Scott Morrison apologises for 'no slavery in Australia' comment; acknowledges 'hideous practices'

WION Web Team
Canberra, Australia Published: Jun 12, 2020, 02:23 PM(IST)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (File photo) Photograph:( Reuters )

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Speaking at a news conference in Canberra Friday, Morrison said he was referring specifically to the fact that the first Australian colony of New South Wales was set up without the widespread use of slave labor.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised on Friday after his controversial comments on Australian slavery and and acknowledged that “all sorts of hideous practices” that have taken place.

Speaking at a news conference in Canberra Friday, Morrison said he was referring specifically to the fact that the first Australian colony of New South Wales was set up without the widespread use of slave labor.

"My comments were not intended to give offense, and if they did, I deeply regret that and apologize for that," he said, adding that he was a passionate advocate for the rights of Indigenous Australians.

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"I was simply trying to make point that Australia, yes, we have had issues in our history, we have acknowledged them, I have acknowledged them, and we need to address them."

Asked whether the practice of “blackbirding” could be considered slavery, Morrison told reporters he did not want to get into the ''history wars,'' but acknowledged ''there have been all sorts of hideous practices that have taken place, and so I’m not denying any of that.''

''Blackbirding'' is a term used to describe the practice of coercing people to work as indentured labourers, often through deception or force. It was common throughout the Pacific in the 19th century.

South Pacific Islanders were brought to work on Queensland plantations, and there are well-documented cases of Indigenous people being used for free labour in the pastoral industry and as household servants – a practice that began during colonial times and persisted well into the 20th century.

Morrison was criticised on Thursday for saying "there was no slavery in Australia" during a discussion on the early days of British settlement.Historians, Aboriginal activists and some lawmakers had expressed shock and dismay at the comments.

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Morrison said the initial motives of protesters were "fair", but the push for the removal of the statues was being driven by political agendas.

The Black Lives Movement globally has refocused attention in Australia on the mistreatment of indigenous Australians, including Aboriginal deaths in custody.

A rally is scheduled to take place in Sydney later on Friday and more are planned around the country over the weekend. Organisers said they would push ahead with the unauthorised Sydney gathering despite warnings of on-the-spot fines and arrest.

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