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Opposition questions PM's 'new approach' on I -

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Opposition questions PM's 'new approach' on Indigenous affairs

Sabra Lane reported this story on Friday, July 3, 2009 12:10:00

PETER CAVE: The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he wants a new approach to Indigenous affairs.

It follows yesterday's report from the Productivity Commission which showed that living conditions
in some Indigenous communities haven't improved and in some cases they have worsened.

Mr Rudd told the Kununurra community in Western Australia that it's time to put partisan rancour
into the past and that all sides of politics should work together on closing the life expectancy
gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

An Opposition senator has taken issue with Mr Rudd on that, saying he's made the offer before but
rejected the Opposition's input.

And the Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce says it's time the Government considered other ideas, which
may not be politically palatable, like linking school attendances to welfare payments.

From Canberra, Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: Politicians, and to be fair journalists too, are often guilty of using a cliche when
searching for a snappy line to quickly explain something.

Over the past 24 hours, both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader have resorted to cliches
or favourite phrases to get them out of a hole.

This is what the Prime Minister said yesterday on the latest report on the state of Indigenous
disadvantage.

KEVIN RUDD: It is unacceptable and it requires decisive action.

SABRA LANE: For the Opposition, that's become a meaningless line.

The deputy Opposition leader Julie Bishop.

JULIE BISHOP: He said we need to take decisive action. Well, that's what he said before the last
election and it seems that nothing has been achieved.

SABRA LANE: Ms Bishop was restrained in her views on ABC-2 this morning. The leader of the
Nationals in the Senate Barnaby Joyce issued a media release saying he'd be violently ill if he
heard Mr Rudd utter the word decisive again.

BARNABY JOYCE: If he is truly decisive, that means that we will be doing something immediately. So
I am looking for him to do something immediately otherwise this just becomes another foil to say
decisive but really mean procrastination.

SABRA LANE: And Senator Joyce says he's also concerned by the Government's promise to double and
treble its efforts in addressing Indigenous disadvantage.

BARNABY JOYCE: There seems to be a belief that if you just throw a chequebook at something, that
somehow it will magically get better. What we need to see is clear policy statements that start
today such as if your child does not go to school, you will not get paid social security. In fact
if your child does not go to school clothed and fed, you will not get paid social security and
people will jump up and down and say well that is outrageous. Well, we just can't keep going on the
way that we are going.

We are having a whole generation of people in certain areas that basically are not educated,
therefore they are delivered to poverty in perpetuity and that has got to stop today. Not after
some report, not next week, not after a doubling and trebling of efforts. That has got to start
with effort and a policy statement right now.

SABRA LANE: Today, Mr Rudd will announce $200-million of new Aboriginal health, housing, education
and training programs for communities around Kununurra in Western Australia.

Last night the Prime Minister had his hands daubed in paint as he joined local leaders, in putting
palm prints on a large board.

(Sound of applause)

SABRA LANE: And Mr Rudd told locals it was time for a new approach in closing the gap between
Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

KEVIN RUDD: I think the times for the partisan divide on Indigenous policy in Australia have well
and truly passed. I think the time for the future is making a difference. Whoever happens to be in
government in Canberra or Perth or elsewhere, it is time that we put the rancour of the past behind
us. It is time that we recognised the things that have not worked in the past.

It is time we actually marched together towards the future.

On those things that do work, those practical things that make a difference in closing the gap
between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

SABRA LANE: The Nationals Barnaby Joyce takes issue with that, saying the Government made a similar
offer last year, after the formal apology. Then, Mr Rudd offered the Opposition a place on an
Indigenous war-cabinet last year but rejected the Coalition's candidate of choice.

BARNABY JOYCE: That is a great statement Mr Rudd, but you've got to put your statement into effect
with the way you act. For instance when Mal Brough, it was suggested that he go onto their
committee last year, Mr Rudd knocked it back. Now you can't walk both sides of the street, Mr Rudd.

If you are saying now that you are going to do something decisive, let's hope that this is just not
another one of your media spin rhetorical statements that sounds great, gets you through the media
day and then tomorrow is promptly forgotten about.

When you grab hold of the Indigenous issue, we hope that it is fair dinkum, which means we don't
want another 2020 Summit on this. We don't want another report. Start getting the right people on
board and maybe find out Mr Brough's phone number. Ring him up and give him a job.

SABRA LANE: Cliches were a problem for Malcolm Turnbull too this morning. He trotted out a familiar
response on the Macquarie Radio Network, in answering a question about his woeful polling results
earlier this week.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: The only poll that matters is the one on election day and opinion polls go up and
down.

SABRA LANE: And if Mr Turnbull thought that would satisfy the interviewer, he was wrong.

ALAN JONES: But surely we have had GroceryWatch: a fake and a failure. FuelWatch: a fake and a
failure. BankWatch: a fake and a failure. Rudd Bank: a fake and a failure. How are you not 30
points in front?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: (Laughs) Well, Alan that is a good question. I just have to keep on getting those
messages across.

SABRA LANE: But the Opposition Leader says he can win the next election.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: We can win the next election and we should win the next election.

SABRA LANE: But his deputy, Julie Bishops, says it will be tough.

JULIE BISHOP: We obviously have a challenge ahead of us to win over the Australian public to our
policies, to our point of view, to our credentials in terms of economic management. It is not an
easy task but we must hold the Government to account and that is what we are doing.

SABRA LANE: And some in the Liberal Party might think that challenge is as big as the one
confronting all Australians in finding the solution to Indigenous disadvantage.

PETER CAVE: Sabra Lane reporting.