Former Australian Prime Minister (PM) Tony Abbott has come under fire after indicating an interest in taking on the job of Indigenous affairs envoy.
Newly minted Prime Minister Scott Morrison ask Abbott to take up the diplomatic role, according to an ABC report, saying "getting Indigenous young people into school; what more important job could there be than that for those Indigenous young people?"
Labor's Assistant Indigenous Affairs spokesman Senator Pat Dodson slammed Morrison’s decision, citing Abbott's record as PM. Dodson explained that Abbott's Government cut US$545.3 million from the Indigenous Affairs budget.
Dodson added that Indigenous people have asked for a platform where their views are put forward themselves rather than by an intermediary with an appalling record. "The First Nations people have asked the Government for a voice and we get Tony Abbott."
But, Morrison defended his decision to offer Abbott the job saying the former PM was "passionate" about Indigenous people affairs.
"I remember a number of visits I made with Tony to Central Australia on Indigenous issues many, many years ago when I was shadow housing minister," Morrison said.
"We walked from town to town and we sat in the dust. There were no cameras around, we were just sitting in the town camps in Alice Springs. I have been up in Bamaga with him, I have been in the Torres Strait with him. I know how passionate Tony Abbott is about changing, generationally, the life circumstances for Indigenous Australians."
However, Rod Little, co-chair of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, said Abbott's record on the affairs of Indigenous people was poor and that he did not consult enough on education and health matters of indigenous peoples during his tenure as 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."
Earlier this year, the ex-prime minister remarked that the events of January 26, 1788 – when the First Fleet arrived in Australia – was a “good thing” for the Aboriginal people.
“What happened on the 26th of January, 1788, was on balance, for everyone, Aboriginal people included, a good thing,” Abbott told 2GB in January. “It’s hard to imagine a better Australia in the absence of the Western civilization that began here from that date,” he elaborated.