Federal Government reaches $100 million deal with states to provide services in First Nations communities

The Federal Government seems to have a very nasty plan to force people off their homelands. Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion's shady deal with State governments will force poor remote communities to go begging to the racist state governments, who will cream off the 'Federal dollars' and only hand out leftover scraps ... South Australia has refused to come to the party and WA is complaining.

Kiwirrkurra community, approx 700km south of Kununurra, East Kimberley, WA
(Image: PerthNow)

Kerri Harris with ABC News staff 24 September 2014

The Federal Government has struck a $100 million deal with Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria for the provision of basic services in remote Aboriginal communities.

Under the deal, the states would take permanent responsibility to provide services like power, water and roads - areas the Commonwealth managed in the past.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said there had been an ad-hoc approach to the issue in the past and the new deal would make it clearer who was responsible.

"In every other town and city across Australia, essential municipal services are the responsibility of state and local governments," he said.

"It should be no different on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land. We're just getting out of the way and letting the states do their job."

Senator Scullion said South Australia had so far refused to sign up to the agreement, but had until the end of this month to do so.

"I am disappointed the South Australian Government has not agreed to take responsibility for its residents in remote Aboriginal communities like other states have," he said.

The Minister was critical of the SA Government, saying it had been offered more than three years of funding which would benefit more than 1,500 Indigenous people living in remote communities outside of the APY lands.

SA in dispute over funding

But South Australia's Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, Ian Hunter, said his state was only offered one year of funding under the deal.

"I wasn't prepared to sell out my Aboriginal constituents in this state," Mr Hunter told 891 ABC Adelaide.

He said, for the last 50 years, the Federal Government had funded essential services in remote areas of South Australia including Royal Flying Doctor airstrips, road maintenance, diesel for generators, electricity and water.

"The Federal Government now wants to walk away from that 50-year-long responsibility to these communities," Mr Hunter said.

"Western Australia and Queensland seem to have [struck] a sweetheart deal, but we can't get any more than one year advanced funding."

The Federal Government had a separate agreement with the Northern Territory, providing the Territory with $206 million over 10 years.

In New South Wales, state and local governments already supplied their own municipal essential services funding to Indigenous communities.

The funding announcement came after Prime Minister Tony Abbott spent a week touring remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory last week.

Western Australia Minister not happy

Daniel Emerson The West Australian 25 September 2014

In a new low in Canberra-WA relations, State Housing Minister Bill Marmion yesterday described the responsibility withdrawal from July 1 next year as "reprehensible" and foreshadowed the closure of "unsustainable" camps ...

Under the arrangement, the Commonwealth will give $90 million to WA for a two-year transition.

Mr Marmion rejected his Federal colleague's suggestion the State agreed to the plan. He said $90 million would fund only essential services for two years and WA accepted it only because it was better than nothing.

"This was not an agreement, it was an ultimatum. We had a gun pointed at our head," he said.

Mr Marmion said providing a minimum level of municipal and essential services to all 274 WA communities would cost the State between $2 billion and $6 billion over 10 years, and between $3 billion and $10 billion over 20 years.

He said sustainable communities were those "that provide strong employment opportunities, are economically sustainable, have infrastructure capable of maintaining the community and have a strong governance structure".

"It is too early to tell whether any communities will need to close," Mr Marmion said.

"However, as a result of the Commonwealth withdrawing from its responsibilities, this may well be an outcome" ...