Australia

Vote 2019: Leaders make pitch to Indigenous voters

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Scott Morrison says he’s addressing Indigenous youth suicide, while Bill Shorten says it’s time to create a true partnership with First Australians.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says he cares about Indigenous affairs even if many Australians don’t.

The Labor leader vowed to ditch “paternalism” and reframe the government’s relationship with first Australians as a partnership.

“For a lot of people, the plight of our first Australians doesn't worry them. But for a lot of other people, it does.

“I'm one of the latter.”

Labor Senator Pat Dodson (left) with Bill Shorten
Bill Shorten says Senator Pat Dodson will be Indigenous Affairs Minister if Labor is elected.
AAP

While tax policy, climate change and candidate scandals have dominated the campaign trail, SBS News asked both leaders how they would address problems facing Indigenous Australians.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison named addressing Indigenous youth suicide as a top priority.

“It grieves my soul that young girls are killing themselves in remote Indigenous communities and I will do everything I can to stop that,” Mr Morrison said on Wednesday.

But Mr Morrison refused to say who would replace the retiring Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, if the Coalition is re-elected.

“I will make that decision after the election, should we be elected. I'm not taking anything for granted at this election,” Mr Morrison said.

SBS News
SBS News

Mr Morrison handed down the latest Closing the Gap report in February, showing just two of the seven targets are on track to be met, more than a decade after the benchmarks for health and education were set.  

Bill Shorten said it was possible to close the gap, but he wasn’t “so arrogant” as to say he would be the prime minister to achieve it.

Labor has pledged to pursue constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians.

“If we were writing the constitution today, which, of course, we can't, but if we were, we would talk about our first Australians, wouldn't we?”

Progress on the issue stalled after the Coalition Government rejected the Uluru Statement from the Heart, that proposed an advisory body to parliament be set up.

At the time, then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull argued it would inevitably become a third voice to parliament and would never be accepted in a referendum. 

However, the government appeared to open the door to the proposal, committing $7 million to consider options for a voice to Parliament for Indigenous Australians. 

The budget papers say the funding would be used to conduct further consultation. 

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