Will Costello widen the Gap in Indigenous Health?
While the treasurer Peter Costello is reportedly poised to announce various 'election year sweeteners' in his 12th federal budget tomorrow night, it's worth considering the implications of the government's refusal to spend this money – hence the surplus – and instead cut taxes (in previous years to the rich and upper-middle income earners) in a bid to buy votes.
While both sides of parliament, and business, debates the pros and cons of tax cuts (and for whom), and the media speculates over the extent of Costello's possible spending spree leading up to the elections, it is easy to miss the negatives implications of a governmen refusing to spend public money where it is most urgently required. For instance, it is hard to fathom that last year's tax cuts amounted to roughly the same amount of money that is desperately needed to address the crisis in Indigenous health.
Indigenous Australia's die on average 17 years sooner than non-Indigenous Australians, and Indigenous children suffer a range of illnesses that are avoidable and easily addressed amongst non-Indigenous children.
Oxfam Australia says:
The increase in investment required is modest - evidence suggests that an additional $460 million a year, coupled with carefully targeted policies, would significantly improve access to culturally appropriate primary healthcare to a level commensurate with need.Oxfam is one of the large organisations spearheading the campaign 'Close the Gap', along with GetUp Australia and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO). The campaign is channeling public pressure, via online petitions etc, at the government to put desperately needed money into Indigenous health in this year's budget.
You can register your support for the campaign, if it's not too late, but I think we're barking up the wrong tree, considering this government's record.