United General Practice Australia & NACCHO media release:

11 August 2010

The silence has been deafening on Aboriginal health – let’s hear about it

The coalition of peak groups representing general practice in Australia today joined forces with the peak body representing Aboriginal community controlled health services to call on the major parties to start talking the talk on Aboriginal health.

United General Practice Australia (UGPA) and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) have called on the Labor Party and the Coalition to confirm their commitment to the COAG National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes. They stated that real increases in funding were needed in the next term of government to make a real difference in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

With less than two weeks to go in this election campaign what should be our number one health priority – the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – has received no attention.

Closing the gap on the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to that of non-Aboriginal Australians is critical in this country if Australia is to seriously claim to be a compassionate and caring nation capable of addressing health inequalities.

The Aboriginal population is most at risk from chronic illnesses, particularly preventable ones like diabetes and the best model of care for these patients is in a primary health care setting.

The major parties need to produce Aboriginal health policies that provide tangible reforms and deliverables for Aboriginal populations.

The COAG Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes was signed by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Both potential Prime Ministers need to confirm their willingness to commit to the COAG Closing the Gap Agreements and to at least maintaining the current level of Commonwealth Government funding commitment over the course of the next term of government.

 

11th August 2010

 

ELECTION 2010

Indigenous Affairs are missing in action!

 

NATSIEC is concerned at the lack of attention being given to Indigenous affairs in the 2010 Federal election. NATSIEC is a non-partisan organisation and does not take a position on who people should vote for. The following is offered as a guide to help you ask your candidates about some of the current issues in Indigenous affairs so that you can make up your own mind about who to vote for. 

What do we know about the Indigenous Affairs policies of the major parties ten days out from the election?

 

We know that Indigenous affairs are not on the agenda this election. There have been very few mentions let alone comprehensive policy statements on Indigenous Affairs. The ABC website has a section giving a comparison of each party’s policies in key areas but Indigenous affairs do not even rate a mention there (http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2010/policies/).

Labor

 

The Labor Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin gave a speech at the Garma festival last weekend in which she stated Labor’s policy agenda for the next term. If re-elected the Labor government would essentially continue what they are currently doing. Two new policy initiatives were announced. One was that a new National Framework on Alcohol and Substance abuse would be established through the Council of Australian Governments. The second initiative was to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Australian Constitution. This would require a referendum. Given the immensity of the Northern Territory Intervention it is no surprise that there is little new in Labor’s policy platform. However, NATSIEC does have some concerns about what they have been doing and how they will continue to do it.

Labor has said it wants to reset its relationship with Indigenous peoples; that they are respecting Indigenous aspirations and are committed to forging a better future. However, in the same statement Macklin quotes Machiavelli and dismisses those who speak out as those who “think they may lose out”. NATSIEC has consistently questioned how well the Government is hearing the aspirations of Indigenous peoples and how they are ensuring negotiated positive outcomes based on those aspirations, as opposed to consulting on a predetermined policy agenda. NATSIEC is concerned as to how the genuine concerns of those who are disenfranchised or hurt by policy decisions are heard and addressed, rather than being dismissed as a natural response to change.

To see Labor policies go to the Labor Policy pages (note: as at 11/08/10 we couldn’t find an Indigenous Affairs policy document on their website). http://www.alp.org.au/home/

Liberal

 

The leader of the Liberal party, Tony Abbott, has said this week that a Liberal/Coalition government would support a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the constitution, but that it should not be rushed. The Liberal party is yet to release their Indigenous policy statement.  Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion also said on the 10th August that the Coalition would take the portfolio out of Families, Housing and Community services and create a separate portfolio with a senior Cabinet minister. NATSIEC sees this as a positive move.

Liberal policy page: http://www.liberal.org.au/Policies.aspx?gclid=CJP72PaasKMCFQpJbwoddEEf5Q

The Greens

 

The Greens have a comprehensive Indigenous policy addressing key issues. It is available at http://greens.org.au/policies/care-for-people/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples

Suggested questions to ask your candidates

 

Time is running out for the major parties to present comprehensive Indigenous policies for public scrutiny prior to the election. We urge you to ring, email or write to your local candidates and question them on their Indigenous affairs policy.

If you do not know who your local candidates are you can check at the Australian Electoral Commission website. They also have contact details listed there http://www.aec.gov.au/election/who-are-the-candidates.htm

Some questions you could ask are:

  • There is an intense focus on the Northern Territory, yet disadvantage exists around Australia. What is your party’s policy to ensure gaps are closed for the rest of Australia, including Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders living in urban and rural situations?
  • What are the concrete strategies and measures your party will implement in order to achieve stated goals to close the gap particularly in health and education? 
  • What is your party’s policy on the Stolen Generations post apology? What measures will your party undertake to ensure appropriate reparations are made and services are delivered to Stolen Generations? 
  • The Labor Government has supported the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP). What is your policy regarding DRIP? Specifically, how will your party implement DRIP and incorporate its principles into domestic law and policy. For example, will you assess the current NTER policies against the DRIP? What measures will your party take to ensure that all Government policy and activities are measured against DRIP?
  • How will your party ensure that they are negotiating positive outcomes based on the aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as opposed to ‘consulting’ on a predetermined policy agenda?
  • What process will your party take to ensure that expenditure on Indigenous affairs is comprehensively and transparently reported? 
  • Will your party commit to long term funding in areas such as health and education? For example, ten year funding in health as recommended by the AMA.