Topics: Closing the Gap report, Submarines
KIERAN GILBERT: This Closing the Gap report is a real worry, isn’t it? Because after seemingly progress - things have stalled a bit.
ALAN TUDGE: It is a disappointing report but there is some progress in some areas and that’s encouraging. For example, there is 50 per cent more Indigenous people in universities now than there was a decade ago. The Year 12 completion rate is significantly higher. The life expectancy gap has narrowed. There are positive signs there. There is progress being made. But we’ve still got such a long way to go.
KIERAN GILBERT: In terms of life expectancy, the big number, the most important number in many respects, Mick Gooda this morning told me that is a result of all the other building blocks, even all the way back to infant health and going to school in the early years. They have a flow on effect from those very early days to the life expectancy rate.
ALAN TUDGE: Absolutely. The life expectancy gap now is about ten years. A lot of it is related to chronic diseases later on in life. Some of that is due to, of course, if you’re smoking, drinking or if you have a poor diet you are more likely to get diabetes or other things. But it does go all the way back to early childhood. We’re taking pretty seriously some of the recommendations of the Forrest Report, which in essence say you must start there from when the baby is born and provide a very healthy upbringing and ensuring they are at school and then into work. Then, you’re much more likely to have a healthy life.
KIERAN GILBERT: So even though the Closing the Gap targets, half of them are not on track and one hasn’t been met at all, you still believe there is some cause for optimism because Mick Gooda when I spoke to him was fairly depressed about this report.
ALAN TUDGE: This has been a thirty year problem, if you like, and we’re not going to turn things around overnight. But there are signs of progress and they are encouraging. We must be optimistic and we must continue along this journey. Our approach has been to focus absolutely on two of the core fundamentals which underpin every healthy society in all of humanity. That is, kids learning from adults and adults being engaged in work for their sustenance. So that’s our core focus – school attendance and getting adults into work. Because if you get those things right, typically other things tend to take care of themselves.
KIERAN GILBERT: In terms of school attendance, where is that at? Particularly I guess right from the age of preschool attendance, because given this knowledge that all of that is so pivotal to first of all, them going to senior school then tertiary education and all the rest of it.
ALAN TUDGE: Absolutely. Of course, preschool is not compulsory but we’re strongly encouraging families to send their kids to preschool. One of the gap measures which is very close to being met is providing access for all Indigenous kids to go to preschool. So that’s a positive. The biggest problem is at the school level and particularly in the remote areas where we still have catastrophic school attendance rates. We’ve already invested a lot of effort in that front by employing local attendance officers to literally support getting the kids to school. That’s had some impact but we’ve still got a long way to go.
KIERAN GILBERT: One question to go and I just want to get your thoughts on this submarine issue. There’s been a lot of confusion about it, a suggestion this South Australian Senator Sean Edwards had negotiated this in return for his vote. Regardless of I guess the defence question, this is just not a good look is it, the fact that a national security acquisition is being discussed in the same breath as a leadership ballot?
ALAN TUDGE: Listen, at the end of the day the decision was made to have a competitive evaluation process. That’s the same process, by the way, that Labor used in their years when they were making big defence acquisitions so let’s just keep that in perspective.
KIERAN GILBERT: But you accept that it’s not a good look, surely, in the national security debate?
ALAN TUDGE: As long as the right decision was made, I think we should be happy, and in this case the right decision was made to have a competitive evaluation process – the same as what occurred in the past – and as a result of that we will get a great submarine outcome as well as get value for money out of it.
KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Tudge, thanks for your time.
ALAN TUDGE: Thanks so much Kieran.