Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison drew strong criticism after he said that “there was no slavery in Australia” during a discussion of the early days of British settlement, which he acknowledged was “pretty brutal.”
He told Sydney radio: “While slave ships continued to travel around the world, when Australia was established, sure it was a pretty brutal settlement ... but there was no slavery in Australia.”
Historians, First Nations activists and a number of lawmakers called the PM out on the factually incorrect comments.
Sharman Stone, a former federal lawmaker turned politics professor at Monash University said, “Slavery of Indigenous, men, women and children is well documented in a series of State government inquiries, in particular in the WA Royal Commission into the conditions of Natives, 1904, but also in 1913, 1929 in SA and Commonwealth parliamentary papers.”
Slaves in Australia were made to work in the pearling, fishing, the pastoral industries or provide domestic labour.
“The capturing of labour from the Pacific to work in Queensland cane fields is also well documented,” Stone said.
“Denial of slavery in Australia is akin to denial of the Stolen Generations. Now is the time for all Australians to learn, understand and acknowledge its history.”
Rapper Briggs scoffed at the PM’s statements.
“Blackfullas worked for free, for the love of it. Bit of sun, bit of air, bit of a chain around your neck, bit of a stolen wage,” he Tweeted.
Labor Senator for the Northern Territory Malarndirri McCarthy told ABC News Breakfast on Friday that the PM needed to get out more.
“This is a big country and there are so many things that need to be understood. And truth-telling begins with telling all those stories,” she said.
Meanwhile Bruce Pascoe, the award-winning author of “Dark Emu” condemned Morrison’s comments.
“When you capture people, and put chains around their necks, and make them walk 300 kilometres and then set them to work on cattle stations, what’s that called?”
Many others on Twitter called out Morrison with some inviting him to sugar cane regions of Queensland to work for free.