There’s no two ways about it. The appointment of Tony Abbott, as the Special Envoy on Indigenous Affairs, assisting to ministers for Indigenous affairs and Health, is an offensive insult to the First Australians, and fits in with Morrison’s appeasement of the radicals within the Liberal Party. It sends out a clear signal that the Morrison government policy aims to return to the era of paternalism and denial of basic rights.
Indigenous groups are critical of the appointment.
Abbott’s own history provides evidence of this. Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Rod Little, has described the appointment as a “cynical thought.” He said this about the new minister’s record when he was prime minister.
“Mr Abbott’s sole accomplishment was robbing our peoples of our right to self-determination.
“Let’s reflect on Mr Abbott’s history of supporting harmful, paternalistic policies relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.
“This is the man who systematically dismantled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, tried to mainstream service provision; cut over $500 million from our services; attempted to silence our National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples by removing its funding; and handpicked his mates for the Indigenous Advisory Council.”
Most of all. Abbott has been a principal opponent of the move towards Treaty, which could provide a pathway towards Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia working together as equals, in a process of overcoming existing problems and the realisation of self-determination.
Given the new tilt of the Liberal Party and Coalition government to a more reactionary position, it is on the cards that the intention to put a stop to the movement towards treaty, has been an important factor in the appointment of the new minister and continues the downward trajectory of recent years.
This is a time when non-indigenous Australia has a duty to step up higher to support our Indigenous brothers and sisters fighting for their freedom. We must insist on an end to paternalism, the denial of the Indigenous voice, treatment as third class citizens, the cutting of funding and insist on the removal of Tony Abbott.