Federal politics: full coverageSinging praises of reconciliation
Australia has made no progress towards halving the employment gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians within a decade, six years after the effort began.
When Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivers the annual report on progress towards closing the gap in Federal Parliament on Wednesday, he will also describe as ”disappointing” progress on reading, writing and numeracy.
Mr Abbott will report that while progress has been made in some areas, ”it is clear we are still failing in too many”.
”Our challenge is to turn good intentions into better outcomes,” he writes in his first Prime Minister’s report on progress towards closing the gap. ”For the gap to close, we must get kids to school, adults to work and the ordinary law of the land observed.
”We should want nothing less for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than we want for every Australian.”
The report shows the nation is on track to meet two of the six targets, relating to child mortality and year 12 completion.
There have been positive early signs on preschool enrolments but data to show whether this target has been met will not be available until later this year.
While there has been a small improvement in indigenous life expectancy, the report says progress will need to ”accelerate considerably” if the gap is to be closed by 2031.
All Australian governments committed to the six targets after the national apology in 2008.
In his reply, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will urge Mr Abbott to adopt three new targets proposed by Labor, relating to higher education, criminal justice and disability support. He will defend Labor’s record and plead with Mr Abbott not to discard the work of the Rudd and Gillard governments.
”I beseech the government – please don’t start again just because you can,” he will say. ”Please don’t go back to a blank piece of paper, just to enhance your claim to authorship.”
Signalling Labor would not automatically support Coalition measures on indigenous affairs, Mr Shorten will appeal to Mr Abbott to empower Aboriginal people to find their own solutions.
”Aboriginal people deserve better than being told it’s as simple as ‘go to school, go to work and obey the law’,” Mr Shorten will say. ”One size does not fit all.”
In a thinly veiled criticism of the Coalition’s efforts to lift school attendance, Mr Shorten will argue fostering a love of learning in children would do more than ”limited interaction with a time-poor truancy officer”.
Mr Shorten will also argue ”a sense of urgency” is required to achieve the recognition of the first Australians in the nation’s founding document.
”We risk missing a unifying moment,” he will say. ”We must be resolute and swift. Because justice delayed is justice denied.”
Mr Abbott has identified constitutional recognition as one of his priorities and has promised to release a draft proposal for public consultation by September.
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