Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm has lashed out at special treatment given to Indigenous Australians, arguing "fairy tales" are encouraging them to consider themselves special.
In a speech in the Senate on Monday, Senator Leyonhjelm responded to the annual Closing the Gap report by accusing the government and Indigenous leaders of maintaining policies that foster dysfunctional Indigenous communities, attitudes and behaviours.
The gap would close a lot quicker if Indigenous Australians were treated like refugees, who are expected to join mainstream Australia, he said.
Senator Leyonhjelm said governments encouraged dysfunctional attitudes when lamenting injustices done to previous generations of Indigenous Australians.
"Hanging on to injustices that weren't done to you is paralysing and shouldn't be encouraged.
"The government continues to treat Aborigines in rural and remote areas like museum exhibits and perpetuates violence, child abuse and neglect."
He also slammed government language that cast Aboriginal offenders as victims, labelling it irresponsible and insisting anyone could reject violent behaviour and rise above their upbringing.
Affirmative action programs, including targets for government employment of Indigenous Australians, encouraged indigenous people to get ahead through "special pleading" and non-Indigenous Australians to view them as charity cases, he said.
"Governments tell Aborigines fairy tales, which encourages them to consider themselves special.
"They say Aborigines were undoubtedly the first Australians, as if they know exactly what happened 40,000 years ago."
Senator Leyonhjelm said many Indigenous Australians were getting out of "hell-holes" in rural and remote communities but accused the government of holding back the exodus with a push towards local empowerment.
He said policies requiring child protection departments to consult indigenous organisations prior to removing children and arrange care with extended family or local indigenous families were enabling child abuse and neglect.
"The idea that a kid is better off growing up illiterate and unhealthy in an Aboriginal household, rather than literate and healthy in a non-Indigenous household, is destructive racism," he said.