• As prime minister, Tony Abbott visited Horn Island in the Torres Strait in 2015. (AAP)Source: AAP
The new prime minister has been criticised for a 'cynical' move to offer a new Indigenous affairs special envoy role to Tony Abbott.
NITV Staff Writer

28 Aug 2018 - 3:11 PM  UPDATED 28 Aug 2018 - 3:19 PM

Aboriginal groups have criticised Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision to offer Tony Abbott the role of special envoy for Indigenous affairs, saying he failed the first time.

The offer was made in an apparent effort to cauterise the wounds from last week’s Liberal Party leadership spill.

The former PM, who was not included in the revamped cabinet, has said he would consider the position if it were more than an honorary title.

When he was in power, Mr Abbott declared himself the 'prime minister for Indigenous Affairs' and prided himself on visiting remote Aboriginal communities at least once a year.

However, Indigenous leaders have described his previous efforts in the portfolio a failure.

PM Morrison and what he might mean for Indigenous Australia
Newly sworn in Prime Minister Scott Morrison's first move on Indigenous affairs has been to offer a new special envoy role to Tony Abbott.

Dr Jackie Huggins, the co-chair of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, described the job offer as a “cynical thought” designed to quell “factional divides”.

“Mr Abbott’s sole accomplishment was robbing our peoples of our right to self-determination,” she said.

"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 the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples by removing its funding; and handpicked his mates for the Indigenous Advisory Council.”

Michael Mansell, chairman of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, said Mr Abbott was unlikely to be welcomed if he accepted the new role.

“Mr Abbott did one positive thing when he was prime minister and that was taking Aboriginal Affairs under his portfolio,” he said in a statement.

“But he did nothing with his position and missed the opportunity to make a difference. He was roundly seen as a failure.

Lib spill may unleash unholy trinity on Indigenous affairs
Now is not the time to be saying ‘give him a go’, because a combination of Abbott, Scullion and Morrison, who described some Aboriginal communities as ‘basket cases’, does not bode well for First Nations Peoples.

Earlier this week, Indigenous Labor Senator Patrick Dodson was scathing about the possible new role for Mr Abbott.

“Labor is seriously concerned about appointing the ex-self-appointed ‘prime minister for Indigenous affairs’ to the role of ‘envoy,’ given his ignorant, hopeless and frankly offensive track record on Indigenous issues,” he said in a statement.

Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt also warned the former PM he “would have a problem” if he did not work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"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 6PR.

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The Liberal party’s only Indigenous member Ken Wyatt says he’s disappointed with his party’s leadership antics while he pleads for integrity.