Welcome to another Australia

John Pilger's article (20 September) contains the expected quota of howlers and self-justifications.

He maintains that there are no inaccuracies in his film Welcome to Australia (which was shown in Australia on 28 September). This is just not so. For example, Pilger repeated the error that in 1956 Aborigines "were not citizens; they had no vote". This has been described as a "myth" by, among others, Andrew Markus (whom Pilger quotes in his New Statesman piece).

The correct point is that, at the time of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Aborigines were not counted in the census. The May 1967 constitutional referendum corrected this and gave the Commonwealth government power to make laws with respect to Aborigines.

Section 41 of the Australian Constitution specifies that persons who have acquired a right to vote in state elections cannot be prevented from voting in federal elections. Aborigines who were on state electoral rolls in, say, 1956 were entitled to vote in elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate. They were also citizens.

Pilger also maintains that there is "no . . . suggestion in the film" that " Australia should not be hosting the Olympic games". There is. Not only does Pilger imply this. More importantly, this is the message in Welcome to Australia of Colin Tatz, whom Pilger describes as his "expert witness". Moreover, Dr Tatz has repeated the message. He recently told an Australian journalist: "I would not say that Australia is worthy" of hosting the 2000 Olympics.

By the way, the Sydney Institute is a privately funded forum for debate and discussion. It does no lobbying and holds no positions. It's not surprising that the concept confuses John Pilger. After all, there is essentially no debate in Welcome to Australia. Just the familiar Pilger line.

Gerard Henderson
Executive Director, The Sydney Institute
Sydney, Australia

This article first appeared in the 11 October 1999 issue of the New Statesman, A world without children