For my part, I know for a fact that one claim in Mr Howard's statement is a self-serving lie.
Prior to the Howard Government being sworn in (but after it was obvious that he had won his first election (in other words, before he even took up office), I wrote to Mr John Howard, as Prime Minister designate. I suggested that he make a visit to the Northern Territory, to sit with some of the Aboriginal Elders, and that he make this his first tour out of Canberra. I recall saying "make this your first trip - before you run off to Washington or London".
What happened? Nothing!
After about 3 months, I rang Howard's office to ask why I had had not even an acknowledgement to my letter? (I had worked much of my career as a Ministerial Correspondence Clerk, so I knew that my letter ought have been handled better than that - even if the Prime Minister (or his staff) disagreed with the point of my letter. I was entitled to have my letter responded to.
I got a letter back, about 2 weeks later, from Mr Graeme Morris, who was then Chief of Staff to John Howard. He had the impertinence to rebuke me for the tone of my letter. Unfortunately I no longer have his reply (that's what happens when you move house several times). As an exercise in democracy, this process was an insult. It was an appalling way for Howard (and his Office) to treat me, as a voter.
But anyway, we all know that it took Howard many years before he visited any Aboriginal community. (Miss Eagle has documented this.) Meanwhile he had made numerous visits to Washington, and London, and other overseas destinations. So, we know he ignored the Aboriginal situation for a number of years.
I read in his statement the following: "I’m the first to admit that this whole area is one I have struggled with during the entire time that I have been Prime Minister."
So, when I read that sentence, and recall my letter and the reply I got back from his office (eventually) - then I say: Bullshit, John Howard, pure bullshit!
It will be meaningless, insignificant and anyway, and it might well be rejected by the people (as his previous pathetic "preamble" was rejected).
This is John Howard doing what he does best - spouting "Weasel Words". Wikipedia quotes the original use of "Weasel Words" as follows: "Why, weasel words are words that suck the life out of the words next to them, just as a weasel sucks the egg and leaves the shell." Thus, weasel words suck the meaning out of a statement while seeming to keep the idea intact, and are particularly associated with political pronouncements. Elsewhere Wikipedia points out that the problem with "Weasel Words" is that: "it is entirely easy to write an irrelevant, misinformative, slanted article composed of nothing but true statements".
My favourite of the various responses from the Aboriginal Community representatives is this:
"Central Land Council spokesman David Ross has described Mr Howard as a snake that has shed its skin. "He's got a brand new skin, but he's the same old snake, he's got the same old venom," he said."
Source: ABC News. 12 October 2007