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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21487

Mr McMULLAN (3:04 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Is the minister aware that Australia's performance in closing the life expectancy gap between our Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens is the worst in the Western world? Is the minister also aware that the Fred Hollows Foundation says:

Australia has fallen well behind comparable countries which have significantly closed the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

This is an area of clear Commonwealth constitutional responsibility. Why is the life expectancy of Indigenous Australians 15 to 20 years less than that for non-Indigenous Australians, when in New Zealand the gap has closed to between five and six years and it is down to seven years in Canada and only 3.5 years in the United States?

Mr HARDGRAVE (Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister) —I thank the member for the question. This government views the health of all Australians as a matter of great concern. For original Australians, people who have been here for tens of thousands of years, the series of false starts and attempts to try and address the matter over many years have of course delivered a set of great challenges. The government has been working very strongly. Since coming to power, this government has very much looked at seeing the health question subset dealing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as an approach. Rather than trying to simply decommission Indigenous Australians, if you like, from health specialists, we have been trying to work closely with them. The government is absolutely determined to work closely with local communities and community representatives to deal with a range of issues that are relevant to each of them.

Mr HARDGRAVE —As far as the life expectancy of Indigenous Australians is concerned, it is a matter that is on the record. It is understood, and it is our responsibility—

The SPEAKER —The member for Gellibrand is warned!

Mr HARDGRAVE —to continue working with those who are directly affected as well as ensuring that those who have the expertise to assist them are in direct contact with them.