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Labor will say sorry in first week: Beazley

Extract from the Sydney Morning Herald, on May 25th 2001.
Story by: Debra Jopson

Aboriginal leader Jack Beetson appeals to keep reconciliation on the national agenda

A Labor government would apologise in its first parliamentary sitting week to the stolen generations and cease fighting costly court battles over compensation, the Opposition leader, Mr Beazley, pledged yesterday.

In a Melbourne speech to mark today's National Sorry Day, Mr Beazley said he would halt the current Federal Government's practice of engaging in "costly litigation" and would hold a national conference to find "alternative means of resolving these matters".

Mr Beazley said there were 742 writs seeking Federal Government compensation for 2,104 people forcibly separated from their families in the Northern Territory and the Cubillo Gunner case showed that in court "the highest-paid legal pit bulls" would "intimidate and confuse" claimants if government continued to fight claims.

However, he stopped short of promising to establish a Federal reparations tribunal favoured by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) to deal with the grievances of indigenous people removed from their families.

The chairman of ATSIC, Mr Geoff Clark, said Labor was being "cagey," but he believed that Mr Beazley was alluding to a tribunal. "There couldn't be any other way around it, I would have thought, and that will be up to us to negotiate."

Labor's proposed national conference of State and Federal governments, church groups and stolen generations representatives six months after the election would provide "a pretty honourable solution" to the compensation issue, Mr Clark said.

"This is a very traumatic and emotive issue for indigenous people and therefore it needs that sensitivity and in order to gain our forgiveness, we have to be satisfied it produces a negotiated settlement with indigenous people."



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