Flat White

Tony Abbott is Australia’s answer to Scarlett Johansson

30 August 2018

11:06 AM

30 August 2018

11:06 AM

If you think Tony Abbott has nothing in common with Scarlett Johansson, think again.

There is anger this week over the announcement Abbott has been appointed special envoy on Indigenous affairs. It’s reported he has agreed to the role in principle but the specifics are yet to be decided.

Aboriginal leaders are not happy. According to the ABC, Jackie Higgins, co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples said, “Tony Abbott has a track record in terms of denying Aboriginal people their rights to social justice, but also to self-determination. There’s almost that notion of chief protector has come back to re-visit us. We’re all very dismayed at the outcome.”

Chairman of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, Roy Ah See told ABC, “We asked for a voice to the Parliament so the Parliament could hear directly from us, and instead we got a non-Aboriginal envoy to interpret our needs and the solutions we bring.”

Labor’s assistant Indigenous affairs spokesman Pat Dodson said it was insulting. “We should have an Indigenous envoy to his electorate to tell him how he ought to behave,” he told ABC.

On and on and on the complaints roll in. This is precisely the problem with identity politics: it is the same backward book of nonsense that decreed Johansson should not play a transgender character.

Gender activists were furious. They believed the role should have been given to a transgender man and accused Johansson of “stealing their narrative”.

I wrote at that time, before the pile-on was so intense Johansson withdrew from the role, “Heaven forbid a famous face with huge popular pull at the ticket office is cast to raise as much awareness as possible and plant the issue firmly on the mainstream map.”

And now we have the sequel. Heaven forbid an experienced politician with considerable clout should be committed to holding the states to account, raising awareness around crucial issues and keeping them on the political map.

There was no reason Johansson could not have played that role. Equally there is no reason Abbot can play his.

The destructive, divisive force of identity politics is, once again, laid bare. Harping on about our differences and stubbornly refusing to align is not progress and it is not equality.

If only we had a government strong enough to insist we all work together rather than pandering to this unhelpful obstructiveness.

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