Former prime minister Tony Abbott has accepted an offer to become Scott Morrison’s special envoy on indigenous affairs, saying school attendance and performance will be his major focus.
Mr Morrison offered the Liberal backbencher the envoy role after leaving him out of his new-look cabinet, in an effort to heal the wounds of last week’s damaging leadership spill.
Mr Abbott has written to the new prime minister accepting the job, The Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday.
“What I expect to be asked to do is to make recommendations on how we can improve remote area education, in particular, how we can improve attendance rates and school performance because this is the absolute key to a better future for indigenous kids and this is the key to reconciliation,” he told newspaper.
The acceptance comes after Mr Abbott’s spokesman was quoted earlier this week as saying the Member for Warringah was “worried about something that is a title without a role”.
News of Mr Abbott’s new role was met with anger by members of the aboriginal community, with Ron Liddle, co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, describing move as absolutely wrong.
“Tony Abbott’s record speaks for itself,” Mr Liddle told ABC radio on Wednesday.
Work to improve education, employment, health and other outcomes for first Australians during Mr Abbott’s time as prime minister did not involve nearly enough consultation, he said.
“There wasn’t enough conversations with communities on the ground to listen to their needs and work out solutions and work with them,” Mr Liddle said.
Mr Morrison’s new-look cabinet, which was sworn in Tuesday, includes several ministers responsible for last week’s leadership spill as the Prime Minister looks to unify the coalition ahead of an election due by May 2019.
To aid the healing, Peter Dutton, the face of the coup, was allowed to return to his Home Affairs portfolio, albeit with responsibility for immigration carved out.
Ex-Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce was made special envoy for drought assistance and drought recovery.
At his first cabinet meeting after the swearing in by the Governor General, Mr Morrison said he wanted his ministers to remember who they served.
“We’re going to redefine what fairness means in the country, fairness means a fair go for those who have a go,” he said.
“We’re going to get electricity prices down. Now you’re all standing with me, to create an even stronger Australia.”