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Liberal lashes nod to Keating

A SYDNEY councillor has criticised a playground sculpture for featuring an extract from Paul Keating's Redfern speech, claiming the words were a "real guilt trip" to non-indigenous Australians who had already apologised to the Stolen Generations reports Ashleigh Wilson The Australian of May 08, 2008.

Shayne Mallard, a Liberal member of the Sydney City Council, last night said the former prime minister's message was inappropriate for a children's playground.

"This is political correctness going mad when you put this in the playground," Mr Mallard said.

"What happened to the age of innocence?"

But Mr Mallard was ridiculed last night by Mr Keating's former speechwriter Don Watson, who said: "The truth never hurt anybody - including children.

"And for that matter, I don't remember children being damaged by inscriptions on public memorials."

The sculpture, by indigenous artist Fiona Foley, includes several lines from Mr Keating's acclaimed speech in the Sydney suburb of Redfern in 1992.

In the speech, he referred to the past injustice towards Aborigines in Australia, saying non-indigenous people had to recognise it was "we who did the dispossessing".

The sculpture, expected to be finished this year as part of the council's upgrade of Redfern Park, features some of Mr Keating's words: "We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life."

"We brought the diseases, the alcohol," the inscription continues. "We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers."

Mr Mallard said the council approved the sculpture last week. He claimed he was not attacking Mr Keating's "great" speech, but said the council should find a way to commemorate the words in a different location.

"I don't see how young indigenous Australians going there will have a positive disposition towards white Australians," he said.

"We all commemorated and said sorry earlier this year, but this means everyone who goes there to play must say sorry every time because it's a real guilt trip.

"Every time an Aboriginal person or a white Australian goes there, they're going to be reminded of this. It's out of context ... I don't see this as part of the process of moving forward."

Mr Keating could not be contacted for comment last night.