Tony Abbott at Bamaga Junior School Bamaga on the Northern Peninsula. Image: AAP/Tracey Nearmy

If there is anything Tony Abbott wants out of his consolation prize as Special Envoy for Indigenous Affairs — aside from publicity — it is to reinforce English-only instruction for remote Aboriginal kids. It began with his declaration on Sky News that Aboriginal kids must “learn to think in the national language”: a message he has reproduced, just as ham-fistedly, everywhere in his fly-in fly-out tour of remote schools.

But a key reason his comments are so absurd is that the vast majority of remote school in Northern Australia do teach an English-only curriculum, after a near two decades of policies designed to undermine bilingual programs in the Northern Territory. Abbott’s policy prescription of more English, always English has been the diet of remote schools since the late 1990s, and it has achieved very little of the improvement in English literacy that it supposedly is designed to.