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Keep Walking

Yesterday about 10 government MPs walked out during Bill Shorten's response to the annual Closing the Gap report to Parliament in protest at what they called "political point scoring". The political point they claimed Shorten was trying to score was attempting to explain the impact of cutting half a billion dollars from indigenous funding. This came in response to the report's findings that 4 out of 6 targets are not being met.

We are not on track to meet the target of closing the life expectancy gap by 2031. Compared to non-indigenous Australians, indigenous men die 10.6 years earlier and women 9.5 years. The $534 million this government has cut from indigenous funding includes $160 million for indigenous health. They have also cut funding for the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service. For the record indigenous women are 35 times more likely to be hospitalised and 5 times more likely to die as a result of family violence.

We are not on track to halving the gap in employment by 2018. Currently 47.5% of indigenous people are employed, still 28.1% less than non-indigenous Australians. Cuts to indigenous employment programs will not help, nor will cuts to education help with halving the gap in child reading, writing and numeracy by 2018, which we are also failing to met. Shorten's comments aren't political point scoring, they are common bloody sense.

This is political point scoring:

Tony Abbott can not be held responsible for the failings of the Rudd and Gillard governments in relation to the reports findings but he should be held responsible for his own past actions, and those actions reveal a scant regard for indigenous people. The $534 million cut from indigenous funding is about 1% of the money his government could he recouped by acting on Treasury's recommendations to close tax and superannuation loopholes and crackdown on offshore tax evasion. Abbott justifies these cuts with the same excuse his government uses to justify all its cuts, a fiscal emergency, but what about when the economy was doing well?

During his tenure as Health Minister in the Howard government, over the same period the government was claiming almost $100 billion in budget surpluses, Abbott oversaw a $460 million shortfall in indigenous health funding. So while 10 government MPs walked out in protest at being told how their government is failing indigenous Australians, the legacy of the man who leads that government is to take a billion dollars away from indigenous funding, half of it under a government that claimed it had money to burn.

Keep walking guys.

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