Did Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin use Sorry Day to announce a policy position that would have provoked uproar if it came from the Coalition? That’s what appears to have happened on The 7:30 Report last night.

Kerry O’Brien put the proposition; “I don’t see how logically you can acknowledge or honestly acknowledge all the pain, all the personal tragedy and the injustice but then say all we’re going to give you by way of compensation is to say the word ‘sorry'” to her.

Macklin replied: “Our priority is to close the gap. We have to decide where we will put the necessary Federal Government money and we think the place has to be in addressing the terrible levels of disadvantage in housing, in health, in education, in making sure that people are participating in the economy. That’s where the desperate need is. And so that’s where we think the Federal Government money should go.”

“Close the gap” was yesterday’s catchphrase from the government – to reconciliation what “working families” were to the election campaign. It’s a very worthy goal, too – but to reach it Macklin appears to have announced a policy of ruthlessly practical reconciliation.

Cut through the pollyspeak from last night and this is what she said:

Indigenous Australians have two choices. They can either seek compensation for the wrongs of the past or see that money invested in the future.

One of John Howard’s old cabinet colleagues joked yesterday that he would have been burnt at the stake if he’d shown his face at Parliament House yesterday.

If Mal Brough had announced a policy like Macklin’s, he would have suffered the same fate.

Peter Fray

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