The Gillard government has defending its funding of the National Co-ordinator Tackling Indigenous Smoking role.
NATIONAL: The Gillard government has defended its funding of prominent Aboriginal leader Tom Calma’s role leading its efforts to cut Indigenous smoking rates.
The Australian newspaper today revealed the federal government had paid $33,000 for a Canberra recruitment firm to headhunt Mr Calma for the National Co-ordinator for Tackling Indigenous Smoking position.
Mr Calma heads up the Regional Tackling Smoking and Healthy Lifestyle teams, which are in place throughout the country.
Opposition Indigenous affairs spokesperson Nigel Scullion has called for the role to be scrapped, stating there was no evidence it had helped one person quit.
The federal government has set a target of 2018 to halve Indigenous smoking rates, a key part of its Closing the Gap strategy to lift Indigenous health standards.
But Senator Scullion says the government hasn’t produced evidence to back up its campaign.
“They could not provide any details as COAG only agreed up on a 2018 target and no interim targets,” Senator Scullion told the Australian newspaper.
“Yet again we must sit and hope it will all be OK at some distant date.
“The question should be why do we need a national co-ordinator tackling Indigenous smoking in the first place.”
But his comments have been denounced by Indigenous health minister Warren Snowdon, who says Indigenous smoking rates have declined from 51 to 47 percent since Mr Calma took the job.
“Nearly one in five deaths among Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders comes as a result of smoking,” Mr Snowdon said today in a statement.
“Shocking figure such as this are unacceptable and underscore why the federal government is investing more than $100 million signed off and supported by the states and Territories for the COAG Tackling Smoking measure, and why the role of Dr Calma is so critical.”
He says that it would be a step backwards to cut the role.
“Scrapping Dr Tom Calma’s position would set back efforts to Close the Gap and illustrates that when it comes to addressing the appalling rates of chronic disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities – the Coalition has no plan. They will turn their back on the bush.”
“It is also a clear example of the coalition again rolling over to the interests of the tobacco industry, with the Liberal Party continuing their policy of taking donations from international tobacco giants,” Mr Snowdon said.