Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sparked outrage at his comments that before colonization in 1788 Australia had nothing more to offer than ‘bushes’ saying the country was like the moon before the British flag was raised.
Downplaying the history of Australia’s first inhabitants, in his welcoming remarks ahead of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech to parliament, Mr Abbott said, “As we look around this glorious city, as we see the extraordinary development, it’s hard to think that back in 1788 it was nothing but bush and that marines and convicts and sailors…must have thought they’d come almost to the Moon.”
During an earlier business meeting in Sydney, also with Mr Cameron, Mr Abbott also mused about how little Australia had going for it before 1788.
“Everything would have seemed so extraordinarily basic and raw,” he said, adding that Australia had nothing but bushes.
The comments raised the ire of protesters at the weekend’s G20 meetings in Brisbane.
“He’s kidding right, doesn’t he realize how much that offends us?” said one activist at a demonstration organised to highlight Aboriginal deaths in police custody.
“Abbott’s attitudes are the kind of crap that lead to the situation we’ve got at the moment. You’ve just seen why we are here today,” another said.
Comments of disgust and disbelieve also flooded social media platforms.
“Wow just wow,” was the response on the news by one Twitter user.
“Tony Abbott’s ‘nothing but bush’ comments appear illustrative of the value he places both on Indigenous rights & on the environment,” another wrote.
“Our Prime Minister just wrote rewrote Australian history,” said a another.
While Abbott recently spent a number of days with an Aboriginal community this is not his first slip of the tongue regarding his perception of Aboriginal history’s place in Australia’s history. In August, while launching a project on the 100 Defining Moments in Australian History at the National Museum of Australia, Abbott stated that “the arrival of the First Fleet was the defining moment in the history of this continent.”
“It was the moment this continent became part of the modern world,” Abbott said.
The PM’s comment was responded to by the chair of the prime minister’s own advisory panel, Warren Mundine, who said, “It was also a disastrous defining moment for Indigenous people.”
IMAGE: Demonstrators gather during the G20 summit in Brisbane to protest the deaths of Indigenous Australians while in custody. (Photo by Glenn Hunt/Getty Images)