Rudd slammed over delayed report card


The federal opposition and the Australian Greens have both slammed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for delaying his promised report card on Indigenous affairs for a second year in a row, saying it is a telling indicator of the government's commitment to Indigenous people.

In 2008, Rudd made the commitment to deliver his government's progress on closing the gap on the first day of parliament each year.

"On the question of Indigenous policy, I have decided that each year in Australia's federal parliament the first working day will be marked by a prime ministerial statement reporting on progress in closing the life expectancy gap, progress in closing the gap on infant mortality and mortality of children up to five, and progress on closing the literacy and numeracy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians", Rudd told the Progressive Governance Conference in London.

Last year, he came under fire after delaying the report card until February 12 — the day before the first anniversary of the apology to the Stolen Generations.

But the date came and went, with the prime minister's office blaming the Victorian bushfires for the hold-up.

The report was handed down two weeks after, but did not outline any new significant areas of progress for the Rudd government.

This year, the prime minister's office has again said the report will be delayed until this week — to a date closer to the apology's anniversary.

But the date change has provoked Greens Senator Rachel Siewert to ask whether the Rudd government can really report any progress on the ground.

"Two years after making the commitment that while-ever he was Prime Minister, the first sitting day of parliament every year would be marked by a report on the government's progress in 'closing the gap' between black and white Australians — it looks like Mr Rudd will have a 100% failure rate, having never managed to keep this commitment", Siewert said.

"Perhaps it is because Mr Rudd can't put such a positive spin on progress?

"There have been few houses built, Aboriginal communities still don't have access to essential services, and the health and education services still aren't meeting Aboriginal needs."

Siewert's comments were backed by shadow minister for Indigenous affairs Nigel Scullion, who said the ALP's broken promises undermined its goodwill in lifting Indigenous disadvantage.

"You only need to look at the long list of broken promises since Kevin Rudd was elected in 2007 to see that this government is not fair dinkum about improving conditions for our first Australians", Scullion said.

"The most telling indication of this government's commitment to our first Australians will be if Kevin Rudd fails to report on progress on Indigenous affairs for the second year in a row, as he promised to do on the first parliamentary sitting day of each year.

"How can we trust this government to look after the complex and sensitive issues surrounding Indigenous people when it breaks its promise to simply report on progress?"

Scullion said he doubted the Rudd government had achieved much progress for Indigenous Australians, saying: "Instead we are seeing more Indigenous people going to jail, worse health outcomes, and school attendance still floundering. All this while the rain pelts down on the heads of people promised a house more than two years ago."

[Reprinted from National Indigenous Times.]