No way to close the gap on Abbott's Indigenous lie

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Tony Abbott has a chequered record regarding his commitment to Australia's First People and should resign after being shown this week to have intentionally misled Parliament. Peter Wicks from Wixxyleaks reports.

This week in Federal Parliament Tony Abbott actually did something noble.

I know, best pick yourself up from the floor and dust yourself off.

Education amongst Indigenous Australians is something that needs to be addressed with attendance rates at ridiculously low levels, particularly in rural areas. Tony Abbott has set a target of a 90% attendance rate by 2019, which is a bold target and, if he meets it, I will be among the first to congratulate him. I commend him on this commitment.

I also would like to congratulate him for having the decency to praise the Gillard and Rudd Governments for their efforts to bridge the gap.

Abbott even went a step further and told parliament of how Paul Keating's famous Redfern Park speech on righting historical wrongs was a watershed moment for him and greatly influenced him in regards to Indigenous affairs.

But, while acknowledging the efforts of your political opponents may be noble, I have doubts as to Abbott’s motivations.

For instance, in the same week that Abbott has set this target in parliament, he has also been accused of misleading parliament on another important Indigenous matter.

The man many call Phoney Tony would like us all to believe that the Liberal Party is a friend to Indigenous Australians and is the party that they should support.

Do not be fooled.

Some of you may remember the protests and marches that took place during the last Liberal Governments reign. These protests were aimed at John Howard and the Coalition government, of which Tony Abbott was a vocal member and frontbencher, in the hope the Stolen Generation might receive an official apology from the Australian Government.

Thousands marched over the Harbour Bridge in Sydney while John Howard sat just metres below them in Kirribilli House having breakfast.

One word. Sorry.

But that was too much for Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party to commit to and so they refused to do the decent thing.

In 2007, when Kevin Rudd became prime minister, he apologised to the Stolen Generation almost immediately.

True, this stemmed from the negligence of John Howard’s Government, not Abbott’s”.

So what has Abbott done to show his respect for Indigenous Australians?

Tony Abbott says he cares for Indigenous Australians, that is why during his election campaign Tony promised to spend the first week of his Prime Ministership if he won the election with the Yolngu people in Arnhem Land.

Well, of course, Abbott is now PM and the Yolngu people are still waiting for him to show up.

In fact, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten asked Tony Abbott in Question Time about his promise to the Yolngu people on Wednesday 12February.

Compare what Tony Abbott told Parliament he had promised in his response to Bill Shorten to what he stated in the video below of Abbotts speech at the Garma Indigenous Culture Festival during the election campaign.

Abbott said quite clearly to the Yolngu he would spend  his "first week as prime minister" in their community, whereas he told Parliament what he's said was that the Yolngu would be the "first community  he would visit and stay in".

Profoundly different and, indeed, his statement to parliament was without question an outright, blatant and intentional lie.

Misleading parliament is a serious offence and this is a very clear case of an intentionally misleading it — backed up by video evidence.

By convention a minister who has been found to have intentionally misled parliament is expected to resign or be sacked. Thus, Abbott should resign immediately.

Tony Abbott breaking a promise to Indigenous Australians the first day he is Prime Minister. Nice.

Even before misleading parliament and before making empty promises during the election campaign, Tony Abbott was quite adept at showing his concern for Indigenous affairs.

On 21 March last year, it was revealed on IA how Tony Abbott behaved during a parliamentary committee meeting on an Indigenous affairs matter.

In attendance at the meeting were several members of an Indigenous community that had travelled three days to be there.

To show his appreciation for the efforts of those who had travelled so long to attend Tony Abbott strutted in 15 minutes late, offered not a word of apology, plonked himself down on a chair and proceeded to fall asleep.

Thanks for coming, eh?

Then there is also another promise of Tony Abbott’s during his 2013 election campaign, this one to News Ltd columnist Andrew Bolt.

Abbott’s commitment to Bolt was to amend and weaken the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

Andrew Bolt was found to have breached the Act in court after a group of Indigenous Australians took him to task about a column he had written, which was published by News Ltd. The article caused great offence to many within the Indigenous community.

Tony Abbott, not wanting to see Australia’s most published racist getting into trouble for offending some Aboriginal folk, promised to have the act amended so that Bolt could continue to vilify people based on their race.

Last year, the then Attorney General Mark Dreyfus sent a passionate plea to Tony Abbott to not go down this path and to leave the Act as it stands.

Andrew Bolt cried freedom of speech, as those who abuse it usually do, I wonder how Bolt would feel about freedom of speech if he woke up to find his picture on the front of the newspapers with the headline “paedophile”.

Abbott has shown his false commitment to Indigenous affairs by having IPA spin doctor Tim Wilson appointed to the Human Rights Commission, seemingly in an effort to promote and protect rightwing bigotry.

As for the genuineness of his week-long forays into Indigenous communities, these have been shown on IA to clearly be nothing more than very highly expensive photo opportunities.

Tony Abbott should be applauded by his commitment to Indigenous education. However, it is hard not to reach the conclusion that his commitment to Australia's first people is little more than a PR opportunity for him.

As he showed to Parliament again this week, his word is simply not to be trusted and if he had a shred of decency or ethics, or true concern about Indigenous people, he would resign as prime minister immediately.

I guess we can be certain, then, that he won't.

Peter Wicks is an ALP member and a former NSW Labor state candidate. You can follow Pete on Twitter @madwixxy.

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