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Future of remote communities up in the air while Labor plays politics

Mark McGowan must rule out closing remote indigenous communities if his Government’s faux protest over a Commonwealth funding shortfall fails.

This week the Premier labelled funding for remote housing “the number one issue in regional Western Australia”.

He then blamed his Housing Minister’s inability to secure a new funding deal for remote housing on the Commonwealth, despite boasting that his Government had “been more successful … than any government in history” in securing Federal money for WA.

Aboriginal Affairs spokesperson Terry Redman said the Premier had contradicted himself and again revealed his metro-centric ethos.

“If the Premier was so concerned about the plight of indigenous West Australians living remotely, he would have put funding for housing in those communities at the top of his Canberra wish list,” Mr Redman said.

“Instead, the Premier told the Federal Government his priority was Metronet – a request which has been heeded with the Commonwealth committing $1.84 billion.

“If the Premier considers funding of remote housing as the number one issue in regional WA he should immediately request the Commonwealth divert the Metronet funding to those communities.”

In December, Housing Minister Peter Tinley said some communities “ultimately will close” if a new funding agreement could not be reached. 

North West Central MP Vince Catania, whose electorate includes 23 remote communities, said the Premier needed to guarantee his Government would not close remote communities if he did not get what he wanted out of Canberra.

Mr Catania accused the Premier of politicising the plight of remote communities to distract from the growing resentment toward his Government throughout regional Western Australia.

“The Premier was spooked by the thumping loss his Government received in the recent Darling Range by-election – particularly at polling booths in semi-rural areas where the swing was more than 60 per cent – so he decided to muddy the waters,” Mr Catania said.

“Now, in a desperate attempt to show he cares about what happens outside Perth the Premier has gone on the warpath over funding for housing in our remote communities.”

Mr Redman said The Nationals had a strong record of closing the gap for indigenous West Australians while in Government, including the provision of $175 million for housing projects, $25 million for the Kimberley Schools Project and $20 million for the town-based reserve program in the Pilbara.

“While in Government, The Nationals helped establish a robust plan to improve outcomes for children born into remote communities, committing $150 million of Royalties for Regions funding into a special purpose account,” he said.

“We worked with the Federal Government to align their investments with the Liberal-National Government’s remote reform plan. 

“The McGowan Government has now thrown a blanket of uncertainty over the future of remote Aboriginal communities. This will result in distress and, in some cases, decisions by families to move to larger centres in anticipation of being first to secure housing.”