Federal cabinet minister Alan Tudge is open to a debate about shutting down some remote indigenous communities grappling with severe social dysfunction.
But the Victorian Liberal says tackling welfare-fuelled alcohol abuse must be the top priority.
Former federal coalition minister Mal Brough, the architect of the 2007 "intervention" in the Northern Territory, believes indigenous leaders need to consider the sustainability of communities riven by multi-generational abuse and violence.
Mr Brough, an indigenous affairs minister in the Howard government, made the comments amid renewed calls for action on systemic child abuse after the alleged rape of a two-year-old girl in the NT last month.
Mr Tudge, the multicultural affairs minister who worked in indigenous communities before entering parliament, says the suggestion hinges on what is meant by "shutting down" the communities concerned.
"If it means no longer putting public investment into those communities, that's one thing, and typically they're decisions made by state governments rather than federal governments," Mr Tudge told Sky News on Wednesday.
"Western Australia has gone down that path in relation to some communities."
Front of mind for Mr Tudge, who was until recently the human services minister, is access to schools and jobs.
"We certainly want to make sure people are near schools, they're going to school, they're making every effort to get work and if there's not work in their local area, to have the capacity to move elsewhere to get work," he said.
"That's in their interests as much as it's in Australia's interests."
But the minister says the most pressing issue is alcohol abuse in remote communities.
"The alcohol abuse - paid for by the welfare dollar - underpins nearly all the violence against women, the child neglect, the assaults and the dysfunction generally," he said.
"Until we get on top of that alcohol we're going to struggle to make inroads into other areas."
Cashless welfare cards are being used to restrict the amount people are able to spend on alcohol.
Australian Associated Press