated very simply. They are that the time is long gone when we, the inheritors of this land, should have recognised the contribution made to the sustenance and the maintenance of the land by the indigenous people who were here before we came; and we should have recognised that they should have a special status in our community because of that contribution to and their affinity with this land. The time is long gone when we should have recognised that the indigenous people of this country are economically disadvantaged. There are huge inequities, they suffer real disadvantage, and the time is long gone when we should have addressed that problem and rectified it.
The time is long gone when, because of the particular affinity that the indigenous people have with the land, we should have recognised their rights in connection with that and, if necessary, set those rights into law. The time is long gone for talking about reconciliation; we should have achieved it long ago. Finally, the time is long gone for moving and debating motions such as this one instead of getting on with the job.
Mr Speaker, for those reasons I totally support this motion for what it contributes, if anything, to the processes that I have identified. Let us do something and, for heaven's sake, stop talking about it.
MR WOOD (11.55): Mr Speaker, I rise to support this important motion. It is important to continue to do so and, as Mr Kaine suggests, to do something as well. I want to speak in the context of a challenge that was made to me some months ago. I was confronted in very fierce terms by a group of people whom I would call friends about the need for reconciliation. They argued to me most strongly that reconciliation was nonsense, that we should not feel a guilt for what happened years ago, and asked why we should say sorry. That view is still common in society in Canberra and Australia today. I do not know whether it remains the predominant view, but it is still a common view. I responded just as vehemently to this group of people by saying that we do need reconciliation. Yes, I do feel guilt, and I wish we would say sorry at all levels, including the national level.
That challenge to me coincided with the day that we were watching on our television screens the arrival of refugees from Kosovo and the next day we saw the photographs in the newspapers. I responded strongly - it was not too strongly - by saying to them,