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Government commitment to flawed policies clouds efforts to close the gap

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 6 Feb 2013

The Australian Greens say the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap speech shows up some of the Government’s flawed priorities in improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“The Prime Minister’s report raises key questions about the Government’s ongoing commitment to flawed policies, such as income management, while other critical issues, such as the appalling rate of incarceration amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, were overlooked,” Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues said today.

“I am deeply concerned that the Prime Minister did not discuss incarceration and ways to address it.

“Why does the Government continue to waste money on the unproved and expensive regime of income management, when this money would be far more effective in other areas, such as reducing dependence on drugs and alcohol or combating hearing health problems?

“The slide backwards on Numeracy and Literacy results make it clear we must measure whether genuine progress is being made, not just the numbers walking into the class room.

“More must be done to address the reasons behind kids not developing stronger numeracy and literacy skills, including contributing factors such as otitis media and inadequate housing.

“A commitment is also being sought from the Government to ensure the continuation of a National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes. The current agreement is due to expire in the coming months and its continuation is critical.

“I agree with the Government that abuse of alcohol needs on-going attention and urge them to listen to community calls for more action, such as a minimum price on alcohol, take away free days and reducing the number of licences. To date they have avoided these measures.

“To ensure the long term success of alcohol management plans, the Government needs to do all it can to ensure a cooperative, community driven approach is taken, rather than current and past policies which simply enforce mandatory restrictions which are imposed on people without adequate consultation.

“The Greens remain strongly committed to Constitutional Recognition and while I welcome the Prime Minister’s words of commitment towards Constitutional Recognition, it is important to remember that great leadership will be needed in order to deliver the change needed and ensure a ‘yes’ vote for substantive recognition when the issue comes to a referendum. The $10 million committed to Reconciliation Australia is a positive step, but further investment will be needed.

“Likewise, there is an ongoing need for funding for the Healing Foundation, who are undertaking incredibly important work with members of the Stolen Generation.

“The Greens are committed to delivering practical solutions that empower communities and so I am pleased that today, of all days, Adam Bandt will introduce the Greens’ Low Aromatic Fuel Bill to the House of Representatives.

“This Bill has already passed the Senate, and allows the Government to mandate the supply of non sniffable fuel in areas affected by petrol sniffing, but where rogue operators are holding out against stocking the fuel – undermining the entire program.

“I encourage all members of the House to support this legislation, and urge the Government to act quickly to implement its measures,” Senator Siewert concluded.


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