Transcript of Interview Radio National Drive with Waleed Aly
WALEED ALY: Amanda Rishworth is the Government’s Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers. She joins me now. Amanda Rishworth, Tony Abbott makes a point there on the funding. This proposed levy will raise 3.2 billion a year for a scheme that’s estimated to cost 8 billion. That doesn’t quite add up. Where does the rest of the money come from?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, the Prime Minister’s been quite clear that the increase in the Medicare levy will contribute a significant amount to the scheme but not the whole amount of the scheme. Of course, we’ve made it clear that we will make room in the Budget to fund, from general revenue, the rest of the scheme, and indeed we’ve already done that in terms of the billion dollars that we’re making available for the launch sites around the country. In addition, on our agreements with New South Wales, ACT and South Australia, there is a contribution coming from the states and territories as well to make this a truly national scheme.
So there is a contribution, and this isn’t new. The Medicare levy, of course, doesn’t fund all the Commonwealth spending on healthcare, and so this won’t necessarily cover all the spending on the spending in Disability Care Australia, but will make a significant contribution as well as our other commitments to general – from general revenue.
WALEED ALY: So in just under two weeks from now we should have the full details of how the NDIS will be funded, after the Budget?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, we’ve been very clear that the Budget – we’ll make savings to make room for our priorities, and National Disability Insurance Scheme is a critical priority. As I travel around Australia and speak to people with a disability, there is no doubt that the system we have now is fragmented, it’s broken, and it’s leaving so many people without the support and care that they need.
And I think we’ve all got to remember that at any time one can acquire a disability, and this scheme is there to ensure that there is adequate support for those that may be born with a disability or may acquire a disability.
WALEED ALY: Now, the other point the Opposition’s been making quite busily in these last couple of says is that the economy is at a fairly parlous state. New tax or levy, call it what you will: will that not have an effect on consumer confidence, just when we need to pep up the economy?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, look, we made a number of decisions in the past to help families with the cost of living. That includes things like tax cuts. The average person on an average income is getting about – is $1000 better per year with the tax cuts that we’ve made. We’ve introduced the Schoolkids Bonus, and a range of measures. But what we’re asking Australians to do is to really consider, from 1 July 2014, to make a small contribution – for someone earning $70,000 that’s less than $1 a day – to this very, very important scheme. So I think people will consider that, and it is a modest amount.
Of course, Tony Abbott has a different type of levy on his paid parental leave scheme. They’ve chosen – the Coalition’s chosen to put a levy to pay for that. We believe that Disability Care Australia is a critically important policy, and believe it should be funded appropriately and the Opposition really needs to explain, if they support this scheme, how they indeed would fund it.
WALEED ALY: So battling levies. Tony Abbott, meanwhile, is wondering why the Government is holding this off until the election rather than putting the necessary legislation into the Parliament straight away.
TONY ABBOTT: If she’s fair dinkum, why not do it in this Parliament? We’ve got a month of Parliament left after Budget week. Why not get the legislation into the Parliament, deal with it in this Parliament, so then we can get on with the job of building the kind of National Disability Insurance Scheme that all Australians would like to see.
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WALEED ALY: That point, Amanda Rishworth, if all the funding is known after the Budget, why not bring the legislation before the Parliament.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, of course Tony Abbott has not even indicated whether or not he would support that. This morning…
WALEED ALY: Does that matter?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: He – well, this morning he was talking very negatively, and suddenly he’s saying – is he saying he’ll support it? We’re not sure.
We want to ensure that this passes the Parliament, and so I think the Prime Minister’s made clear if Tony Abbott is willing to support this then we will be able to bring it to the Parliament. But we don’t want to turn the National Disability Insurance Scheme into a political football, and so we want to ensure that the support is there to pass the legislation through the Parliament, and we require the Opposition for that support. So Tony Abbott’s – the question really sits with him.
WALEED ALY: Why do you require the Opposition for that support? Why can’t you pass it with the help of Greens and Independents?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, they say, the Opposition says, that they support an NDIS, and really, quite frankly, we would like to see this pass the Parliament unanimously…
WALEED ALY: Why does it have to pass unanimously? I mean, what’s the point of that?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, it needs the [indistinct] support of the Parliament. I think if we’re going to ensure that this is a sustainable system, a system for the long term, then it does need broad support. People, when I speak to them, want certainty. They want to know that this is bipartisan and it will be funded into the long term. They don’t want a situation where, if the Government was to change, that that funding would stop.
So we need to know that this is broadly supported, that it will be funded, and will continue into the future, and that question really is for Tony Abbott.
WALEED ALY: Well, one of the budget steps, Amanda Rishworth, just in closing, to fund the NDIS and the Budget, will one of the steps be cuts to Disability Support Pension?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, look, we will make what it is clear our savings in the Budget on Budget night. That’s – there isn’t a rule-in rule-out usually before the Budget. I think the…
WALEED ALY: [Laughs] We’ve got to try.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: …many – you can try, that’s true [laughs]. But, look, we’ve been very clear that we will make the savings necessary. We have made a number of changes to the Disability Support Pension, including allowing people to work more hours before they are actually cut off from the Disability Support Pension. Because what we really want with that pension is to ensure that if people are able to work that they are able to do so, but they do have the support if they are…
WALEED ALY: It’s something of a boom area in your welfare funding.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, actually, over the last 18 months there’s been a reduction in the number of Disability Support Pension recipients. There’s been a decrease of around 6000 from over the last 18 months, so we’ve actually seen that our measures in transferring people, if they are able to work, in the workforce, actually including our employment services, actually starting to work.
WALEED ALY: Amanda Rishworth, thanks for your time.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Thank you.
WALEED ALY: Amanda Rishworth is the Government’s Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers.