Media coverage of Prime Minister John Howard saying “sorry” for interest rate rises was seized upon by the Opposition yesterday. More fool them. The PM later sprung his trap, revealing that when he said “sorry”, it wasn’t actually an apology!

In many people’s minds, the PM’s hasty non-apology apology brings back thoughts of the reconciliation debate. Then, the PM expressed “deep and sincere regret” for what happened to indigenous Australians. That wasn’t an apology either. Here, Crikey compares past and present quotes to show how the Prime Minister handles his truth.


  • ABC , 26 August 1999: Parliament endorsed Mr Howard’s expression of “… deep and sincere regret that indigenous Australians suffered injustices under the practices of past generations, and for the hurt and trauma that many indigenous people continue to feel as a consequence of those practices.”
  • ABC PM , 27 August 1999:

    JOHN HOWARD: “I committed the Government to pursuing reconciliation the night that the Government was re-elected in October of last year. I believe that this resolution will make a huge contribution towards the cause of reconciliation. It does not, as a resolution, impose a blame or a guilt on present generations for past misdeeds. But it does recognise the truth about Australia’s history.

    MATT PEACOCK: It doesn’t say sorry.

    JOHN HOWARD: No, well…

    MATT PEACOCK: Is that important?

    JOHN HOWARD: Well, no, what is important, Matt, is what is positive out of what was passed yesterday. I am not, like Aden Ridgeway, I am not going to get hung out about, hung up about this or that word or this or that expression.

Wednesday, 7 November, 2007:

  • I would say to the borrowers of Australia who are affected by this change that I am sorry about that and I regret the additional burden that will be put upon them as a result.

And now:

  • Well, I said I was sorry they’d occurred. I don’t think I actually used the word apology. I think there is a difference between the two things … I think we’ve been through that debate before, haven’t we, in the context of something (else) … I very much regret the interest rate rise. I’m sorry it’s happened. This word game about apologies and sorry has been invented by the Labor Party to divert attention from the fact they don’t have an economic policy to put downward pressure on inflation and interest rates.