- WA Premier will write to new PM Scott Morrison asking he intervene
- State Government will continue to build, renovate and maintain housing stock
Housing Minister Peter Tinley says an attack on his integrity by Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, while not surprising given the impasse between the State and Federal governments over funding for remote communities, was extremely disappointing.
The Minister was responding to reports that Senator Scullion had described him as racist because the WA Government refused to accept a deal that would see the Commonwealth wash its hands of joint funding responsibility for the approximately 12,000 people who live in 165 remote communities in Western Australia.
Senator Scullion's mudslinging is the latest episode in the ongoing row between the State Government and the Commonwealth following the expiry of a 10-year, $1.2 billion funding agreement to support remote communities in WA that lapsed on June 30.
The State Government has been negotiating in good faith with the Commonwealth since last year to reach a new and acceptable long-term funding agreement.
But so far, all that the Commonwealth has been prepared to offer is $60 million, payable over the next three years, to walk away from remote communities - leaving the State Government with sole responsibility.
The impasse prompted escalation of the issue to the Office of WA Premier Mark McGowan earlier this year. On May 11, Mr McGowan wrote to then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asking for him to broker a new, long-term agreement.
Mr Turnbull did not respond to the plea. Mr McGowan will now write to Scott Morrison to see if the new PM can successfully intervene where his predecessor failed.
Comments attributed to Housing Minister Peter Tinley:
"Descending to petty name-calling does not reflect well on Senator Scullion. His 'racist' comment is particularly offensive. I can hardly be 'racist' if I am calling for help for some of the most vulnerable people in the nation.
"I understand Senator Scullion's frustration at the current situation. But playing the man on such an important issue simply highlights his inability to broker an acceptable long-term funding deal.
"The State Government will continue to build, maintain and renovate WA's housing stock.
"However, without adequate Commonwealth support there will be inevitable delays in delivering housing to address overcrowding issues and population growth in remote communities.
"Mr Scullion has repeatedly said the Commonwealth is willing to negotiate a matched funding deal with the State Government.
"I'm here to tell him that WA pours approximately $90 million into supporting remote communities annually. Why then is the Commonwealth's only offer a short-term, three-year $60 million exit fee?
"The Commonwealth has ongoing moral and financial responsibilities to help us support remote communities. Walking away is not an answer."
Minister's office - 6552 5300