Prime Minister Tony Abbott is known as ‘The Gammon Man’ amongst indigenous people, a byword for someone who is a “pretender”, Senator Nova Peris has claimed.
Mr Abbott’s “true colours” as a politician who cares little for Aboriginal people were exposed by his recent comments, the Senator said.
The PM has been widely criticised for saying that the government should not “endlessly subsidise” remote communities, foreshadowing forcible removals of entire townships.
“He is effectively saying Aboriginal people’s personal and spiritual beliefs and the decisions they make don’t matter,” she said.
Mr Abbott has backed the WA government’s decision to close 150 remote indigenous communities.
“Aboriginal people choose to live on their country because it is our home. It’s not a lifestyle choice. Tony Abbott is totally ignorant and dismissive of our deep connections to country.”
NT Chief Minister Adam Giles has distances himself somewhat from the comments.
“We do not support people leaving their communities and coming into town as a defunding approach,” Mr Giles told reporters on Wednesday.
“I don’t think we should be prescriptive about telling people where they should or shouldn’t live.”
Aboriginal Country Liberals MLA Bess Price was angry and disappointed by the prime minister’s comments, and would like to see him apologise.
“I’m hoping after this episode Tony Abbott will understand now not to open his mouth, but rethink what he has to say,” she said.
In defending the comments, Mr Abbott has repeatedly referred to his trips to the bush as evidence of his concern for the indigenous community.
But these trips were “just window dressing,” said Joe Morrison, chief executive of the Northern Land Council.
“Unfortunately, it’s now increasingly becoming apparent that the notion or brand of him being prime minister for indigenous Australia is just a slogan for him to be elected,” Mr Morrison said.