Ex-NT Labor minister lashes out at 'useless' Macklin

As the NSW government introduced a bill to parliament acknowledging Aboriginal people as tradition custodians of the land, the Gillard government confirmed that a referendum would be held during its second term on Indigenous constitutional recognition. But it remained unclear whether the referendum would take place at the next election, or some time before the poll.

Jenny Macklin

Anna Henderson ABC News Sep 9, 2010

Independent Northern Territory politician Alison Anderson has described federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin as "useless" in the portfolio.

Ms Anderson, who used to be Labor's Indigenous policy minister in the Territory, says one of the main reasons she left Labor was over cost blowouts in the Federal Government's Indigenous housing program.

She says federal country independents with an interest in remote and regional affairs would be better placed to take over the ministry.

"Jenny Macklin has been absolutely useless in Indigenous affairs in the time that she's had that portfolio," she said.

"Apart from visitng a couple of communities in Central Australia and a couple in the Top End of the Northern Territory, she hasn't really delivered for Indigenous people.

"You can see by the federal election result."

A spokeswoman for Ms Macklin says the Federal Government invested billions of dollars in iniatives to close the gap during Labor's first term.

Mick Gooda calls for creation of stand-alone indigenous affairs minister

Patricia Karvelas The Australian September 11, 2010

Mick Gooda has called on Julia Gillard to create a distinct indigenous affairs minister

Mr Gooda, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner argued that the portfolio needs to be separated from that of family and community services.

John Howard combined the portfolios in 2006 in an attempt to "mainsteam" indigenous affairs, but Mr Gooda said yesterday it meant not enough attention was being given to Aborigines.

"I think Aboriginal affairs is important enough to have its own portfolio," he said. Mr Gooda said he wished Ms Gillard would give Aboriginal Australians the attention they deserved.

Jenny Macklin has been juggling the portfolios of families, housing, community services and indigenous affairs since 2007 and it is understood she is likely to keep the role, although some Labor sources say the portfolio could be split.

Mr Gooda's comments come after Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson phoned independent MP Rob Oakeshott to tell him he believed Labor was unwilling to take on issues confronting Aboriginal Australia.

Mr Gooda has argued that a preamble that recognised the first Australians in the Constitution would build on the 1967 referendum, which included indigenous people in the census, and this was important work for the next indigenous affairs minister.

He said both parties had ignored Aboriginal affairs since the election was called.

Gillard Government - Cabinet before reshuffle: (September 2010)
New ministry for Indigenous Employment: Senator Mark Arbib
Indigenous Health ministry: Scrapped
Minister for Indigenous Affairs: Jenny Macklin

Gillard backflips on indigenous health

Julian Drape (AAP) Sydney Morning Herald September 13, 2010

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has performed a backflip by reinstating Warren Snowdon as indigenous health minister just days after scrapping the portfolio on the weekend.

The move comes after indigenous groups, doctors and the opposition questioned Ms Gillard's decision to do away with a dedicated indigenous health minister when she reshuffled her frontbench on Saturday.

"It means he (Mr Snowdon) retains a role in my portfolio, one that he feels very passionately about," Health Minister Nicola Roxon told ABC TV on Monday night.

"I know the sector works very well with him.

"Both the prime minister and I didn't want to lose that experience."

Ms Roxon stressed she would continue to be responsible for overall health policy settings.

"But it means we'll have an extra pair of hands and someone very dedicated to indigenous health remaining in that area."

Earlier on Monday, Aboriginal social justice commissioner Mick Gooda said he was concerned Mr Snowdon's role had been abolished "without any clear indication as to how the focus on indigenous health would be maintained".

"It is vital that this focus be maintained as we cannot allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health to be forgotten in the push to establish (Labor's) health and hospitals network," Mr Gooda said in a statement.

Mr Snowdon was responsible for indigenous, rural and regional health as well as regional services delivery during Labor's first term under Kevin Rudd.

In Saturday's reshuffle he was given the veterans affairs and Defence science and personnel portfolios.

Ms Roxon, explaining Mr Snowden's indigenous health role and the reshuffle, said: "The prime minister made clear that she wanted a big focus on a range of key challenges."

"I guess with the other changes, wanting to focus on jobs and productivity, wanting to make sure we've got a very strong economic team in place, it (indigenous health) was something that perhaps wasn't focused on as much," she said.

"We've seen that, we've made this change."

Scrapping of Indigenous Health ministry slammed

Louisa Rebgetz ABC News 13th September 2010

Northern Territory Opposition Senator Nigel Scullion has criticised the Prime Minister's decision to scrap the Indigenous Health portfolio.

Labor's Warren Snowdon held the ministry but has now been made Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Defence Science and Personnel.

A new ministry for Indigenous Employment has been created and will be held by Senator Mark Arbib.

Mr Scullion says scrapping the Indigenous Health ministry shows a lack of commitment to the issue.

"To completely scrap it as if we are over that sort of experiment, we will just move on and put our focus on employment and economic development, I mean what is it the next time we have a portfolio?

"We will just scrap that?

"I mean what we need in the area of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander development is sustainability."

Mr Snowdon says the Gillard Government is as committed as ever to closing the gap on Indigenous health.

"We've seen in excess of an 80 per cent increase in funding to Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander health as to what was in the last budget of the Howard government," he said.

"I mean it's just an absurd nonsense statement because we're clearly investing a great deal more resources."

Mr Scullion also says Julia Gillard has made a bad decision to keep Jenny Macklin as the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

"I guess it flies in the face of criticism from the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders across Australia," he said.

"People like [independent Territory MLA] Alison Anderson calling for her resignation and we've got the leader of the Northern Land Council saying we need new blood and basically we can't just have more of the same.

"And it appears that is certainly what we have got."