Labor continues to fail Indigenous Australians

Joint statement

Julia Gillard’s speech on Closing the Gap on Indigenous Disadvantage is another example of Labor’s all-talk, no-results approach to government, said Senator Marise Payne, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Development and Employment and Senator Nigel Scullion, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

“By its own admission, Labor is only on track to achieve two of the six priorities it set itself.

“For a government that was elected with goodwill from so many and one that made big promises to improve the lives of indigenous Australians, particularly in remote communities, these are meagre results.

“Ms Gillard says there has been improvement in the effort to halve the gap in employment outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians by 2018, but we know that thousands of indigenous Australians are still on welfare under the Community Development Employment Project (CDEP), whilst many others are languishing on other forms of welfare.

“This project was meant to be a pathway for indigenous Australians into jobs in the real economy but under this government it has become welfare by another name.

“Late last year, Labor extended the CDEP scheme and portrayed the move as giving indigenous Australians more time to adjust to a different welfare scheme, frustrating indigenous Australians who are desperate for a real job.

“Housing is another area where Labor has made big promises and failed to deliver. The Strategic Indigenous Housing Program (SIHIP) is a case in point.

“The budget for this program has blown out by 68 per cent and the timeline had to be extended from 2012 to 2013, while 50 per cent of the dwellings built will be only two bedrooms or less.

“Two or one-bedroom units will not solve the overcrowding problem in remote indigenous communities that Ms Gillard referred to in her speech.

“While it is encouraging that the government is making some progress in halving mortality rates for indigenous children and ensuring access to early childhood education for indigenous four-year-olds, there is much work to be done in literacy and numeracy and closing the tragically large life-expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

“There is clearly a long way to go before we can even talk about closing the gap on indigenous disadvantage.”