Tony Abbott Says He’s Sick of Welcome to Country Ceremonies as He Calls the Aboriginal Flag ‘Divisive’
David Southwell, Daily Mail, August 9, 2023
Tony Abbott has hit out at constant Welcome to Country ceremonies and labelled the Aboriginal flag ‘divisive’ while campaigning against the Voice.
The former prime minister made the remarks on Monday at a Melbourne forum promoting the No vote in the upcoming Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum.
Mr Abbott, who was appointed as a special envoy on Indigenous Affairs by then Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2012, told the audience that he was ‘getting a little bit sick of Welcomes to Country’.
The former PM was forced to pause as the audience, who paid $15 a ticket to attend, burst out in appreciative laughter and applause.
After the noise subsided, Mr Abbott explained the reason he was getting tired of the ceremony was that Australia ‘belongs to all of us not just to some of us’.
‘And I’m getting a little bit tired of seeing the flag of some of us flown equally with the flag of all of us,’ Mr Abbott went on to say.
‘And I just think that the longer this goes on, the more divisive and the more difficult and the more dangerous that it’s getting now.’
He was scathing of the way Australia’s history was portrayed by those arguing for the Voice.
‘What the authors of this Voice are putting to us is that we are essentially a racist country, we are essentially a country that should be ashamed of ourselves.’ Mr Abbott said.
‘We are essentially a country that needs to atone for 240 years of exploitation and oppression and I am bloody well voting no to all that crap.’
Mr Abbott argued that the problems of Indigenous Australians, especially in more remote areas, were not going to be solved by having a Voice.
‘The problem in these places is that the kids don’t go to school,’ he said.
Appearing later in the week on Sky News, Mr Abbott said: ‘Too many Australians have been led to believe there is something illegitimate about the country that we are.’
Mr Abbott told host Peta Credlin, who was his chief of staff when he was Prime Minister from 2013 to 2015, he accepted ‘not everything about our country is perfect’ and it had the ‘odd blemish’ with ‘serious mistakes being made in the past’.
‘Nevertheless the country that we are is something that all or us can on balance be proud of,’ he said.
‘I want us to go forward as one united people not as a divided country where depending on the length of time your ancestors have been here you get more or less say over how government works.’
Monday night’s forum was hosted by Victorian Liberal MPs Kim Wells and Nick McGowan at Rowville’s Polish Club in the south east Melbourne.
Leading No campaigner Warren Mundine was also one of the speakers.
Mr Mundine claimed that because of his advocacy against the Voice his role as director of conservative think tank the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) was under threat.
‘You know I got a threat today about my position in the CIS by a very senior wealthy businessman,’ Mr Mundine said.
‘I’ll name him in a few days actually but he has threatened that the CIS has to get rid of me.’