After the Coalition’s victory in Saturday’s election, Indigenous Health and Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt has said the threat of increased taxes was the biggest issue that swayed voters in his electorate.
Retaining the seat of Hasluck in Western Australia, Minister Wyatt said he heard loud and clear voters’ worries about tax increases and their disdain for the major parties’ leaders.
“Some people just said they didn’t like the leader of the Labor party, some even said, ‘No I’m not voting for your party because I don’t like Scott Morrison’,” Minister Wyatt said.
Not only did the Minister retain Hasluck, his margin increased from 2.1% to 2.5%.
Minister Wyatt attributes this win partly to having people vote for him personally, not a party.
“Community usually want to keep a safe pair of hands in the job and support the person they know,” Minister Wyatt said.
He said to be re-elected is an “incredible privilege” and the people of Hasluck are putting their faith in him to keep representing them.
“It’s the toughest job interview you ever go through,” Minister Wyatt said.
Closing the gap from the inside
Despite chatter that Minister Wyatt may be the next Indigenous Affairs Minister, he neither confirmed nor denied the speculations, instead saying holding that role would, again, be an “incredible privilege.”
The Minister also flagged that communication between Indigenous Australians and the government needs to be improved before we can truly close the gap.
“One of the mistakes all of us make is we only work with leaders of organisations,” Minister Wyatt said.
The Minister said he believes sometimes there is a gap in communication between families in communities, as well as between community leaders and members.
“We’ve got to do things in a very different and better way,” Minister Wyatt said.
“If we want to close the gap, we’re going to have to start having people sit out in the red dirt.”
This echoes previous sentiments before the election by WA Senator Pat Dodson, who said the government needs to listen to its people very carefully.
While the Labor Party has a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in place, the Coalition has still failed to establish a RAP.
Minister Wyatt said he wants more people to come through the Liberal Party ranks to influence Indigenous issues.
“Look at the impact Senator Pat Dodson has made, Linda Burney, Malarndirri McCarthy … all of them are having an influence on the Labor Party,” Minister Wyatt said.
The Minister said in his younger years he was a “firebrand” who protested often, however he has learned to become more reasoned as he’s become older.
“You learn that you can’t fight with emotion. You work with systems to bring about reform,” Minister Wyatt said.
An example of this is Minister Wyatt and the Coalition working with the Telethon Kids Institute in funding the End RHD vaccine initiative.
$35 million has been pledged for the initiative to take steps in eliminating the disease.
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has welcomed the Morrison Government and urged them to prioritise Indigenous health on the national agenda.
“We are calling on Prime Minister Morrison to take a holistic approach to Indigenous health,” said NACCHO Acting Chair Donnella Mills.
“Closing the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health requires a range of measures including increased funding for comprehensive primary health care, housing and infrastructure.”
NACCHO has called for the Government to support ten policy proposals, including addressing Indigenous youth suicide rates and ending Rheumatic Heart Disease in Indigenous communities.
Minister Wyatt has said in addressing Indigenous issues, we shouldn’t be relying only on Indigenous funding.
“We shouldn’t just rely on Aboriginal Affairs money, we’re entitled to access all funding that is provided by governments across a number of areas – state, federal and local,” Minister Wyatt said.
A win for future representation
Despite not many being elected, Minister Wyatt said he was impressed with Indigenous candidate numbers.
“I was really elated to see the number of Indigenous candidates who put their hand up to have a go at federal office,” Minister Wyatt said.
“I think that speaks well for the future.”
The Minister is encouraging Indigenous Australians who want a political career to join the major parties, that is Labor or Liberal, to start wielding their influence in a major way.
Minister Wyatt said the parties need to be more welcoming of Indigenous candidates.
He remains hopeful for better Indigenous representation in future governments.
“One of your readers out there one day will become the first Indigenous Prime Minister,” Minister Wyatt said.
By Hannah Cross