THERE'S BEEN a great deal of hand-wringing and expressions of sympathy about Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's admirable statement about "Closing the Gap"
But closing the gap between whom?
Compare some basic statistics about child mortality between Australia and our near territory and closest neighbour, Papua New Guinea.
Infant mortality is defined as the death of a child under one year of age. For New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory from 2006–10, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infant mortality rate was eight infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
This compares with a non-Indigenous infant mortality rate of four infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
Over the last ten years, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infant mortality rate in the selected states and territories has decreased from ten deaths in 2001 to seven deaths in 2010 per 1,000 live births.
But in Papua New Guinea, 58 out of every 1000 children will die before reaching school age, compared with five in Australia.
These children die from preventable illness such as diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia. They also die of measles - a $1 vaccine would have protected them.
So the child mortality rate in PNG is more than 10 times greater than that in Australia.
PNG has one doctor for every 17,000 people, compared to 20 per 20,000 in Fiji and one per 300 in Australia.
Health expenditure is US$49 per capita, compared to $107 in the Solomon Islands, $154 in Fiji and $4,775 in Australia.
Life expectancy is 62 for males and 65 for females, compared to 81.7 in Australia.
PNG has 0.58 health workers per 1,000 people – WHO recommends 2.5 per 1,000 simply to maintain primary care.
And in PNG, 30% of people live on less than $1 a day – whereas the average weekly Australian income at last count was $1,234.
So, Mr Abbott, so intent on closing gaps, why is your government cutting back on health services to Papua New Guinea?