Shadow Assistant Health Minister, Stephen Jones, and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Indigenous Affairs, Warren Snowdon, have called on Tony Abbott to end his Governments policy paralysis and arrest the decline in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes.
Today is Closing the Gap day with tomorrow marking the anniversary of the signing of the Close the Gap Statement of Intent on Indigenous Health Equality.
Signed by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008, the statement of intent declared that the Government of Australia and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples of Australia would work together to achieve equality in health status and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians by the year 2030.
Regrettably, the release of the Closing the Gap Progress and Priorities Report 2015 revealed that various targets, such as smoking rates among non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, were just not being met.
A report released by the Australian Institute of Health Welfare today is also sober reading. It states that Indigenous Australians are hospitalised at twice the rate of other Australians and that they are more likely to be hospitalised for potentially preventable health issues.
Seven years on from the signing of the statement of intent it is clear that the Abbott Government must reverse its harsh cuts that are threatening Closing the Gap targets, Stephen Jones said.
Tony Abbotts Budget of Horrors led to half a billion dollars worth of cuts to Closing the Gap programs, including $165 million ripped from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health programs.
If we are to close the gap and improve Indigenous health outcomes Tony Abbott must reverse this cuts. A good start would be undoing his $130 million cut to a valuable program aimed at tackling Indigenous smoking rates.
Warren Snowdon said that the cuts to health services were being felt at the local level in communities that have been abandoned by Tony Abbott.
Thanks to Tony Abbotts half a billion dollars worth of cuts Amity Community Services in Darwin will be closing its program combating substance abuse among vulnerable young people.
There are examples everywhere, $2.3 million is being axed from youth sport, health and education services in the MacDonnell Regional Council. It just gets worse and worse for these communities, these are people who were promised that Tony Abbott would be the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
He must commit to long term funding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health programs so that health professionals can get on with the job and close the gap.