UN goals on Indigenous people in danger of failing

Levels of disadvantage were found to vary across nations, and being Indigenous in a wealthy country did not necessarily lead to better outcomes

The Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Health Population Study provides a snapshot of how Indigenous people across the world are tracking now in comparison to the wider population.


It was commissioned by the British medical journal The Lancet.

Executive Editor Stephanie Clarke says it reveals the circumstances of Indigenous people in countries around the globe.

“The aim of this is to establish a baseline of health measures that we can compare against in the future. And also hope that governments will take notice of the poor state of health of the Indigenous groups we looked at – most of them – take more account of Indigenous people in their systems.”

The study was lead by Australia’s Lowitja Institute.

It draws on data from 28 Indigenous and tribal groups across 23 countries, and accounts for more than half of an estimated global population of 302-million Indigenous people.

Researchers analysed key data indicators, including life expectancy at birth, infant mortality, low and high birth weight, maternal mortality, educational attainment and poverty.

They found evidence of poorer health and social outcomes for Indigenous people world-wide than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

But the level of disadvantage was not uniform.

Infant mortality rates were found to be at least twice as high in Indigenous populations in Brazil, Colombia, Greenland, Peru, Russia, and Venezuela than in the benchmark population.

Life expectancy at birth was five or more years lower for Indigenous populations in Australia, Cameroon, Greenland, Kenya, New Zealand, and Panama than for the wider population.

In some instances Indigenous people were found to be doing better than the benchmark population.

The Chief Executive of the Lowitja Institute, Romlie Mokak says in Myanmar for example the Mon people fared better in educational attainment and economic status.

“It kinda of wets your appetite to think there are Indigenous people whose circumstances are not deficit in some areas, as is often presented as the case, but is actually better than the wider population.”

The study finds a great deal of work still needs to be done if the United Nations is to meet its 2030 goals of ending poverty and inequality.

It makes three recommendations:

That governments develop targeted policy responses to Indigenous health; improve access to health services; and gather Indigenous data within national surveillance systems.

Chief Investigator and senior writer Professor Ian Anderson from the University of Melbourne says having good data is essential.

“It is absolutely critical if you are going to focus on making good policy. If you are going to focus on improving access and addressing the social factors that result in health disadvantage.”



Besieged banks flag their own major review

Besieged Australian banks have unveiled a major review which they hope will win back customer trust as the industry faces the ongoing threat of a Labor-instigated royal commission.


The Australian Bankers’ Association has announced an independent review that will cover sales incentives and commissions, treatment of customers and protection of industry whistleblowers.

The banking lobby group said customers, shareholders and employees expect bank behaviour to meet high ethical standards and while satisfaction ratings were high, acknowledged that “there is more to do”.

The banks’ six point plan will include a review of sales commissions and product-based payments in financial advice, practices which have been a focus of complaints.

Commissions and payments will either be changed or removed “where they could lead to poor customer outcomes”.

The ABA said the changes would “strengthen the alignment of remuneration and incentives and customer outcomes”.

Banks have also pledged to improve treatment of customers and whistleblowers, amid growing public anger towards the industry which books billions in profit each year.

An independent customer advocate will be established in each bank to deal with complaints from retail and small business customers.

“This package aims to address consumer concerns about remuneration, the protection of whistleblowers, the handling of customer complaints and dealing with poor conduct,” ABA chief executive Steven Munchenberg said.

The new measures come a day after the federal government announced improved funding and powers for the corporate regulator, ASIC, including a new commissioner focused on prosecutions of misconduct in the financial sector.

Labor has pledged to hold a royal commission into the banking sector if it wins the federal election in June. Under the raft of measures, protection of whistleblowers will be standardised across the banking industry, including independent support, and protection against financial disadvantage.

The banks will also set up an industry register, which would extend existing identification of rogue advisers to any bank employees.

A review of the Code of Banking Practice will also be fast-tracked, and completed by the end of the year.

Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer said the banks have given “a lot of thought to how conduct and culture be strengthened across the industry.”

The industry needed to make sure that product-based payments are “aligned to good customer outcomes” and where things go wrong, customers can have their complaints dealt with “efficiently and effectively”, Mr Hartzer said.

The banking industry has also voiced support for the government’s decision to introduce an industry funding model for ASIC and the four biggest banks, National Australia Bank, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ Banking, have pledged not to pass on the ASIC costs to customers.

The industry has appointed lawyer Gina Cass-Gottlieb, from Gilbert and Tobin, to lead the work on the new measures and the selection of an independent expert to oversee implementation.

CIMIC confirms guidance after profit lift

Construction giant CIMIC has reaffirmed its full year guidance after lifting first quarter profit.


The company formerly known as Leighton Holdings made a net profit of $130.3 million in the three months to March 31, up five per cent from a year ago.

CIMIC added new work of $3.1 billion during the quarter and said it is poised to take advantage of significant opportunities at home and abroad.

“We will focus on winning our fair share of projects in Australia, given our competitive position, and on harnessing our know-how for the expanding PPP market,” chief executive Marcelino Fernandez Verdes told the company’s annual general meeting.

