• Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion says he wasn't aware Tony Abbott might be given a special envoy role until reading about it in the media. (AAP)Source: AAP
The revelations come ahead of Mr Abbott's visit to South Australia where he will talk to Indigenous leaders.
NITV Staff Writer

26 Oct 2018 - 2:09 PM  UPDATED 26 Oct 2018 - 2:09 PM

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion was not consulted about the 'special envoy' role given to Tony Abbott and first learned about the role through media reports.

Mr Abbott accepted an offer to become Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s special envoy on Indigenous affairs in August.

However, Mr Scullion told a senate estimates hearing in Canberra today that did not ask the prime minister for assistance with his portfolio.

"I wasn't aware he was going to be appointed," he said.

"I heard about speculation in the media first."

Mr Scullion clarified he retained ministerial responsibility for Indigenous affairs, and that Mr Abbott reported directly to the prime minister to gather information and provide advice.

'Most people have me on speed dial'

He disagreed with the suggestion that First Nations communities have expressed negative views regarding Mr Abbott’s appointment.

“People haven’t been ringing me saying, ‘this is appalling’ or ‘this is terrible, what are you doing?’ and I can tell you it seems like most people in Australia have me on speed dial,” Mr Scullion said.

Labor Senator Kristina Keneally asked if he had received any phone calls expressing delight on the issue.

“Yeah actually, I have,” Mr Scullion replied.

“I’ve had a couple saying that ‘we think that’s a really good thing'.”

“I can tell you that my colleagues who are First Nation Australians, who are feeling some of the same frustrations as I do about the states and territories walking away from their core responsibilities, they see it as I do.”

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Ms Keneally asked if Mr Scullion could point to any statements from Indigenous organisations which have “expressed that delight”.

“No, I can’t,” he replied.

Mr Abbott and former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, who was appointed the drought special envoy, have each been offered two extra advisers each to assist in their new roles which will cost taxpayers more than $450,000.

The politicians are also entitled to claim “reasonable travel costs” for their duties, but the backbenchers are not receiving extra pay.

Mr Abbott will travel to South Australia next week to talk to Indigenous communities.

NITV News understands he will arrive on Wednesday then meet Aboriginal leaders in Adelaide, Ceduna, Koonibba, Yalata, Murray Bridge, Coober Pedy, Umuwa and Pukatja.

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