It's been popular over the last few years for people with a grievance to demand apologies from people in power- regardless of the history of the matter, the relationships of those giving the apology to those who caused the offence or the intentions of the policy being repented of.
The big "Sorry" from PM Kevin Rudd for the "oppression" of our aboriginal people was meant to be a big step forward for reconciliation.
So on Australia Day, when a staffer from the PM's office played Chinese whispers with an aboriginal union official about what the Opposition Leader said about the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and prompted a near-riot, you would expect someone somewhere would be rushing to say "Sorry", regardless of their role or otherwise in the affair.
If you missed the news over the last few days because you were too busy watching the tennis, this is a summary of what happened:
- Tony Abbott was asked if on the 40th anniversary of the tent embassy it was still relevant. He replied that in the light of the changed to aboriginal issues over the last few decades maybe it had outlived its usefulness and it might be time to move on from that
- A member of the PM's staff passed on a summary of this to an aboriginal union member who was at the tent embassy and that Tony Abbott was at a function just down the road
- The crowd was told that Tony Abbott wanted to pull down the tent embassy and as a result a mob descended on the restaurant where Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott were presenting awards to fire fighters and other essential service personnel
- Security people decided they needed to evacuate the PM and Opposition Leader
- The next day, some of the more vocal aboriginal activists conducted a very offensive flag-burning demonstration outside Parliament House.
The initial reaction of the media was to lay the blame at Abbott's feet, because as he wryly pointed out a couple of days before, he is to blame for everything that happens. He was verballed and misquoted by numerous outlets as saying the Tent Embassy should be removed.
Over the few days since there has been a lot of blame- the PM's staffer, the police, the media, white people in general.
But not one "Sorry" from the people involved. No, they are complaining "We were set up"- as if they had no responsibility for anything.
Not one "Sorry" from the moderate activists to apologise for the excesses of their brethren.
No "Sorry" from the media for inflaming the situation with their smears of the Government.
Above all no "Sorry" from the PM- although we would expect that. There was a time in the Westminster system when a minister was responsible for the activities of their department and their staff, but this Government never takes responsibility for anything.
In a true reconciliation, where mature people are involved, apologies flow both ways.
If you only ever demand the other person admits fault that is an abusive relationship.
It's time for the activists involved to stop blaming the white politicians for all their problems and start taking responsibility for their own actions. That's what grown-ups do.
We need to hear some apologies form the hot-heads who embarrassed our nation on Australia Day and from those who treat our national symbols with total contempt. We need to hear apologies from those who claim to represent indigenous people and stand idly by while the extremists make fools of them all.
Then maybe we can move forward in genuine reconciliation.