Prime Minister Tony Abbott defends comments after describing Indigenous remote living as a “lifestyle choice.”
Tony Abbott is under fire from his own advisor on indigenous issues after describing living in remote communities as a "lifestyle choice".
The prime minister was in Kalgoorlie yesterday speaking about the WA government's plan to close 150 remote Aboriginal settlements.
"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," he told ABC Radio.
"In order to get kids to school and adults to work, you've got to have a school.
"If people choose to live miles away from where there's a school, if people choose not to access the school of the air, if people choose to live where there's no jobs, obviously it's very, very difficult to close the gap."
Today the leader of the PM's indigenous advisory council Warren Mundine said that Tony Abbott was wrong.
"That is a complete misconception of what it is and he's wrong in that regard," Mr Mundine told Fairfax Media.
"It is not about a lifestyle, it is not like retiring and moving for a sea change, it is about thousands of years connection, their religious beliefs and the essence of who they are."
His concerns were echoed by indigenous leaders across WA. The chairman of Djarindji community Brian Lee said "For our people, it's an obligation to your ancestors to look after your country and you have to be on your country to look after it.
"You can't do that from the city or towns that are hundreds of kilometres away from where you live."
Don Arnold / WireImage
Despite the backlash from his own indigenous leaders, the prime minister refused to back down today, telling Macquarie Radio's Alan Jones that he was just being realistic.
"If you or I chose to live in very remote place, to what extent is the taxpayer obliged to subsidise our services? And I think this is a very real question," he said.
"It is incredibly difficult for the kids to go to school if there's only half a dozen of them and getting teachers there is all but impossible.
"Similarly it's very difficult for adults to get a proper job if there's no employment within hundreds of miles."
Tracey Nearmy / AAP
Labor has demanded the prime minister publically apologise, with opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann describing the comments as "deeply disturbing and highly offensive".
Neumann told AAP "This is a prime minister who doesn't understand the importance of these people to their connectivity to their land."
Greens senator Rachel Siewert described his comments as "unbelievably racist" and Australian filmmaker Rolf de Heer said it was "so inappropriate its laughable" and showed a profound misunderstanding of Aboriginal culture.
Tracey Nearmy / AAP