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Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Page: 2767


Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:57): Tomorrow in my electorate, elders from the Dharawal tribe will be joining with their supporters throughout the region in celebrating and taking action around Close the Gap Day. When they gather there will not be much to celebrate in the recent Close the gap report, but we are pleased that there has been some progress in halving the gap in year 12 attainment. We are also pleased that small gains have been made in closing the gap in life expectancy. But the failure to take on board measures which will close the gap in Indigenous employment outcomes, infant mortality, reading and numeracy and nameless other health gaps continues to be a national shame.

We cannot blame the government for generations of inequality, but what we can blame the government for is failing to have a plan to address these problems. The programs that are most needed to address these gaps have been held hostage to an absolutely hopeless budget process. This includes over $500 million worth of cuts to Indigenous programs and $165 million worth of cuts in health programs. The one thing that we can do which will make an enormous difference will be to address the gap in smoking rates. If we can bring that down, the benefits to the Indigenous community and the whole community will be paramount. These are not lifestyle options; these are things we must address as a nation. (Time expired)