UPDATE 8.50am: Federal Liberal MP Ken Wyatt says it would be cold-hearted of the Abbott Government to fail to keep homelessness funding programs at current levels.
With Tony Abbott and Labor leader Bill Shorten in Perth today to campaign ahead of the April 5 WA Senate poll, the future of $14.5 million in homelessness services across WA has emerged as a key battleground election issue.
The Barnett Government is demanding the Federal Government urgently clarify the funding under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, saying it had been very successful over the past five years.
Labor did not fund the program beyond June 30, leaving the future of 6000 people assisted under the program in WA uncertain and putting at risk the jobs of more than 110 full-time case workers in 41 WA agencies.
Mr Wyatt, who says he has a "personal and vested interest" in homelessness, yesterday urged the Prime Minister to commit the funds.
"Given the Prime Minister is committed to issues facing indigenous Australians, this is an important program for his consideration, given a high number of Aboriginal people are homeless in the Perth metropolitan area," Mr Wyatt told The West Australian. "While Labor didn’t commit to the NPAH into the forward estimates it would be cold-hearted to cease a program that supports the most vulnerable people within our community."
Speaking on 6PR this morning, Mr Abbott refused to clarify the Government's commitment to homelessness initiatives.
"We don't want to let the people of Western Australia down ... there will be an answer on Budget night," he said. "We won't let the people of WA down."
Greens senator Scott Ludlam said the Government had "decapitated" key advisers, axing the national housing supply council, the Prime Minister's council on homelessness, the major cities unit and the Council of Australian Governments council on housing and homelessness.
"The Barnett Government is right to throw the challenge down to the Prime Minister to immediately restart negotiations on homelessness funding," Senator Ludlam said.
Mr Shorten said Mr Abbott must quarantine the NPAH from Commission of Audit cuts.
""This funding is vital to ensure some of the most vulnerable people in Western Australia can access basic human needs like food and shelter – particularly in times of crisis or when escaping the scourge of domestic violence," Mr Shorten said.
Mr Abbott said yesterday the Commission of Audit report would be released at the "right time".
"A sensible, adult Government that has commissioned important work, carefully studied it so that an appropriate response can be formulated and at the right time the report is released," Mr Abbott said.