State accepts Commonwealth’s $121m offer on remote communities

  • McGowan Government reserves right to negotiate future funding deals
  • Commonwealth still intent on ending involvement in remote housing in WA
  • Support for remote communities will continue to be a financial challenge

The State Government has agreed to a $121 million deal with the Commonwealth to help fund remote communities in Western Australia.

The deal ends months of uncertainty after the previous 10-year, $1.1 billion National Partnership Agreement on Remote Housing expired on June 30, 2018.

WA had argued the Commonwealth has historic and moral obligations to provide ongoing funding support, while the Commonwealth’s position was to completely axe ongoing, long-term funding and make the State fully responsible for remote housing.

Negotiations broke down following an initial offer of $60 million over three years, for the Commonwealth to walk away from any further funding commitment.

Under the new $121 million deal for 2018-19, the Commonwealth holds the view that this will be a final funding contribution before the State Government takes over complete responsibility for WA’s remote housing.

While acknowledging this position, the State Government reserves its right to negotiate with any future Federal Government and strike long-term, funding arrangements that provide for the advancement and interests of people living in remote communities.

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WA currently spends about $90 million annually supporting housing and essential services such as power, water and waste management in about 165 remote communities across the State.

The State Government will continue to collaborate with Aboriginal Western Australians to improve life outcomes, including in housing, and will engage with the Commonwealth to consider other priorities for the Closing the Gap Refresh.

As noted by Housing Minister Peter Tinley:

“The State Government has consistently argued the Commonwealth’s initial offer of $60 million over three years to exit any ongoing funding agreement to support remote communities was unacceptable.

“This $121 million offer demonstrates the Commonwealth agrees with that fundamental position.

“But although the State Government has accepted this deal, we remain disappointed the Commonwealth still intends to walk away from ongoing long-term funding support for remote housing.

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“An ongoing shortfall from the Commonwealth – estimated at approximately $100 million annually – will obviously create difficulties for the State Government.

“So I look forward to revisiting this issue and reopening joint funding discussions with any future Federal Government.”

As noted by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt:

“While the McGowan Government accepts the Commonwealth’s offer as a short-term fix to the highly complex issue of providing remote communities in WA with housing, we do not approve of its plan to walk away from its responsibilities for Aboriginal people in remote WA.

“The McGowan Government is strongly committed to the long-term intergovernmental principle that supporting remote communities is a shared responsibility.

“We will continue to work with the Commonwealth to ensure this principle is upheld for the long-term sustainability of remote Aboriginal communities in WA.

“If the Commonwealth persists in walking away and closes the door on indigenous Australians, it will be almost impossible to make real progress on the Closing the Gap targets.”

/Public Release. View in full here.