Abbott defends 'lifestyle choice' comments


Indigenous leaders have criticised Tony Abbott's comments about remote indigenous "lifestyle choices", but senior ministers have jumped to his defence.

Some of Tony Abbott's closest indigenous allies have distanced themselves from his suggestion that Aboriginal people make lifestyle choices to live in remote communities.

Labor leader Bill Shorten, the Greens and at least one indigenous group are demanding an apology from the prime minister.

But Mr Abbott isn't showing any signs of apologising, defending his comments querying whether taxpayers should subsidise the lifestyles of people who choose to live far away from schools and jobs.

"If you or I chose to live in a very remote place, to what extent is the taxpayer obliged to subsidise our services?" he said on Wednesday.

But the comments sparked anger and frustration from indigenous leaders, who slammed the prime minister for casting fear into people living in remote indigenous communities, like the 100 slated for closure in WA.

Indigenous leader Noel Pearson criticised Mr Abbott's "hopeless" and disrespectful "thought bubble" and called on him to properly explain his position on remote communities.

"I'm just bitterly disappointed to hear this deranged debate go on in the substandard manner in which it's being conducted," he said.

The prime minister didn't get the backing from his top indigenous adviser Warren Mundine either, who reminded him it wasn't as simple as someone from Sydney choosing an outback adventure.

"It's about their life, it's about their very essence, it's about their very culture," Mr Mundine said.

Parliament's only female indigenous MP Nova Peris described Mr Abbott as a "pretender" and insincere about indigenous people.

"Aboriginal people choose to live on their country because it is our home, it's not a lifestyle choice," the Northern Territory Labor senator said.

"Tony Abbott is totally ignorant and dismissive of our deep connections to country."

Mr Shorten also accused the prime minister of a lack of understanding, claiming he wants to move indigenous people off their land.

However, Mr Shorten admitted there was a balance to providing services to remote communities.

"But you don't do it by the prime minister leaving Canberra, flying in, giving everyone a lecture and flying out," he said.

The National Native Title Council demanded an apology for indigenous people and said moving them from their remote homelands was "not-negotiable".

However, senior ministers jumped to their boss's defence, with Malcolm Turnbull warning against turning the comments into a "let's give Tony Abbott a belting occasion".

Christopher Pyne dismissed as "bizarre and hysterical" calls for Mr Abbott to apologise and Joe Hockey believes the prime minister's use of "lifestyle choice" was accurate.

"Do they want that lifestyle to live in a remote area? Some of them do. Some of them say it is part of their tradition," Mr Hockey said.

Mr Abbott, who relocated his cabinet to remote Arnhem Land for almost a week last year, says he is very comfortable with his credentials in indigenous affairs.

Source AAP

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