LABOR says it was a ‘‘cheap political stunt’’ for Bass Liberal MHR Andrew Nikolic to walk out of Parliament during Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s speech on indigenous affairs.
Mr Nikolic was one of a number of Coalition MPs who left the chamber yesterday when Mr Shorten used a speech on the Closing the Gap report to criticise $500 million in federal budget cuts to the sector.
‘‘Right now, a host of vital organisations don’t know whether their funding will be continued or withdrawn,’’ Mr Shorten said.
Mr Nikolic later said it was inappropriate for Mr Shorten to use a normally bipartisan occasion to criticise government policy.
‘‘Closing the gap and reconciliation are important objectives requiring commitment, focus and above all else bipartisanship,’’ Mr Nikolic said.
‘‘Indigenous disadvantage is a strategic challenge beyond political cycles.
‘‘His comments about government budget cuts demonstrate an appalling lack of judgment and leadership.’’
Franklin Labor MHR Julie Collins said the opposition was compelled to stand up on the issue.
‘‘It is telling that Mr Nikolic did not seek to justify these cuts but instead chose to be part of a cheap political stunt widely condemned by indigenous leaders,’’ she said.
‘‘Mr Nikolic might prefer Labor stayed silent on these shocking cuts, but silence is the last thing our indigenous communities need.’’
Prime Minister Tony Abbott described the seventh Closing the Gap report as ‘‘profoundly disappointing’’, with a significant gulf existing between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
The progress report card shows most targets set under the Rudd government have not been met, with no improvement in the gaps in life expectancy, literacy, numeracy and employment.
Targets in child mortality and year 12 attainment are still achievable, the report says.