Transcript by The Hon Amanda Rishworth MP

ABC Triple J Hack with Sophie McNeill: DisabilityCare Australia

Program: ABC Triple J Hack

SOPHIE MCNEILL: The PM did rule out having a levy just a few months ago, she said that that wasn’t going to happen. But we now have the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers on the line, Amanda Rishworth. Thanks so much for joining us Amanda.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Good afternoon.

SOPHIE MCNEILL: Now, we heard Senator Fifield point out there that the PM had ruled out a levy, what changed Amanda?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well look, obviously the Prime Minister did a speech on Monday that was indicating that the revenue expected as part of the budget process – the taxes coming in were nowhere near what was expected. There has been a write-down in the amount of revenue, and so we are committed to this scheme and we needed to look at how we could fund it in the lead-up to the Budget.

SOPHIE MCNEILL: It’s not a good look though when the PM says – rules something out and then – you know, this is a pretty big about face. Is the Coalition justified to have question marks about this when such a big policy change?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well what we have done is actually said how can we ensure that this program goes ahead. We believe strongly – indeed on the 1st of July this year we will have launch sites in which we’ll start the role-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in five locations around this country.

So they are critically important in ensuring that the National Disability Insurance Scheme goes ahead. Now we made room in the Budget for the money for those launch site, and now what we are saying is we need to ensure that this goes ahead. People have been waiting for too long with a disability, and so we are looking at ways to ensure – because of the revenue write-down we can ensure that this becomes a reality.

Now, the Coalition will not say how they might pay for a scheme, but we have been transparent and up front saying the money is no longer coming into the Government as much as we had hoped, so therefore we are going to look at other means to ensure that this – the disability services get fixed for so many people that are really struggling at the moment.

SOPHIE MCNEILL: We’ll come back to you Amanda, but Erica’s (*) called in from Queensland. Erica you’re an amputee, tell us what do you think about a levy to pay for the NDIS?

CALLER ERICA (*): Well I heard you talking about it earlier this morning, and I got in the car and heard the outcome and I felt immediately embarrassed to think that hard working people, and some people that might even be struggling, will have to fork out of their annual income to pay for my income while I’m studying.

SOPHIE MCNEILL: Yeah right, so you would benefit from it but you don’t support it?

CALLER ERICA (*): No I don’t. And I think that the Government – like the audacity is just mind blowing, the fact that they’re playing on people’s emotions. I mean they’re doing this because, you know, people feel bad for people who are disabled, calling us a disadvantaged group and everything. I’m not saying that’s incorrect, but the Government’s doing this is almost like they’re taking an opportunity to take other people’s money.

SOPHIE MCNEILL: Let’s put this to Amanda Rishworth, the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities. What do you have to say Amanda about Erica’s point there, she says, you know, no one wants to be seen to not help the disabled. That’s Erica’s position, she’s disabled herself. So, are you pigeon holing people here?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well look, it was actually the Productivity Commission that first looked into this issue and looked at how many people were not getting the care and support that they needed. But more importantly, as one of your previous callers said, for all the people that were not participating economically. Not being able to actually get a job because they didn’t have the aid…

SOPHIE MCNEILL: You’re not answering Erica’s question though. I mean she says she doesn’t think it’s fair, and that the Government is using this argument saying, well you know, who doesn’t want to help disabled people. Anyone who has a question about this levy, anyone who questions whether it’s necessary is kind of not supporting disabled people, and no one wants to be seen to be doing that. What do you – how do you respond to that argument…?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What I’m actually saying is the Productivity Commission actually talked about economic benefits for the whole country. So actually enabling disabled people to actually fully participate in our community, in employment, is actually a good thing for the nation, not just those individuals that get the support.

So what I’m saying is that’s what the Productivity Commission – they don’t play on people’s emotions, they look at the hard, cold facts. And we’ve taken that Productivity Commission report and actually put it into practice. We’ve also listened to people, and I have to say when you go round listening to people, as I have, about how difficult it has been to get services, how waiting on a waiting list for years for appropriate equipment, for appropriate support, then really you realise how difficult so many people have been doing.

And it doesn’t have to be that way if people get the support that they do require. They can participate in our community, but without that support…

SOPHIE MCNEILL: I want to go back to Erica here. Erica, how do you think the Government – I mean if they don’t have this levy they’re saying that the scheme can’t go ahead. Isn’t it better that it goes ahead and have the levy than it not going ahead?

CALLER ERICA (*): Yes definitely, but I feel like that’s an ultimatum. I feel like there are other ways, they can find other resources, and they’ve just taken this opportunity to play on people’s emotions. And now this is what’s going ahead and she’s proposing that ultimatum; it’s either this or nothing. You know, it’s a guilt trip.

SOPHIE MCNEILL: Thanks so much for the call Erica.