Australia’s colonization by the British was the “luckiest thing” to happen to it, says John Howard.

Australia’s second-longest serving Prime Minister, John Howard, has said that colonization was “the luckiest thing that happened” to the country.

His comments were about an important vote on Indigenous status that will take place this year.

If the vote passes, Australia’s constitution will be changed to give people from the First Nations more say over the laws and policies that affect them.

But there has been a lot of conflicting talk about the issue.

Mr. Howard told the Australian Newspaper that colonization was “inevitable” when he talked about the upcoming vote.

“I do think that the British colonizing this country was the best thing that ever happened to it,” he said. “That doesn’t mean they were perfect by any means, but they did a much better job of colonizing than any other European country.”

He also said that the Voice to Parliament plan wouldn’t pass, which would create a “new cockpit of conflict” about “how to help Indigenous people.” He said that the people who supported the idea hadn’t done a good job of selling it to the Australian public.

Australia’s first election since 1999, the Voice vote, was announced at the start of 2023 by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Supporters of the bill say that if it passes, it will help Australia’s First Nations people, who have a shorter life expectancy and worse health and education results than White Australians, in a big way.

But those who are against it say, among other things, that the Voice is mostly a symbolic move that won’t lead to change and will also hurt Australia’s current government structures.

What is the Australian Voice referendum?
Recent polls have also shown that support for the Voice is steadily, but dramatically, falling as the argument drags on.

Mr. Howard is one of the most powerful conservatives who has backed the “No” movement, but his record on Indigenous issues is still a point of contention.

Australia’s racial discrimination act was put on hold, and his government did not apologize to the Stolen Generations, which are the tens of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were taken from their families by the government until the mid-1960s.

In 2007, he planned “the Intervention,” a set of policies that sent the Australian military into 73 remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory to take over everyday life.

The now-disbanded plan, which was put in place after a government report on the sexual abuse of children in Aboriginal communities, has been called “coercive” and insensitive to Aboriginal culture.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Howard said that the policy was “a good old-fashioned dose of proper governance.”

He also said that if the Voice is successful, the government might not be able to help Indigenous people when they need it.

Mr. Howard’s comments come as the official “No” campaign for the vote has been hit by a wave of scandals.

This week, people asked one of its leaders to step down after he said again that Indigenous Australians should have blood tests to show their lineage in order to get welfare payments.

And earlier this month, the campaign was accused of using a “racist trope” in a newspaper ad after it paid for a full-page cartoon of a well-known Indigenous Voice activist dancing for money.

Senior people in the “No” camp have also been accused of sharing false information about the vote on purpose.

Federal opposition leader Peter Dutton is one of them. He said that the vote would give First Nations people more rights and benefits, which would have a “Orwellian effect” on Australian society.

It’s a false claim that has been twisted even more online, with people on social media saying that the vote would split Australians into “settlers” and “original custodians,” creating a “two-tier government.”

If the Voice referendum wins, it will be the first time in more than 56 years that the country’s constitution has been changed.

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