- Commonwealth obstinacy on remote communities funding puts thousands at further risk
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s obstinate defence of the Commonwealth Government’s axing of funding to support about 165 remote communities in Western Australia, illustrates his indifference for some of Australia’s most vulnerable people.
Housing Minister Peter Tinley was responding to the Prime Minister’s assertion today that support for remote housing is purely a State responsibility, following the expiration of a $1.2 billion, 10-year joint funding agreement between the Commonwealth and WA on June 30.
The Commonwealth has a 50-year history of supporting remote communities – many of which were established in WA as a result of Federal Government policy.
Under the terms of the former agreement, the Commonwealth contributed about $100 million annually to support the approximately 12,000 people living in 165 remote communities in WA. The State Government’s annual contribution totals almost $90 million to support and maintain the nation’s most distributed population.
The WA Government has been trying to negotiate a new long-term funding agreement but the Commonwealth has consistently indicated it wants to walk away from any further involvement in funding WA’s remote communities.
As noted by Housing Minister Peter Tinley:
“Premier Mark McGowan wrote to then PM Malcolm Turnbull in May this year to try to gain an agreed outcome to negotiations for a new long-term deal to support remote communities.
“He never got a reply. So last month he wrote to the new PM, Mr Morrison, reiterating the State’s position and asking for his personal intervention to resolve the issue. He is still to receive a reply to that letter.
“Yet today, we see the PM waltzing around Perth declaring that support for vulnerable Western Australians is no longer in the interests of the Commonwealth and that remote housing funding is purely a State responsibility.
“Walking away from a long-term funding agreement for remote communities will leave a $400 million hole in WA’s forward estimates and abandon thousands of Western Australians to further distress.”