by RAY FLEMING
Sorry is the hardest word to say, especially for politicians, but Australia's new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, said it not once but three times to his country's Aboriginal people yesterday. In a moving opening ceremony of Parliament in Canberra that was shown on huge screens throughout the country, Mr Rudd made good the pledge he had given during the election campaign at the end of last year, saying “For the indignity and degradation inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.” Not all Australians agree that this historic apology should have been made. Mr Rudd's predecessor, John Howard, absented himself from the ceremony and an opinion poll indicated that about one-third of the population opposed it. The question of whether reparations will have to follow the apology remains open. But the treatment of the Aborigines throughout much of the 20th century was disgraceful. The practice of forcibly taking children from their parents in order to “civilise” them and “breed out” their colour continued into the 1970s by when more than 100'000 had been subjected to it. Kevin Rudd has made an impressive start as prime minister. Within days of winning the election in December he reversed Australia's policy on climate change by agreeing to ratify the Kyoto Treaty (and received a standing ovation from the delegates at the Bali Conference) and he also decided to close the notorious detention centre on Nauru Island.