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Mundine: ‘My mates call me a media tart’

One of Indigenous Australia’s most influential political figures has revealed he doesn’t believe Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has “any real interest in Indigenous affairs”.

Warren Mundine makes the claim in his new autobiography Warren Mundine: In Black + White, in which he goes so far as to say Mr Turnbull’s disinterest is unprecedented in his experience advising prime ministers.

The pull-no-punches book was published just as Mundine also launched a new weekly television show on Sky News about Indigenous business.

The first episode of Mundine Means Business went to air on SkyNews Live on Sunday, with the program repeated tonight (Wednesday) on SkyNews Business at 9pm.

In his book, Mundine says in his time as chairman of Turnbull’s key Indigenous Advisory Council that he had no close working relationship with the Prime Minister, who only attended a full IAC meeting once on his watch.

“I don’t believe he has any real interest in Indigenous affairs,” Mundine says in the book.

“Of the five prime ministers whose governments I’ve worked with in an official capacity, every single one expressed what I saw to be a genuine interest in making a difference in this area – except Turnbull.

“Every single one would light up and be engaged when I talked to them about how I believed Aboriginal disadvantage could be overcome – except Turnbull.

“That said, in the 16 months I worked as an official adviser to Turnbull, I can’t tell you a single issue I’ve seen him truly passionate about. I still don’t know what he stands for.”

Mundine — whose colourful career has included roles as Australian Labor Party national president and coalition government advisor — compared Turnbull’s prime ministership to trying to catch a turtle.

“If Turnbull pursued a vision and the concerns of ordinary people as determinedly and passionately as he has pursued the prime ministership, he might be a different kind of prime minister,” he writes.

“Becoming prime minister isn’t important. What comes next is what’s important.

“It’s like spending a day trying to catch a turtle and then, once you’ve got it, you don’t know how to get the shell off.

“So you just sit there pleased with yourself for catching it but not able to eat it. You may as well just toss it back in the water.”

The role of author and TV anchor are the just the latest career turns for Mundine, a Bundjalung-Gumbaynggirr businessman who rose from factory worker to hold one of the most powerful political jobs in the country.

Even Mundine says his new roles were unexpected.

“It just sort of happened all at once,” he tells NIT in the middle of book tours and filming for the new series.

“The book took a couple of years. I was asked about doing the memoirs in 2012. I thought ‘yeah sure. That’s for old blokes who are about to fall off the perch’. I sort of left it.

“Finally I was approached again about doing a political memoir and I wasn’t really interested in doing that.

“I wanted to do a story about my family, Australia and I could chuck some of the politics in there as well.”

Mundine says his TV role has been a particularly interesting turn.

“I’m usually on the other side,” he says. “I’m used to being the person being quizzed and prodded so I’m finding it interesting that I’m now the person doing the quizzing and prodding and trying to get answers out of people.”

The one-hour weekly show, which will run until March, will feature Indigenous businesses, news and a panel discussion. Mundine and a TV crew will travel the length and breadth of Australia reporting on innovative businesses.

“The development of the Indigenous entrepreneur and Indigenous business has happened at such a rapid rate over the last five to 10 years and has even quickened up in the last few years,” Mundine says.

“There is in excess of 800, probably 900, Indigenous businesses out there, crossing a wide range of areas from IT to commercial law to cleaning companies to civil engineering, to media outlets – a whole wide range of activities.”

In Black + White reveals what has made Mundine the man he is today — from his early years as a child growing up in South Grafton in New South Wales, to an early brush with the law which set him on the right path, to his first steps into politics in local government.

Mundine also lays bare the highs and lows of his life through two previous failed marriages (he has since happily remarried), his years as a single father, the disaffection that saw him quit the Labor Party in 2012 and even a low point in 2007 at which he contemplated suicide.

With typical Mundine bluntness, he confesses he told a psychologist he saw in 2007: “I’m Warren Mundine, and I’m a c—-.”

Nowadays Mundine says life is good and he’s not missing being a government advisor.

“I’m loving the work I’m doing at the moment and my business is going really well,” he says. “We’re really happy.

“Some of my mates call me a media tart and slut, but that’s a bit cruel I think. I’m trying to get a message out there and educate people through that message.”

Mr Turnbull’s office was contacted by NIT yesterday and offered the opportunity to respond to Mr Mundine’s book, but declined.

Wendy Caccetta

  • Warren Mundine: In Black + White is published by Pantera Press, hardcover $45, e-book $17.99.
  • Mundine Means Business airs on Sky News Live on Sundays at 8pm and Sky News Business at 9pm on Wednesdays.

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