Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who once famously described Australia pre-1788 as “nothing but bush“, has been named a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for his contributions to the “Indigenous community”.
Abbott received one of 933 Queens’ Birthday honours “for eminent service to the people and Parliament of Australia, particularly as Prime Minister, and through significant contributions to trade, border control, and to the Indigenous community.”
Former MP and Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, who resigned over an expenses scandal in 2015 involving freakin’ helicopters, was also recognised, while there were awards for former Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke and Indigenous academic Marcia Langton.
Abbott’s recognition comes a few short days after he condemned people planning on attending Sydney’s Black Lives Matter rally over the weekend, questioning why “10,000 people should be allowed to make merry at the Town Hall steps” for a “copycat” protest.
“I think we’re quite different and somewhat better than the United States,” said the former PM.
In 2018 Abbott was appointed as a special envoy on Indigenous affairs to the Federal Government, to which key Indigenous leaders responded: “Haven’t we been punished enough?
“Tony Abbott has a track record in terms of denying Aboriginal people their rights to social justice, but also to self-determination,” said Jackie Huggins, the co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, at the time.
Some of Abbott’s more controversial comments about Indigenous communities in Australia include suggesting in 2015 that Indigenous Australians should make more of an effort to engage in “full participation in Australian society” rather than keep making “lifestyle choices” subsidised by the government.
He previously called the arrival of the First Fleet “the defining moment in the history of this continent”, and in 2009 said “our country owes its existence to a form of foreign investment by the British government in the then-unsettled or scarcely settled great south land.”
The latest round of awards followed calls for a review to the Order of Australia system. Earlier this year, controversial sex therapist and men’s rights advocate Bettina Arndt received the honour for “significant service to gender equity through advocacy for men.”
Accused “stealth-rapist” Dr Lian Joo Leow was also bestowed an honour in 2020, while another went to sex robot advocate and Fraser Anning party candidate Adrian Cheok last year.
Upon receiving the award, Tony Abbott AC managed to take credit for the Federal Government’s financial response to the coronavirus pandemic, despite leaving parliament almost 12 months before the crisis hit Australian shores.
Abbott said his 2014 budget “was the last budget to attempt serious economic reform” and without it, “we would be in an even more difficult position…”