11 Mar 2015

Abbott 'should apologise unreservedly'

7:40 pm on 11 March 2015

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been called a disgrace by the Opposition for suggesting people who live in remote indigenous communities do so as a 'lifestyle choice'.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks after retaining the leadership of the Liberal party. Photo: AFP

Mr Abbott is backing Western Australia's plans to close nearly half of the state's 274 remote Aboriginal communities after the federal government said it would transfer funding responsibility to state governments.

He said closing the communities was not unreasonable if the cost of providing services such as schools outweighed the benefits.

The Prime Minister has defended his use of the term, saying he was "making a pretty obvious point".

But an indigenous leader, Noel Pearson, said remote indigenous communities deserved an "extensive" explanation and not "off-the-cuff" comments.

The Labor Party's Indigenous Affairs spokesperson, Shayne Neumann, has demanded Mr Abbott apologise, describing his comments as deeply offensive.

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have had more than 200 years of dispossession, dislocation and disadvantage, and the Prime Minister wants to perpetuate this.

"He should apologise unreservedly for his comments."

The chairman of Western Australia's Kimberley community of Djarindjin, Brian Lee, said it was a cultural obligation to live on traditional country and it could not be a 'lifestyle choice'.


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