‘I apologise’: Peter Dutton’s admission on historic anniversary

Peter Dutton has formally apologised for walking out on Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations.

Peter Dutton has formally apologised for walking out on Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations. Photo: AAP

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has used his speech on the 15th anniversary of the historic apology to the Stolen Generations to again apologise for boycotting the original statement.

“I apologise for my actions and, as the prime minister is frequently able to point out, that I didn’t attend the chamber for the apology 15 years ago,” he said in the House of Representatives on Monday.

“I have apologised for that in the past and I repeat that apology again today.”

Mr Dutton was one of only a handful of MPs to boycott then-prime minister Kevin Rudd’s formal apology in 2008. When he became Opposition Leader in May, Mr Dutton said he regretted his decision.

On Monday, he said he “failed to grasp at the time the symbolic significance to the Stolen Generations of the apology”.

“It was right for prime minister Rudd to make the apology in 2008,” he said.

“It’s right that we recognise the anniversary today; it’s right that the government continues its efforts and in whatever way possible, we support that bipartisan effort.”

Peter Dutton apologises for his walkout

He again referred to experiences in his former career as a Queensland police officer, and being haunted by memories of horrifying domestic violence incidents.

“The judgment that I formed was that if we were to make an apology, it needed to be at a time when we had addressed and we had curbed that violence and those incidents,” he said.

Minster for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney later thanked Mr Dutton for his apology on the floor of Parliament.

She had earlier urged him not to make the “same mistake again” on the Voice to Parliament.

“It is a good thing that we grow and we learn, but now we have the chance to do something practical together, to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Australians, something that will have an impact on the ground and in communities,” she told Parliament.

“By getting behind the Closing the Gap implementation plan and by supporting … constitutional recognition through a Voice. To do otherwise risks repeating the mistakes of the past. So I say, do not hold us back, let’s move forward for everyone.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese used his anniversary speech to declare that Mr Rudd’s apology was his “proudest moment in this chamber”.

“One of the apology’s great achievements was to keep alive the faith and decency and the hope for reconciliation that [encapsulate] the Uluru Statement from the Heart,” he said.

“The apology can never be the end of a story, but the close of a chapter and the beginning of a better one.”

In a veiled reference Mr Dutton, he said: “Not everyone supported the apology 15 years ago, though some have since express their regret. There is a long way to go.”

A referendum on enshrining an Indigenous Voice in the constitution will be held in the second half of the year.

Legislation to enable the vote is expected to be introduced to Parliament in March.

-with AAP

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