Tony Abbott’s grip on the title of Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs will be as tenuous as his grip on his own job if he doesn’t get his priorities right in next week’s Budget.
That means reversing the savage cuts to Indigenous health programs and quarantining the sector from further cuts set to decimate preventative health programs aimed at Closing the Gap in Indigenous health.
In his first horror Budget, Tony Abbott broke his election commitment to maintain spending on Closing the Gap in Indigenous health, ripping $165 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health programs and services.
The upcoming Budget entrenches deep cuts made in the last Abbott Budget.
The 2014-15 Budget forecast a cut of $46 million to Indigenous health programs for the 2015-16 financial year.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services are still waiting to see where these cuts will fall.
The fate of the Tackling Smoking and Healthy Lifestyles Program is still unknown, with more than $30 million ripped from the program in the last financial year.
A new funding methodology for Indigenous health programs and services, to be implemented from 1 July 2015, is yet to be devised.
The only question remaining ahead of the Budget is which services for some of Australia’s most vulnerable people will be hit next?
The Abbott Government’s massive cuts to critical health programs, particularly preventative health, jeopardises the progress being made in closing the life expectancy gap and reducing Indigenous infant mortality rates.
This Budget will be more about Tony Abbott’s job than the health of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.