The group is analysing around $50 billion worth of infrastructure and mining projects that will be awarded during the remainder of 2016.

CIMIC is on track to meet its full year profit guidance of between $520 million and $580 million, he said.

The company made a $520.4 million profit in 2014/15.

Recent major project wins include the second phase of the Gold Coast light rail project, a $1.3 billion contract mining extension in central Queensland and a contract to design and build the second phase of Sydney’s WestConnex road project.

The group is now looking to bid for other light and heavy rail, road and social infrastructure projects as it looks to strengthen its local presence.

CIMIC took control of mining services specialist Sedgman last month, and has launched a takeover bid for residential property developer Devine.

It is also targeting on expanding its Thiess contract mining arm in North and South America.

CIMIC shares dropped 16 cents to $35.97.

Tigers Deledio, Maric to face AFL’s Demons

Richmond look set to have three of their most-important players back in action for Sunday’s AFL clash with Melbourne.


The 13th-placed Tigers have made yet another sluggish start to a season, winning only one of their first four games in the absence of talismanic duo Ivan Maric (back) and Brett Deledio (quad).

They were both included in an expanded 25-man squad on Thursday evening along with prolific midfielder Anthony Miles, but with Deledio likely to have to prove his fitness in a final Saturday training session.

Deledio trained well at Punt Rd on Thursday, with coach Damien Hardwick saying the 29-year-old had made a significant breakthrough last weekend, when his quad improved enough for him to kick a full-sized AFL ball.

“From our point of view, it’s been a long process and one that we think we’re over the hump,” Hardwick said on Thursday before the teams were named.

“It’s going to be a tough call because he’s an important player.

“We’d love to have him playing this week but we’ve also got a long season in front of us.”

Maric was also recalled for the MCG date against the Demons, having proved his fitness in the VFL.

“He’s got enough minutes into himself now so we’re looking forward to having him back,” Hardwick said.

“He’s obviously an important player and also a spiritual leader for our footy club.”

The third significant inclusion for Richmond was Miles, who regained form and fitness with 30 possessions and 12 tackles last weekend in the reserves.

Miles played all 23 games last season and finished fourth in Richmond’s best-and-fairest award.

But the Tigers will be without tough defender Nick Vlastuin, who will miss with a leg injury.

Hardwick insisted it wouldn’t take much for the Tigers to turn their form around, as they did in 2015.

“I think back to last year when we were two-and-four and, in the Collingwood game, we were under the pump at quarter-time and then, all of a sudden, it just clicked,” he said.

“I think we won 13 of our next 16 games.

“… we have been floundering a little bit – there’s no doubt about that.

“But we’re still incredibly confident in the squad we’ve got to play some really good footy.”

The Demons regained 2015 best-and-fairest winner Bernie Vince from suspension and clever small forward Jeff Garlett from injury.

Christian leaders call for Morrison to reverse planned foreign aid cuts

A coalition of prominent Christian leaders have written to treasurer Scott Morrison urging him not to go ahead with scheduled cuts to Australian aid in next month’s federal budget.


The government is expected to cut foreign aid by $224 million, leaving around $3.8 billion for the 2016-17 aid budget.

The cut may make Australia’s aid contribution the least generous it has ever been as a proportion of national income.

In a Senate Estimates hearing in June last year, DFAT officials said spending on overseas direct aid in 2016-17 would only make up 0.22 per cent of Australia’s gross national income – the lowest percentage on record since 1984, and possibly earlier.

The letter, which SBS understands was sent to the treasurer’s Canberra office earlier this week, was signed by various regional and national leaders in the Uniting, Anglican, Catholic and Lutheran churches.

“As leaders within Australia’s Christian denominations, we write to call on you not to proceed with planned cuts to Australia’s aid budget,” the letter said.

“Coming on top of more than $11 billion in cuts to aid since coming to office, this will be the fourth time the Government has targeted Australian aid for cuts.

Related reading

“Australia’s support for aid and the flourishing of our neighbours is fundamentally a moral question and it rises above partisan politics.”

Mr Morrison’s office declined to comment on the letter.

“The Government doesn’t speculate on the Budget,” a spokesperson told SBS. “The Budget will be handed down on May 3.”

The national coordinator of Micah Australia, which organised the letter, said he was optimistic the budget could be changed at the last minute.

“There are genuinely budget difficulties,” Ben Thurley said.

“But, despite us being wealthier than we’ve ever been, we’ve chosen to turn our backs on international engagement. We’ve chosen to withdraw from a strong commitment to the global fight against poverty, and instead we’ve become more self protective and less generous.”

Mr Thurley said the signatory churches saw the budget as a “moral document”, not just a financial one.

Charity group Save the Children has estimated $224 million is enough to vaccinate 92,000 children against diseases like polio and measles, enrol 54,000 children in school and provide a safe birth for 34,000 babies and mothers.

Among the letter’s signatories is Australian Christian Churches president Pastor Wayne Alcorn, who leads the denomination of the church Mr Morrison attends in Sydney.

