Tony Abbott looks set to accept job as Indigenous Affairs envoy

| 29.08,18. 03:44 PM |

Tony Abbott looks set to accept job as Indigenous Affairs envoy

Photo: Tony Abbott was offered the envoy position as part of Scott Morrison's Cabinet reshuffle. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

After days of hesitation, former prime minister Tony Abbott has given a conditional yes to taking on the job of Indigenous envoy.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not ask Mr Abbott to be a minister in his new Government, but instead asked him to take on the role of envoy.

Today Mr Morrison said the job was about, "getting Indigenous young people into school, what more important job could there be than that for those Indigenous young people?"

Earlier in the week and before any of the details of the job had become public, Mr Abbott appeared reluctant, saying he needed to know the precise terms of what was being proposed.

"I don't just want a title without a role," Mr Abbott told 2GB on Monday.

He said it was not clear how the role would interact with the minister and other Indigenous bodies.

Labor's Assistant Indigenous Affairs spokesman Pat Dodson has slammed the offer and Mr Abbott's record when he was PM.

Senator Dodson said Mr Abbott's government cut $500 million from the Indigenous Affairs budget and had not been "overly empathetic".

Last year's "Uluru statement from the Heart", which was produced by a gathering of 250 Indigenous leaders, called for a voice to be enshrined in the constitution.

Senator Dodson said that statement was a call by Indigenous people to "have a voice where their views are put forward themselves rather than by some sort of intermediary whose record quite frankly is appalling".

"The First Nations people have asked the Government for a voice and we get Tony Abbott," he told Radio National.

Mr Morrison defended his decision to offer Mr Abbott the job, recalling his travel with him to Indigenous communities.

"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," The Prime Minister 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."

Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt would not say this week if he agreed or disagreed with the offer.

"If Tony accepts that, then he's going to have to work with Aboriginal people, listen to them, accept their perspectives and then bring that back," Mr Wyatt told Perth radio 6PR this week.

"What I liked about Malcolm [Turnbull] 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.

"If Tony can do that, then that's fine. If he can't then I have a problem," Mr Wyatt said.

Mr Abbott has had a long-standing interest in Indigenous affairs and has spent time in many remote communities.

As prime minister he spent a week in Indigenous communities with his ministers and senior bureaucrats each year.

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has formally agreed to take the job of envoy for drought assistance and recovery.


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