Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a news conference at Admiralty House, in Sydney, Australia, on Feb. 28, 2020.

Loren Elliott/Reuters

Australia’s prime minister apologized on Friday to critics who accuse him of denying the country’s history of slavery, as a state government announced it will remove a former Belgian king’s name from a mountain range as part of a global re-examination of racial injustice.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended the legacy of British explorer James Cook, who in 1770 charted the site of the first British penal colony in Australia, which became present-day Sydney.

Morrison, who represents the Sydney electoral district of Cook in Parliament, described the British naval hero on Thursday as “very much ahead of his time,” and urged people calling for the district to be renamed to “get a bit of a grip on this.”

Story continues below advertisement

“While slave ships continued to travel around the world, when Australia was established ... it was a pretty brutal place, but there was no slavery in Australia,” Morrison told Sydney Radio 2BG.

But he made a rare apology on Friday after critics pointed out that tens of thousands of South Pacific islanders had been forced to labour on Australian sugar cane plantations in the 19th century and Australian indigenous people had been forced to work for wages that were never paid.

Satirical website Betoota Advocate ran a headline, “‘Australia Never Had Slavery,’ Says P.M. Who Thinks The Sugar Cane Just Cut Itself for 100 Years.”

“My comments were not intended to cause offence and if I did, I deeply regret that and apologize for that,” Morrison said, adding that slavery was not lawful in the original Sydney colony.

While Morrison was seeking public restraint in re-evaluating historical figures in response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, the Western Australia state government announced it will rename the King Leopold Ranges in Australia’s northwest.

State Lands Minister Ben Wyatt, an indigenous Australian, described Belgium’s King Leopold II as an “evil tyrant” who should not be honoured.

The announcement came after a statue of the monarch, who forced many people into slavery in the Congo, was defaced and removed from the Belgium city of Antwerp.

Story continues below advertisement

Morrison’s denial of Australian slavery came as a second blow to many indigenous Australians after he expressed gratitude after Floyd’s death that Australia did not share the U.S. problem of police violence against the black population.

Aborigines account for 2 per cent of Australia’s adult population and 27 per cent of its prison population, with more than 340 indigenous Australians dying in police or prison custody in the past three decades.

A statue of Cook in a Sydney park was a focus of anti-racism protesters in Sydney on Friday. A cottage built by Cook’s parents in England in 1755 that was moved to the Australian city of Melbourne in the 1930s has also been targeted by activist vandals.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Follow related topics

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies