Could racial discrimination ruin the promise of a beautiful friendship?

    Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


    The first telephone conversation between Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and United States President Barack Obama augurs well for Australian-American relations. This first discussion focused on establishing a basis for cooperation in international events, including the global economy, climate change and the war in Afghanistan, all spheres in which the two leaders take a common approach. It is only when discussions get closer to home that serious differences could emerge, especially around the issue of racial discrimination.

    What could possibly get in the way?

    The answer is the Northern Territory Emergency Response and Australia's continued suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. Quite apart from any possible affect on the relationship between Mr Rudd and Mr Obama, the Australian Government's failure to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 is damaging our cohesion as a nation. Tomorrow Australians from around the country will attend the opening of Parliament not to celebrate the actions of their Government but to protest against the continuation of race-based legislation.

    At an international level, Australia's track record in human rights is being tarnished, and our standing in the global community diminished. At a time when we are angling for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations' Security Council, our own transgressions prevent us from meeting our international obligations. For example, the Prime Minister has deferred fulfilling his commitment to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Our human rights record is coming under international scrutiny. This year James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous people, is planning a formal visit to Australia, during which he will examine the status of Indigenous peoples' human rights in Australia and Government responses such as the Northern Territory Emergency Response.

    When Mr Obama was elected, Mr Rudd made the following statement:"Forty-five years after Martin Luther King dreamed of an America where men and women would be judged not on the colour of their skin, but on the content of their character, the people of the United States have made that dream a reality." It is time the Australian Government applied these sentiments to Aboriginal Australians.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages1
    Specialist publicationABC Opinion
    PublisherAustralian Broadcasting Corporation
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2009


    • Northern Territory Emergency Intervention
    • social justice
    • racial discrimination
    • remote Aboriginal communities


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