( dpa ) - Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reaffirmed Tuesday that his government would not pay compensation to Aborigines taken from their parents in the 1950s and '60s in what is now seen as a misguided bid to speed integration into mainstream Australian society.
But he reiterated his promise to break with the policy of the previous government and tender an official apology for what a 1997 government report referred to as the "stolen generation."
Aboriginal leaders have demanded a formal apology and at least 1 billion Australian dollars (870 million US dollars) in compensation. Around 500,000 of Australia's 21 million people say they are Aborigines, and an unknown number had children taken away to be brought up in orphanages or foster homes.
"We'll be making it clear that we'll be speaking in the government's name," Rudd said. "The judgement I have made is ... let's get this symbolic act of apology right, and then let's move on together."
Rudd, who was elected in November in a Labor Party landslide, has pledged to apologize for the "stolen generation" when Parliament resumes next month.
Rudd denied that an apology would unleash an avalanche of legal cases and a massive grab for cash compensation. He has also rejected Howard's view that the current generation of Australians should not be asked to apologize for the actions of a previous generation.