Mr Thurley said the treasurer’s past actions, including his maiden speech to parliament, suggested a “genuine commitment” to helping people in poverty.

“I would hope that in inviting him to live up to his best sentiments and his faith, our faith… he would be open to reversing a decision that actually wasn’t his in the first place.”

The Coalition government has cut $11 billion from the aid budget since it was elected. The $224 million cut was scheduled in the late-2014 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, before Mr Morrison was treasurer.

The 2016 budget will be released on May 3.

Related reading



BHP calls for workplace reform

BHP Billiton has stepped up calls for reform of Australia’s workplace relations system, with a senior executive labelling current laws “unbalanced”.


BHP’s president of minerals operations in Australia, Mike Henry, told the Melbourne Mining Club on Thursday that current workplace laws constrain innovation and flexibility.

Mr Henry said the content of enterprise agreements has expanded well beyond the key terms of the relationship between an employer and an employee – those governing wages and benefits.

“The first thing we need is for the content of enterprise agreements to be limited to the key conditions of employment which they were originally intended to cover,” Mr Henry said.

Mr Henry said the number of terms in enterprise agreements required more bargaining time, provided more points for dispute and potential industrial action.

That was not good for the business, workers or the economy.

Mr Henry said that as the contents of enterprise agreements had expanded, inefficient practices had become embedded in the business.

For example, where should a worker start their shift? In the administration office and then spend half an hour getting to their equipment? Or, start the shift where the equipment is located?

Aside from changes to key conditions of employment, Mr Henry said freedom of association provisions and right of entry provisions for union representatives needed to be altered.

He said employers needed greater flexibility in arranging – not blocking – union right-of-entry accesses.

Mr Henry said BHP Billiton was not proposing radical reform but a small set of reasonable, achievable changes already included in its submission to the Productivity Commission.

Mr Henry told reporters that his comments on the need for workplace reform were not related to the pending federal election and were coincidental rather than election advocacy.

“This is something that we’ve been calling for for a long period of time – it was in our submission to the Productivity Commission,” he said.

“But all sides of politics as well as industry need to understand that if we’re going to be competitive and therefore sustainable and able to continue to grow, we can’t do it with the practices of the past.”

Inglis needs help from teammates: Maguire

South Sydney coach Michael Maguire has moved to defend his out-of-sorts captain Greg Inglis, saying the superstar fullback needs more help from teammates to get his game going again.


And Maguire words have been echoed by Inglis’ Queensland and Australian skipper Cameron Smith.

Inglis has struggled to make an impact in the NRL this season amid continued claims of a knee injury, as Souths have spluttered to a 3-4 start to 2016.

“He is going through a period now where he has to look at his game and ways he can get himself into a good position when we have the ball and, defensively, he is working hard,” Maguire said on Thursday at Sydney Airport.

“It is a team thing – we all need to work hard to create opportunities for each other. If we work hard, those opportunities will come and Greg will get himself into position and we will be talking about the amazing things he does in the game.

“If we get all those one percenters right and that is exactly what it is, Greg will come to life.”

Souths play Brisbane at Friday night at Suncorp Stadium in the opening match of round eight, at a venue Inglis has played some of his best football.

Despite his struggles this year, Inglis remains a certain selection for next month’s Anzac Test in Mal Meninga’s first game as coach of Australia.

“When Mal said he’s going to back his experienced players, GI is one of the most experienced players at international level, so he will be there and I’m sure he will play well,” Smith said.

“I’m sure when the team (Souths) starts playing well collectively you’ll see Greg play well also.

“It’s a bit hard to ask a guy at the back of a team to carry the whole team by himself. They are a quality side, a champion side and they will come good soon.”

SA clashes with feds over mental health

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley says the South Australian government is responsible for the imminent closure of dozens of mental health beds.


SA Mental Health Minister Leesa Vlahos has appealed to the federal government to extend two funding agreements worth $20 million a year until 2018.

She says community service provider Neami will be forced to close 34 beds across metropolitan Adelaide within weeks if the funding is not restored.

Ms Vlahos also cast doubt on the future of 20 community rehabilitation beds in Whyalla and Mount Gambier, as well as 10 step-down beds in Adelaide’s north used for patients leaving secure mental health facilities.

“We’ve been trying to talk to the federal government about this for a number of months,” she told ABC radio on Thursday.

“These community facilities just can’t be kept holding until the federal government decides it’s going to stump in at the last minute.”

But Ms Ley said the state government was well aware the agreements were coming to an end and should have prepared accordingly.

She said the comments from Ms Vlahos were a “deliberate attempt to deceive South Australians”, who would still receive support through new funding arrangements.

“It’s more a reflection on the mess the Weatherill government is making of health that they’ve been caught out panicking at the last minute when they’ve had five years to plan for this transition,” Ms Ley said in a statement.

“Ms Vlahos would be better focused on asking the premier and health minister why South Australia is no longer committed to funding mental health services or hospital rehabilitation and respite beds.”