TRANSCRIPT - PRESS CONFERENCE - CLOSING THE GAP - THURSDAY, 14 FEBRUARY 2019

LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINSITER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR PREVENTING FAMILY VIOLENCE, MEMBER FOR BARTON: Good morning, today, the Prime Minister will speak in the parliament on Closing the Gap and so will the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten. Closing the Gap targets were set by the Kevin Rudd Government 10 years ago. Those targets were realistic and appropriate and remain so today. By Scott Morrison saying the targets were inadequate, the targets were inappropriate is just moving the goal posts. Those targets are adequate and they are important. Labor has advocated there should be additional targets. There should be a justice target and a target around the removal of Aboriginal children.
 
The 2014 budget brought down by this government was horrendous for Aboriginal affairs. $500 million was ripped out of the Aboriginal affairs budget. You do not fix the issues in Aboriginal communities by taking away half a billion dollars out of the budget. There needs to be a recommitment to partnership with Aboriginal people and organisations. We are calling on that partnership. We are saying very clearly that peak Aboriginal organisations and Aboriginal communities have the answers to the social issues that dog those communities.
 
Scott Morrison today says he’s going to make an announcement about removing HECS fees for teachers to go and work in remote communities. Well that just ignores the fact that 79% of Aboriginal people live in urban environments. In fact, that number is very real. 79% of Aboriginal people living in urban environments. Yes, the issues in remote communities are shocking. They need to be addressed, but the Prime Minister and this government ignores that two thirds of Aboriginal people actually live in urban environments.
 
When you look at the record of the Morrison Government in Aboriginal affairs, it is shocking. CDP for example is languishing out there in the bush. Labor will reform CDP program. The changes to the Indigenous Advancement Strategy have been an absolute disaster for Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal organisations. We will reform that.
 
The Turnbull Morrison Abbott governments have ignored and pushed away and dismissed the Uluru Statement. The Uluru Statement was a call from the heart by the Aboriginal people saying that they wanted a say in what affects Aboriginal communities. We in Labor have adopted the Uluru Statement. We will move to entrenching an Aboriginal voice in the constitution, we will move an Aboriginal truth telling process, and we will address the issues of agreement and treaty making. This has been ignored, pushed away and fibbed about quite frankly by the present government.
 
The Labor Party will also convene a gathering of aboriginal leaders in the first week, if we are afforded government and we are afforded that great honour. We will also have a summit for Aboriginal children and the removal of Aboriginal children within the first 100 days. None of these commitments are being articulated by the Morrison government. The envoy or the envoy, Tony Abbott, is just focusing on remote communities and just focusing on education. That is important. We are not dismissing that. But it is ignoring the bulk of Aboriginal people that live in regional and urban environments.
 
Can I just finish off by saying this, Aboriginal people and peak organisations have formed a coalition and they are working towards partnership. Labor agrees with that partnership. And we are calling the Morrison Government to truly make a commitment and make that partnership a reality. The issues in Aboriginal affairs will not be fixed by bureaucrats or politicians in Canberra. The issues in Aboriginal affairs will be fixed by those bureaucrats and us politicians listening to peak organisations and listening to what’s happening in those Aboriginal communities.  That’s where the answers are.