Time to stop passing the buck on Closing the Gap

12 February 2020

SUBJECT: Closing the Gap

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: Good morning. Today is a significant day, as it is every year, in the report of First Nations people to the parliament. Its the 12th anniversary of the Close the Gap Report and I certainly understand from all reports that were not doing well and I think that there is greater work to be done in this space.

There is a connection that with the policies of the Morrison government in terms of improving the lives of First Nations People. There is a connection, and in fact that connection is not being met. When we look at policies like the CDP [Community Development Program] policy, the cashless debit card, which entrenches First Nations people in poverty in this country, then of course were not going to see the outcomes that we want to see in health, in education, in housing, in life expectancy.

I call on the Morrison Government to connect these very important policies. Its been five years when Tony Abbott got rid of $500 million to the Aboriginal Affairs budget in this country, and we have seen year after year, a breaking down even further into poverty, into disadvantage for First Nations people. And the Coalition Government has to see this connection. Theres also a connection between calling for a Voice to the Federal Parliament, calling for a Voice to be in the Constitution. All of these things are connected to Closing the Gap and improving the lives for First Nations People.

And I call on the Federal Government, I call on Ken Wyatt as the Minister for First Nations people in this country to be serious about this job, to be very serious. There is no doubt no doubt, there is sincerity in terms of Ken Wyatts push to see a better way of life for people. But its not happening, and the reason why its not happening is because of the chaos and the dysfunction in the Coalition party, the fact that the Nationals can go away and worry about themselves and not care about the people of the land and the country. The fact that theyre so obsessed with their own concerns when there are people in desperate need, not just First Nations people but people who are recovering from the Bushfires who are wanting to know what their future is. That dysfunction is being carried out in what we saw take place in the Coalition Party Room yesterday when Senators opposed a move of, any move, for a referendum for First Nations people in this country and thats an absolute disgrace. It is an absolute disgrace. And I call on those Senators, to stand up in the Senate today, and have that debate. And they know who they are. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Scott Morrisons saying theres a problem with the language of the report that focuses on failure. Do you think thats passing the buck?

MCCARTHY: Absolutely passing the buck. Scott Morrison when was the last time you went to a First Nations community and actually sat down with the people and listened to the concerns that they had, not just about health and education, but also housing. Weve heard the head of NACCHO, Pat Turner, come out and talk about the $6 billion gap in Indigenous Housing. Pat Turner is on the COAG as a leader of the peak Indigenous organisations, so you need to do more than say that its someone elses problem Prime Minister.