Read what Tony really said about rural Indigenous communities and make up your own mind

The media is great at informing us but sometimes they can misconstrue what politicians or celebrities say. One such example appears to be the recent comments that Tony Abbott made about rural Aboriginal communities in response to WA’s proposed plan to close up to 150 remote locations. There have been outcries about his choice of wording, saying that it is a lifestyle choice for Indigenous people to live in remote communities. Many said he was simply out of line and it offended a range of people, but what was really said?

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We have the transcript from ABC GoldFields-Esperance here, which was published on the PM’s website:

KIRSTYN MARCH:

Now moving on, are you concerned by the state government’s announcement that up to 150 of our remote and isolated indigenous communities will close because of a Federal Government funding shortfall?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I’m not quite sure that I accept your characterisation. We entered into an arrangement with the state governments that we would pay them a one-off payment in return for them taking over the delivery of municipal services in remote areas…

KIRSTYN MARCH:

But isn’t it true the Federal Government provides two-thirds of that funding?

PRIME MINISTER:

But we entered into an agreement with the states that we would make a one-off payment to them in return for them taking over the delivery of municipal services in remote places – as is their constitutional responsibility. Now, it is up to the state government to decide exactly what services it will deliver in what locations. I know there are some concerns about this. Nigel Scullion, as I understand it, who’s the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, is meeting with the states today but in the end it is not unreasonable for the state government to say that if the cost of providing services in a particular remote location is out of all proportion to the benefits being delivered, that, fine by all means, live in a remote location, but there’s a limit to what you can expect the state to do for you if you want to live there.

KIRSTYN MARCH:

The community has expressed worries about how that will affect the indigenous culture and that connection that they’ve got with the land. How would the communities closing go towards the Commonwealth’s policy on closing the gap?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think they’re two entirely separate issues, and if you want to close the gap what you’ve got to do is get the kids to school, the adults to work and you’ve got to ensure that communities are safe. And in order to get kids to school and adults to work, you’ve got to have a school and if people choose to live miles away from where there’s a school, if people choose not to access School of the Air and the other services that are available for people in very, very remote locations, if people choose to live where there’s no jobs, obviously it’s very, very difficult to close the gap, because without education…

KIRSTYN MARCH:

But are you penalising people for living people in remote areas there? Isn’t that something that you should encourage, to get people out of the cities?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s not the job of the taxpayer to subsidise lifestyle choices. It’s the job of the taxpayer to provide reasonable services in a reasonable way, indeed, to provide high-quality services in a reasonable way and then I think it is the responsibility of our citizens to shoulder the usual duties of citizenship. It is the responsibility of every Australian parent to send his or her children to school – indigenous people no less than everyone else. It’s the responsibility of every Australian adult to look for work if you are capable of work, and, yes, while you are looking for work, the government will pay you unemployment benefits, but what we can’t do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices if those lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have.

 

What do you think? Have his words been taken out of context or did Tony Abbott have a poor choice of words when he said that living in a remote Indigenous community was a lifestyle choice? Tell us below.