A prominent member of a Voice to parliament has blasted former prime minister Tony Abbott for this “hypocrisy” on Aboriginal affairs, as the ex-PM continues to campaign against the referendum.

Speaking on behalf of the Uluru Dialogue, Wamba Wamba man Eddie Synot said that despite being one of Australia’s shortest serving prime ministers, “Tony Abbott (has) inflicted more damage to Indigenous affairs and to our communities than most others”.

The First Nations lawyer said Mr Abbott “gutted $500m from vital Indigenous community service programs” in the first budget handed down by his government, despite making election commitments to fund Closing the Gap initiatives.

He also said Mr Abbott’s highly-criticised Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) rejected “over 300 applications from vital community services,” in lieu of programs like a $330,000 grant to Warren Mundine for two seasons of a Sky News program called Mundine Means Business.

“It is an insult to all Australian people that someone who failed so drastically continues to be given media space and keynote speeches to lecture on Indigenous affairs and our history,” wrote Mr Synot.

“It is particularly galling when he regularly quotes other leaders out of context and peddles myths and factual inaccuracies when they have been shown to be incorrect.

“In short, our communities were gutted and ignored, Closing the Gap went backward – and Abbott now believes he can lecture the Australian people.”

Mr Abbott has been a vocal critic of the referendum on a Voice to parliament which will be decided later this year. He is also an advisory board member for lobby group Advance Australia, which is a leading group in the no campaign.

As recently as Wednesday night, the former prime minister cited the words of his predecessor Bob Hawke and Martin Lurther King at an event hosted by the Institute of Public Affairs in Perth.

In his speech, he claimed a yes vote would entrench racism in Australia.

“My absolute desire is that we can go forward as one equal people and that’s why I’ll be voting no,” he said.

As reported by The Australian, Mr Abbott said: “Citing … the wonderful words of Bob Hawke back on Australia Day in 1988, ‘we are a country with no hierarchy of descent. We are a country with no privilege of origin’”.

Referencing Mr King, he used the civil rights activist’s famous quote: “I want to live in a country where my four children are judged not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”.

In his furious statement, Mr Synot said he misquoted Mr Hawke’s words, which were said in an effort to combat a wave of anti-Asian sentiment in the 80s.

“In the same speech, Hawke acknowledged Indigenous history pre-existed waves of migration to this country, and his widow Blanche d’Alpuget is on the record as saying her husband would want Australians to back the voice,” wrote Mr Synot.

Previously speaking about his opposition of the Voice, Mr Abbott also told ABC’s 730 the Voice would “entrench race into the constitution”.

“It reinforces the separatism which is at the heart of Indigenous disadvantage,” he said.

“I don’t see why any particular group of Australians, however much they might be respected, should have their own special voice to the government into the parliament over and above the voice that every other Australian gets.”

Advocating for a Voice to parliament, Mr Synot said a positive referendum result would allow for the needs of Indigenous people to be heard.

“All the Voice asks for is a respectful relationship, grounded in the dignity of recognition of the fact of our history, and to be able to have a say on matters that affect us,” he wrote.

“Abbott never gave us that chance in government and he is working to continue to deny that now. All Australians deserve better.”

While a date for the referendum has yet to be announced, support for constitutional change is dwindling.


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By Rahul

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