We're falling short but PM vows to meet Gap targets

Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Prime Minister Tony Abbott AAP - David Crosling

AUSTRALIA is not on track to meet the more meaningful targets in closing the gap on indigenous disadvantage, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott declaring it was his "personal mission" to do so on Wednesday.

Mr Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten addressed the parliament  to note mixed results found in the latest Closing the Gap report.

The reports have been delivered to parliament since then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd established it in 2009, aiming for marked improvements in outcomes for indigenous Australians across all areas.

But Mr Abbott today noted both good and bad news in the latest report, with progress to halve the gap in child mortality on track.

However, he said there was "almost no progress" in closing the overall life expectancy gap and little improvement in reading, writing and numeracy among First Australians.

"We are not on track to achieve the more important and meaningful targets," he said.

"Because it's hard to be literate and numerate without attending school; it's hard to find work without a basic education; and it's hard to live well without a job."

Mr Abbott, who has spent much of his private life visiting indigenous communities, said "we are all passionate to close the gap".

"We may be doomed to fail - I fear - until we achieve the most basic target of all: the expectation that every child will attend school every day," he said.

Mr Abbott also said he was committed to a new target; closing the gap in school attendance between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians within five years.

He cited agreements reached last year at a COAG meeting for all states and territories to report attendance figures as a step towards that goal.

Mr Shorten welcomed Mr Abbott's speech, also committed Labor to helping the government reach its commitment on recognising First Australians in the Constitution.

"The Labor Party is determined to take a bipartisan, positive and constructive approach in every facet of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy," he said.

Mr Shorten also urged Mr Abbott not to "go back to a blank piece of paper" on policies to help end indigenous disadvantage.

"Please don't turn your back on the consultations, the policy work, the testing and the lessons learned in the name of ideological purity," he said.

Topics:  closing the gap politics tony abbott

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