Melbourne, Feb.8 : Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said that he will not travel to Canberra for the parliamentary apology ceremony to the Aboriginal stolen generations.
The event is to be held on February 13 (Wednesday), The Australian reported.
"I won't be in Canberra next week,'' Howard was quoted as saying despite an appeal from former Liberal PM Malcolm Fraser that all former PMs should attend.
During his eleven years as Prime Minister, Howard has consistently maintained that he did not believe today's Australians should apologise for past policies. He also argued that apologising could leave the government liable to compensation claims.
Howard's stance strained his government's relationship with Aborigines. At a reconciliation convention in Melbourne in 1997, indigenous people famously heckled and turned their backs on him.
Fraser, an ardent advocate of the apology and Aboriginal reconciliation, this week said it would make the apology more significant if former PMs were there to show their support.
It is understood former Labor PM Gough Whitlam will join Mr Fraser in parliament on the historic day. Former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke cannot make it. His office said while he will be in Canberra for parliament's opening day on Tuesday, he had other "long-standing commitments'' on Wednesday. Paul Keating's office said the former Labor leader's schedule for next week had not yet been finalised.
Meanwhile, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin today said special arrangements were being put in place for the thousands of people expected to descend on parliament for the apology.
The proceedings are scheduled to start at 9 a.m. (AEDT) Wednesday, when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will move a motion of apology on behalf of the Australian Parliament.