Tony Abbott accepts special envoy role for Indigenous affairs

By @chelean on
Tony Abbott
Australia's former Prime Minister Tony Abbott attends Britain's annual Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Britain, October 5, 2016. Reuters/Toby Melville

Tony Abbott has accepted the role of special envoy for Indigenous affairs for the Morrison administration. The former prime minister said yes to the job, saying his primary focus would be children’s school attendance and performance.

When new Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced his cabinet earlier this week, Abbott was left out of the line-up. But it turned out that he had a special envoy job for Abbott, apparently to please Liberals involved in the party fiasco last week. Abbott, along with Peter Dutton, is being blamed for provoking the Liberal spill that felled Malcolm Turnbull.

He told 2GB on Monday that he was reluctant to accept the job because he did not “just want a title without a role.” According to the Daily Telegraph, Abbott has since written to Morrison accepting the job.

“What I expect to be asked to do is to make recommendations on how we can improve remote area education, in particular, how we can improve attendance rates and school performance because this is the absolute key to a better future for Indigenous kids and this is the key to reconciliation,” he told the paper.

Abbott said he didn’t expect to receive pay for accepting the job. “I certainly don’t expect any extra pay for this. I am a member of parliament and members of parliament are pretty well paid as things stand,” he told 2GB.

Nevertheless, he believed that as a former PM, he would have the “authority” to do the job.

“I think that if you’ve done the top job, you can bring a lot of horsepower to any other job that you do and that’s why I think I can quite probably cut through in a way that maybe others wouldn’t be able to,” he said.

Labor’s Assistant Indigenous Affairs spokesman Pat Dodson called Abbott’s delegation as “condescending” to Aboriginal people. His record as prime minister was “appalling” when it came to the welfare of the Indigenous people.

Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt, on the other hand, would like to give Abbott chance to do his job. He told 6PR earlier this week that Abbott would be working with Aboriginals, which mean he would need to “listen to them, accept their perspective and then bring that back.”

“What I liked about Malcolm was that he kept reminding all of us that we have to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to find the solutions, not do things to them,” Wyatt said. “If Tony can do that, then that’s fine. If he can’t, then I have a problem.”

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