Closing the Gap and reconciliation are important objectives requiring commitment, focus and above all else bipartisanship. Liberal and Labor leaders are at the heart of driving progress towards improved indigenous health, education, and jobs outcomes.Those objectives are not helped when leaders choose blame over bipartisanship. This is because indigenous disadvantage is a strategic challenge beyond political cycles.
On days like today, it was entirely inappropriate for Bill Shorten to include a party-political attack in his speech on Closing the Gap. His comments about government budget cuts demonstrates an appalling lack of judgement and leadership.
If the long-standing challenge of Indigenous disadvantage could be solved with more money, that would have happened years ago.
We have seen an 80% increase in real funding during the last decade under both Labor and Liberal governments, directed at a multiplicity of programs. Yet not enough Indigenous kids are attending school, and too many Indigenous people remain on welfare, not work. So closing the gap is is not just about money, and Bill Shorten’s comments are nothing but political point-scoring on a day where the emphasis should have been quite different.
To paraphrase Prime Minister Abbott’s speech: ‘We are not here today for political advantage, but as human beings.’
Mr Shorten should think again about what leadership means — and then demonstrate he understands that on issues like Aboriginal reconciliation and closing the gap.
Andrew Nikolic represents the seat of Bass in Tasmania