What was last night’s effort by the Prime Minister at the Sydney Institute all about? A last minute effort to hang onto votes in Mosman? An attempt to at least put an issue on the agenda so history can record it was J W Howard, Prime Minister from 1996-2007, who said it first?

Well, yes. There was certainly a tacit admission of political mortality amongst the PM’s other admissions last night. But we should also give John Howard the benefit of the doubt.

In the past few months, Crikey has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Aboriginal misery industry – the bureaucrats, academics, administrators, lobbyists and general parasites who have taken billions from taxpayers and given sod all to indigenous Australians.

It’s also become the house journal for a noisy little group who are either too naïve, too ignorant or too fanatical to understand that democracy is about compromise and that government is a matter of give and take. As the old saying says, you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

John Howard claimed last night “The challenge I have faced around indigenous identity politics is in part an artefact of who I am and the time in which I grew up.”

Yes, he’s a politician desperate to be re-elected. But, yes, he’s probably telling the truth.

Australians aren’t racist. They are, however, embarrassed about the plight of indigenous people in this wealthy country. Embarrassed, ignorant of the subtleties – and powerless, too. All of these have combined to produce a very human, very understandable response – inaction.

John Howard is suggesting action. He’s admitting to the failings most white Australians share. He’s late, but at least he’s admitting them.

He deserves at least some applause.