Rudd squirmishes with Howard over the history wars (Australia)

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The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, called for the end to the history and culture wars yesterday, but wound up starting a new fight with his predecessor, John Howard.

Launching the first volume of Tom Keneally's 'Australians: Origins to Eureka,' Mr Rudd called for a reappraisal of the way the nation viewed its past.

In a pointed reference to Mr Howard's time in office, he said it was time ''to move beyond the arid intellectual debates of the history wars and the culture wars of recent years''.

''Time to leave behind us the polarisation that began to infect every discussion of our nation's past. To go beyond the so-called black-armband view that refused to confront some hard truths about our past, as if our forebears were all men and women of absolute nobility, without spot or blemish.''

But Mr Howard accused Mr Rudd of failing to grasp the basic concepts of the history debate.

''I can understand why he wants to move on from the debate because he clearly doesn't understand the intellectual framework of it,'' Mr Howard said.

As prime minister Mr Howard often referred to the ''black-armband'' view of history when rationalising why he did not believe in issuing an apology to the stolen generations.

Yesterday he said that Mr Rudd had misunderstood the meaning of the term. ''It's the opposite of what he said it was,'' Mr Howard said. ''The black armband view was that our past was filled with unutterable shame.''

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