Report on Australian racism puts Fraser in prickly predicament
Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser faces a potentially embarrassing issue at the summit of overseas leaders in Melbourne to begin Sept. 30, following the publication of a report charging Australia with racism toward the country's Aboriginal population.
The report, issued by the World Council of Churches after it sent an investigating team to the country earlier this year, is especially critical of two state governments -- Queens-land and Western Australia. The report says the states consistently act "in hostile and racist ways to prevent Aborigines from gaining land or any measure of self-determination."
The report did not find racism practiced at the federal level, but it creates a touchy situation for Mr. Fraser because he has tried to foster close relations with third-world nations, and particularly with black African members of the British Commonwealth.
The prime minister's outspoken criticism of South African apartheid, in fact, won him praise from leaders such as Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Robert Mugabe.
Aborigine leaders say they will distribute the report to leaders of the 44 nations attending the Commonwealth meeting Sept. 30 through Oct. 8.
Aborigine leader Gary Foley says he has already sent the report to Mr. Mugabe , and noted that the African leader had requested a copy.
Peter Baume, minister for Aboriginal affairs, says he agrees with some of the conclusions of the report.
When the church team visited Australia, the Queensland and Western state governments would not cooperate with it, Queens-land State Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen called a press conference to criticize the Council. Western Australian State Premier Sir Charles Court took a similar position.
Neither state sympathetic to Aborigine qualms about mining or to their land rights campaigns. Politicians in the states have made anti-Aborigine statements on numerous occasions. The state are frequently criticized for the low level of services they provide to the Aborigines.
The World Council of Churches says the federal government should use its powers to end racism in the states. But the government is not anxious for a federal-state clash and hopes to convince them to change willingly.
Officially, racism has been banished in the nation. It allows no discriminatory legislation and immigration policy no longer allows quotas based on race.