As you are very possibly aware, ex-Prime Minister and sniping/undermining enthusiast Tony Abbott was recently made Special Envoy on Indigenous Affairs – a job of similar gravitas to Very Special Good Boy Doing Important Busy Work.
And there’s been more than a few questions about the position, such as “what?” and “no, really, what?” and “is he getting paid anything extra for this because if so then he’s possibly in breach of Section 44 of the Constitution?” and “wouldn’t it be at least somewhat respectful to run this idea by some Indigenous folks before arbitrarily appointing yet another white bloke to have vaguely defined dominion over them?”
That last one is particularly germane given Tone’s current tour of duty, which seems to involves a lot of surprise appearances in remote communities. And that’s… well, pretty rude.
Hot tip for anyone planning on travelling through traditional lands: it’s respectful to ask first. I know this and – full disclosure – I am not even a Special Envoy on Indigenous Affairs.
That’s normally done online through the local Land Council and is free – it’s a formality rather than a legal requirement, but it basically shows that you’re not going to suddenly appear and start demanding that people respectfully listen to your latest theory about school attendance or something.
Which is why when Abbott lobbed into the Northern Territory community of Borroloola it did not go at all well.
Garrwa and Yanyuwa parent and school council member Gadrian Hoosan explained to the Guardian that Tone didn’t exactly get off on the good foot.
“We asked him, ‘why are you here?’ He said, ‘I’m here because I heard that a lot of kids are not attending school’. But Borroloola school has one of the highest attendance rates in the NT. We were confused. He was really arrogant. He didn’t want to sit down and listen to us.”
He added that the ex-PM was rather less interested in discussing clean water and risks from fracking – things which the community was actually concerned about.
Abbott’s trip around the Top End has been punctuated with questions about his fitness for the job, especially since he yanked over half a billion dollars from the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio when he was prime minister.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that there’s a perfectly good Uluru Statement from the Heart gathering dust if the government were actually interested in hearing what Indigenous folks have to say, not to mention that whole thing about creating a Voice to Parliament.
But hey, this way Tony Abbott is running around NT in shirtsleeves. From the current PM’s perspective, that’s probably juuuuuuuuust fine.