Thursday, 4 July 2019
Matters of Public Importance
I thank the shadow minister for Indigenous Australians for raising this matter of public importance, because it is very important. I acknowledge the Minister for Indigenous Australians, who is with us. I can't think of anything more important for our first MPI than the shadow minister speaking on the importance of improving services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. We've been talking about Bob Hawke a lot this week, and that's what he did when this place opened. He made Indigenous issues the first order of business. I read that motion to the parliament yesterday as part of the condolence. That's how important he saw it as being, that's how important we see it as being and that's how important we hope that you, Minister, and your colleagues see it as being as well. We think it's great that you're the first Indigenous cabinet minister and the first Indigenous minister for Indigenous affairs. We think that's great. We hope that you can encourage those that sit together with you on the front bench to start taking this stuff seriously.
We have targets. You've been in government for six years, and, of seven of those targets, just two are on track. I've seen the minister up in Darwin consulting, and I applaud that, but what we need is for that information that you already have to quickly transfer into real outcomes on the ground, not just in the Northern Territory but around our whole nation. The status quo is not good enough. Whilst my colleague the member for Lingiari and others cautiously hope that this bipartisanship becomes a reality, he certainly has seen, over the decades, that unfortunately—as the member for McMahon, the shadow minister for health, said—too quickly it is just forgotten and we just move on with other things. Instead of seeing the investment that we need—and I must say that suicide prevention is important; I congratulate the Prime Minister for making that a priority, but that's the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff—what we need is services for Indigenous Australians and for all Australians in the Territory. But all we have seen from the coalition, it must be said, are cuts, chaos and neglect when it comes to the service provision for Indigenous Australians in this country. When they cut the payments, cut health services and cut funding for education, guess who suffers. It is the people who are in some cases in the Northern Territory living in Fourth World conditions in our First World nation. It's not good enough.
One case in point is hospital funding in the Northern Territory. Those opposite cut $16 million from Northern Territory hospitals. At the election we said we would reverse that, because we know how disastrous that is for health outcomes not just for Aboriginal Territorians but for all Territorians.
The head of the Northern Territory branch of the AMA, Dr Robert Parker, has recently written a letter to the Minister for Indigenous Australians and the Minister for Health, and I will be seeking to table that letter at the end of my contributions. In his letter, Dr Parker made the Minister for Health and the Minister for Indigenous Australians aware that the NT has almost two to three times the rate of hospital separations compared to the rest of Australia, and the government are cutting the budgets for NT hospitals by $16 million. The Indigenous and remote rural issues add significantly to the hospital separation.
The unique factors in the Northern Territory place additional economic burdens on the NT. The cost of providing health services in the NT is far in excess of anywhere else in the major cities and anywhere outside rural Australia. Now, your colleague, the Minister for Health, looked at the letter, waited a month, didn't propose any solutions or give any constructive insights and instead called for the Territory government to be sacked. The government has cut funding to hospitals, so the he calls for the Chief Minister to be sacked. It's pathetic. Enough of the cheap shots from the federal government. You both need to act. If minister Hunt doesn't understand what's required in the Territory, then I suggest that the Minister for Indigenous Australians brings him up to the Territory to have a look for himself.
I now seek leave to table the letter.
Leave not granted.
I've been refused.