Cool nickname

You don’t realise how non-racist New Zealand is until you go live in Australia or spend some time driving around Northern Territory or North Queensland.

SOUTH AFRICA sings its anthem in three languages, New Zealand in two, but the practice of government ministers acknowledging Australia’s traditional landowners remains a moot point in some quarters.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, stoked the fires yesterday, suggesting Labor had a tokenistic habit of preceding ministerial utterances with politically correct acknowledgments.

I guess they are talking about some foot stamping and didgeridoo playing by Aborginals at official ceremonies.

Western Australia’s rabble-rouser and Liberal backbencher Wilson ”Ironbar” Tuckey didn’t miss his cue, declaring it should not be done at all.

”I never have thanked anyone for the right to be on the soil that is Australia. Those that have come here have done everything in their power to improve it,” he said, describing Canberra’s Aboriginal tent embassy as a ”slum” and indigenous dancers as ”grossly overweight” performers who added nothing to official functions.

Cool nickname, “Ironbar”, but as for the rest there is no-one in this country that could get away with comments like that except perhaps Honest Hone.

Mr Tuckey angered the Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, who said his comments were appalling.

”Welcome to country acknowledgment plays an important role for many Australians,” she said. ”Mr Abbott needs to show some leadership and pull Wilson Tuckey into line and make him apologise.”

No rule requires federal ministers to acknowledge traditional owners, but Ms Macklin’s department has guidelines for welcomes to country which are encouraged among staff.

Federal Labor denied it had a protocol on the issue. NSW Labor said it encouraged the practice where appropriate, but stopped short of censuring the Lands Minister, Tony Kelly, when he skipped over an acknowledgment in a speech to the Urban Development Institute delivered in the not-so-traditional confines of the Ivy.

Good grief I can’t believe that theyare even having an argument over whether there is a rule or not over Aboriginal welcomings. New Zealand moved on from this sort of stuff years ago. Australia, where men are men, sheep are nervous, women are silent and blacks live outback.

UPDATE: “Ironbar” is a pig. Tuckey is one of the most controversial figures in Australian federal politics. In 1967, while a publican in Carnarvon, he was convicted of assault after striking an Aboriginal man with a length of steel cable. It was alleged that the man was being pinned to the ground at the time. He has had the nickname “Ironbar” ever since.