Former prime minister Kevin Rudd says the Morrison government’s “refresh” of ways to improve Indigenous wellbeing have not lived up to the promises of a year ago.
Mr Rudd addressed a function in Sydney on Friday to mark the 13th anniversary of the apology to the Stolen Generations.
The former Labor leader last year welcomed the coalition government’s adjustments to the Closing the Gap strategy but set three benchmarks for its success.
They including practical targets, sufficient resources and a means for Australians to be able to judge the strategy’s success or failure.
However he said the 16 targets, with a further four under negotiation, that had been set were deliberately “fuzzy in the extreme”.
He said the $47 million committed by the government in the October budget was inadequate and failed to restore funding that had been cut.
“The deficit this year will be $214 billion – seven times bigger than we left them,” Mr Rudd said.
“And yet – despite shovelling money out the door at a rate of knots – there wasn’t a dollar spent on social housing including Indigenous housing in this country, despite it being a proven economic multiplier.”
He said Canberra was “awash with rumour” the prime minister would not deliver this year’s Closing the Gap address to parliament.
“If that happens – and I hope it doesn’t – Prime Minister Morrison is going to dodge that modest exercise in annual accountability,” Mr Rudd said.
“There’s no good reason why he shouldn’t present a comprehensive report on the commonwealth government’s progress on each of these targets next week.”
Comment was being sought from the prime minister’s office on whether the speech would be delivered.
Addressing the issue of an Indigenous “voice”, Mr Rudd said the government should go beyond merely legislating it and instead enshrine it in the constitution.
“Without the deep change that comes with a referendum which enjoys bipartisan support, the political right will always seize every opportunity to trash such a limited national voice as illegitimate,” he said.
The most recent Closing the Gap agreement was inked in July last year by all levels of government and the Coalition of Peaks, a representative body of around 50 Indigenous groups.
Targets included closing the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 2031.
The Productivity Commission was given the job of overseeing the new agreement and helping with annual progress reports and reviews.
Australian Associated Press