Turnbull distances himself from Abbott over First Fleet remarks


The prime minister has distanced himself from Tony Abbott's claim British colonisation was a 'good thing' for Indigenous people.

Malcolm Turnbull has dismissed Tony Abbott's claim that the arrival of the First Fleet was a good thing for indigenous Australians.

The former prime minister was on Monday again throwing his support behind keeping the existing date of Australia Day.

"What happened on the 26th of January 1788 was on balance, for everyone - Aboriginal people included - a good thing because it brought Western civilisation to this country, it brought Australia into the modern world," Mr Abbott told 2GB radio.

But Mr Turnbull, who in 2016 said the colonisation of Australia could be described fairly as an invasion, distanced himself from Mr Abbott's view.

"Obviously, it had tragic consequences for thousands of indigenous Australians and the wrongs that were done in the past we are setting right," Mr Turnbull told reporters in Townsville on Monday.

Ray Minniecon, one of the organisers of Sydney's "Invasion Day" rally, labelled Mr Abbott an "idiot".

"He doesn't understand Aboriginal people or the history of this country," Pastor Minniecon told NITV News.

Mr Abbott admitted white Australians had for a long time outperformed the country's indigenous people despite "extraordinary" efforts to try to improve their lives in recent years.

"We are making progress," Mr Abbott said.

"We are starting to see a significant indigenous middle-class.

"If you look at the Australian achievement over the last couple of centuries it is overwhelmingly a positive story and increasingly it's a positive story for indigenous Australians."

Mr Abbott warned against underestimating the contribution the "Aboriginal ethos" had made to Australia.

"That easy-going, stoicism, that laconic style that so characterises Australians is typical of the spirit that pervades indigenous Australia," he said.

Labor frontbencher Jim Chalmers said Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull were "shameful" in trying to politicise an important debate.

"I think that the last thing that indigenous Australians need is to have Tony Abbott lecturing them about what's good for them," Mr Chalmers told Sky News.

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