Indigenous anti-smoking campaign burns $100m

Billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on indigenous programs that have “clearly failed”, a 7News investigation revealed.

This includes an anti-smoking campaign which is burning up taxpayers dollars - with $100 million spent on getting Indigenous Australians to quit smoking.

The program, announced this year, employs 340 bureaucrats, at an average cost of $295,000 each, to co-ordinate anti-smoking campaigns in communities.

Campaigns the Opposition says simply duplicate anti-smoking work already being done by the Health Department.

"The government's more interested in employing bureaucrats than it is getting value for taxpayers money," Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey said.

The program is headed by respected Indigenous Leader Tom Calma. It's a part-time position and he is being paid $695,00 over three years.

Indigenous Health Minister Warren Snowdon said reducing smoking rates was a high priority and the $100 million would be well spent, if it works.

The report obtained exclusively last night by 7News revealed, for the past 40 years, nothing has worked.

The major report, prepared for Federal Cabinet and obtained by 7News under Freedom of Information laws, revealed that governments of all political persuasions failed to improve basic standards in Indigenous education, health and housing – with no hope of improvement without massive reform.

In an exclusive report by 7News’s Political Editor Mark Riley, the Commonwealth’s annual spending of $3.5 billion yielded “dismally poor returns”, with progress “mixed at best”.

The explosive document calls for 25 programs to be shut down straight away. Excessive red tape, inefficient spending, flawed government logic and false assumptions all contribute to the failings.

It also exposes a consistent failure to evaluate whether policies actually work, and contains 115 recommendations to improve the government’s approach.

“Past approaches to remedying Indigenous disadvantage have clearly failed, and new approaches are needed for the future,” the document reads.

The scathing assessment is contained in a landmark report – Strategic Review of Indigenous Expenditure 2010 – which was commissioned by the so-called ‘kitchen cabinet’ of then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Lindsay Tanner and Wayne Swan.

For a year, the Labor government fought to stop its release to Seven’s FOI Editor Michael McKinnon, claiming the strategic review and two other reports were “Cabinet in confidence”.

In a landmark ruling in July, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal found that while Cabinet deliberations should stay secret, reports prepared to inform Cabinet could and should be released.

The exclusive 7News report based on these documents aired nationwide on Sunday night.

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