Opposition Leader Tony Abbott
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott Chris Ison

Dr Mark Roberts demoted after 'cut the throat' threats

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott's director of policy Dr Mark Roberts has been demoted after threatening to "cut the throat" of a prominent Australian's non-profit organisation by cancelling funding once in power.

Dr Roberts reportedly made the threat to Australian Indigenous Education Foundation chief Andrew Penfold at a Sydney dinner on Thursday.

Journalist Peter van Onselen made Dr Roberts' actions public first via his Twitter account, then through an interview with The Australian where he works.

Mr van Onselen said Mr Penfold had shown no animousity towards Dr Roberts and was taken aback by the comment.

"I heard him say either 'slit the throat' or 'cut the throat' and then I heard the cutting of funding," he told Sky News.

On Friday, Mr Abbott released a statement saying his policy director's actions were investigated by Opposition chief of staff Peta Credlin and Dr Roberts had apologised.

The Opposition Leader said Dr Roberts' comments were "out of character".

Mr Penfold's Foundation provides scholarships to help educate 2000 Indigenous children and supports others in financial need.

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