Tony Abbott has accepted the role of special envoy on Indigenous affairs, but the decision has sparked a backlash.
Tony Abbott has accepted the role of special envoy on Indigenous affairs, but the decision has sparked a backlash.

Abbott’s new role sparks fury

TONY Abbott's new role under the Morrison government has sparked a backlash among Indigenous leaders.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered Mr Abbott a new role as special envoy on Indigenous affairs.

It was part of Mr Morrison's olive branch attempt to appease those who took down Malcolm Turnbull last week, and begin mending the Liberal party's wounds.

After some hesitation, Mr Abbott wrote to the Prime Minister confirming he would accept the role.

He said his experience as a former prime minister will allow him to "bring a lot of horsepower to any other job".

"Having thought about it, there is no better thing we can do for kids than ensuring that they've got the best possible schooling," he told 2GB radio yesterday.

"We need to get attendance up, we need to get standards up and I think that would be a wonderful thing for me to focus on.

"You've got to have the passion, you've got to have the insight and you've got to have the will to make it happen."

He also noted he's "always had a good relationship" with Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion.

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the offer to Tony Abbott as a symbol of renewed peace within the Liberal party.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the offer to Tony Abbott as a symbol of renewed peace within the Liberal party.

 

But some Indigenous leaders and commentators have voiced concern over Mr Abbott taking up the role.

Rod Little, co-chair of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, said Abbott's record on the issue was poor and that he did not consult enough on Indigenous education and health matters when he was prime minister.

"There wasn't enough conversations with communities on the ground to listen to their needs and work out solutions and work with them," he told ABC radio on Wednesday. "We certainly don't have any faith or hope in that this envoy and this role will make the slightest bit of difference."

Senior Labor MP Richard Marles said Abbott "cut hundreds of millions of dollars out of Indigenous funding", calling the appointment "a recipe for disaster".

Likewise, New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council chairman Roy Ah See questioned the value of the role.

"It is a surprising development, given backbencher Mr Abbott has commented this week that the portfolio of Indigenous affairs requires prime ministerial authority to get things done," Mr Ah See said in a statement to the ABC.

"It doesn't need people running around at the margins; it needs someone at the very top to cut through.

"We asked for a voice to the Parliament so the Parliament could hear directly from us, and instead we got a non-Aboriginal envoy to interpret our needs and the solutions we bring."

There's also been a negative response among social media users, including prominent Indigenous activist accounts, described it as an "extraordinary lack of judgment" on Mr Morrison's part.

Mr Abbott mulled the role for three days before formally accepting it.

Speaking outside his Sydney home on Monday morning, he said it's "not exactly clear what (Mr Morrison) is offering".

"I obviously had a chat to the new Prime Minister yesterday, and as you know, I've been working hard in Indigenous affairs for a long, long time, before I became prime minister, after I became prime minister," he told Nine News.

Mr Abbott's spokesman told The Daily Telegraph he was "worried about something that is a title without a role", saying he would consider the proposal but "needed to know the precise terms of what was being proposed, as it's not clear how any such role would interact with the minister and all the other bodies in this space".

- with wires



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