Australia

McGowan throws marginal seat accusation at PM as funding row heats up

Related Story: Turnbull believes the west has been won back Related Story: Minister says remote communities will be consulted before closures

The WA and Federal governments appear no closer to resolving a stalemate over remote Indigenous community housing funding, a situation WA Premier Mark McGowan has warned risks increasing social dysfunction and disharmony.

In another escalation of the tension between the two governments during a WA visit by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Mr McGowan accused the Commonwealth of not showing interest in the issue because those in remote communities do not live in marginal seats.

That comment came as the Premier and Prime Minister pointed the finger at each other's governments for the impasse sparked by the expiry of a previous funding deal for remote community housing.

WA argues the Commonwealth has provided states' funding for housing in remote Indigenous communities for decades and the Turnbull Government has an obligation to continue doing so.

But speaking during a three-day Perth visit, Mr Turnbull put the onus on WA to lock in another funding agreement.

"Negotiations about remote housing are ongoing," Mr Turnbull said.

"What we're waiting to see is for the State Government to say how much it proposes and is prepared to spend on remote housing."

Marginal seat accusation

But Mr McGowan used Mr Turnbull's visit to try to apply further pressure to the Federal Government over the issue, saying the Commonwealth had a clear obligation.

"I'm sure if they (remote community residents) lived in a marginal seat the Federal Government would show more interest," Mr McGowan said.

"But these are disadvantaged Australians and they deserve a better deal."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull looks downward standing outdoors wearing glasses and a suit with vehicles in the background.

Mr McGowan warned of severe consequences if the issue was not resolved.

"This is the number one issue confronting regional WA," he said.

"If that housing support goes you'll see people leaving communities for thousands of years and moving to the outskirts of towns, and we cannot allow that to happen."

WA spent hundreds of thousands of dollars earlier this year on a national advertising campaign attacking the Federal Government over the remote housing issue.

The latest dispute follows the Commonwealth's 2014 decision to withdraw responsibility for funding essential services in remote communities.

In the aftermath of that, then-WA premier Colin Barnett said more than 100 of the state's remote communities would have to be shut down — a plan that was dropped after a bitter outcry and nationwide protests.

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