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Declining living standards demand new ATSIC powers to make governments more accountable.



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Declining Living Standards Demand New ATSIC Powers to make Governments more Accountable

16/10/2003

Statement by Acting ATSIC Chairman Lionel Quartermaine

Disturbing new claims of a decline in living standards for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples underline the need for new ATSIC powers to make governments more accountable for their service delivery.

ATSIC is deeply concerned at the findings of two reports by the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) which point to a relative decline in the living standards of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in key areas including jobs, education and health.

It is particularly alarming that the jobless rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is projected to hit 61 per cent by 2011 if participants in our jobs scheme, Community Development Employment Projects, and discouraged job seekers were counted as unemployed.

ATSIC is also concerned by the reported decline in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths enrolled at tertiary institutions and a fall in full-time jobs despite the creation of 12,000 new jobs under the Federal Government’s Indigenous Employment Policy.

All Australians should be concerned that their country’s most disadvantaged peoples have fallen further behind during a period of sustained economic growth and that there is a strong likelihood that their situation will worsen during the next decade. CAEPR has conservatively estimated that the current national costs of unemployment and imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in lost output alone are more than $3 billion a year or 0.5 per cent of national GDP.

These CAEPR reports follow the equally disturbing findings of a federal parliamentary inquiry last week which suggested that Australia is moving further away from national reconciliation.

I have requested detailed advice from our policy advisers regarding these findings and I also wish to raise these issues with Minister Vanstone as part of a wider discussion.

These recent findings also underline the need for ATSIC to be given new powers to

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission

make governments more accountable for the services they are responsible for delivering to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in areas such as employment, education and health.

ATSIC endorses the proposal in the ATSIC Review’s Discussion Paper that these powers should be modelled on the investigation and audit powers of the Commonwealth Ombudsman or the Auditor-General.

The evaluation of programs designed to meet economic, social and cultural rights against objective benchmarks and indicators is essential to guaranteeing accountability both to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and taxpayers.

Canberra 16 October 2003 Further information: Paul Molloy 0419 690 926

www.atsic.gov.au