• Labor Senator Patrick Dodson says Tony Abbott's Special Envoy of Indigenous Affairs role demonstrates a lack of respect to First Nations peoples (AAP)Source: AAP
Labor Senator Patrick Dodson has called out the 'absurdity' of appointing Tony Abbott as the special envoy for Indigenous affairs .
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NITV News
21 Sep 2018 - 12:46 PM  UPDATED 21 Sep 2018 - 1:01 PM

WA Labor Senator Patrick Dodson has called out the 'absurdity' of appointing former prime minister Tony Abbott in the new role of special envoy for Indigenous affairs.

Mr Dodson criticised Prime Minister Scott Morrison's decision to appoint Mr Abbott. 

"What an arrogant position the current Prime Minister, Mr Morrison, has taken," he told the chamber. 

"We get the absolute absurdity of an envoy being appointed to represent First Nations people. I'm not sure to whom - is it to the minister for Indigenous affairs, or the prime minister, or is it for the First Nations to be representing themselves back through this envoy, Mr Abbott, to one or other of those ministers?" he said. 

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Mr Abbott has outlined a plan to overhaul the Indigenous education system with a focus on getting Indigenous kids to school, but education experts have said Mr Abbott's approach is outdated. 

Senator Dodson said his plans need to clarified. 

"I don't know what resources he's got. I don't even know what he's going to do. He's appointed himself to be the schoolmaster of Indigenous kids around Australia," he said. "[It's] as if many of those families can't look after their own kids. There is an assumption that we cannot look after ourselves and we need a special envoy."

The WA Labor senator spoke of a friend's reaction when he heard Mr Abbott was appointed in the new role. 

"One of my friends, who is very ill, when he heard of this - he's a West Australian - said, 'What we need is an Abbott-proof fence. We need to keep this bloke away from us,' he said. 

Calls for an 'Abbott-proof fence' first circulated during Abbott's prime ministership in 2013, in which he declared himself the 'Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs' and prided himself on visiting remote communities at least once a year. 

But many Indigenous leaders, including Senator Dodson, described his previous efforts as a failure. 

"When he came into power and was supervising the place as the prime minister, he called the homelands, where people live in poverty in remote communities, a lifestyle choice," he said. 

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In fact, Mr Abbott has a long list of 'offensive' comments about Indigenous Australians. 

In 2014, he described Sydney as 'nothing but bush' prior to the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, and was accused of effectively considering Australia 'terra nullius'. 

"This is the envoy to the First Nations of this country. What an insult. What an arrogant position the current Prime Minister, Mr Morrison, has taken," Senator Dodson said. 

One of the biggest criticisms from Indigenous Australians under the Abbott government was slashing more than half a billion dollars from Indigenous programs, which many organisations are still recovering from. 

Mr Dodson said Mr Abbott's role needs to be made clear, in particular, how it works within the Indigenous Affairs portfolio.  

"He hasn't defined what his position is. He hasn't shown us what he is prepared to do. He hasn't even made a statement as to the obligations of this particular envoy." 

NITV News has sought comment from Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion but has not yet received a response. 

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