Transcript by The Hon Amanda Rishworth MP

Transcript 2HD, Meryl Swanson Show

MERYL SWANSON: The other big news of today is of course the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Prime Minister making the announcement that the Medicare levy will be increased by half a per cent to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. So it’s going to go up to two per cent. If you are on $70,000 a year, you’ll pay a dollar a day. If you’re on $24,000 a year, which I think is the start off point – that’s where it kicks in – If you’re earning $24,000 a year, you’ll pay about 35 cents a day.

Increase will come into effect from July 1 2014. Been a little bit of politicking around this in the last hour of so. Tony Abbott suggesting to the Prime Minister that she bring the legislation on before the September election. That has, of course, been the main sticking point that I’ve had today with it. It sounds like a good scheme to me, an idea whose time has come. But, will we get it or not? The legislation, if it’s not heard in Parliament before the September election, will it in fact get up.

Joining me this afternoon, Amanda Rishworth, who is the Parliamentary Secretary.

Amanda, thanks for your time.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: No worries. Good afternoon.

MERYL SWANSON: Amanda, there’s a couple of things I just want to tick off firstly about the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Firstly, can you confirm for me, that it’s not just people born with a disability?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Absolutely. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is about ensuring that wherever you live in Australia and also however you acquire an injury, you will get support. And so if you have an accident, or cancer, and that cancer may have led to being – having an amputee or something like that, you will get support through the National Disability Insurance Scheme to actually help you achieve what you want to achieve, whether that’s participating economically and socially in our community.

MERYL SWANSON: That accident though, if someone has had an accident, I’m of the understanding that it’s in fact going to be the compensation payment that is going to be redirected back through the NHIS, isn’t it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH:Well look, if there is another scheme that covers you – so if there is another scheme that covers you, whether it’s the Motor Accident Scheme or a WorkCover Scheme, then that scheme is the appropriate one for you. But at the moment what we have for other people that do not currently have any insurance – if they fall over or hurt themselves in some way into a significant accident, and that leads to a permanent and severe disability, then they go onto the waiting list, which has been the problem as with someone that has been born with a disability.
So for those people that don’t have a scheme that covers them now, it is a very cruel lottery on how they get support. And I’ve heard stories of people waiting many, many years for accommodation, many, many years for equipment, such as wheelchairs and other things that – and when they do get it, it’s not up to scratch. So we have really failed, I think, in terms of providing adequate support for people with disability, and that is what this scheme is really doing.

MERYL SWANSON: How is it going to work, Amanda. I know, look, it’s a broad thing to discuss, but how is it going to work. I think a lot of people think it’s a good idea but they are having difficulty getting their minds around how it’s going to work. Now I know you’ve got trial areas. One of those is in fact the Hunter, where I make this program even though we’re networked far broader than that. But how is it going to work, if you can put that in simple terms?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: So what will happen is that individuals will be assessed on whether or not they meet the requirements of being accepted into the National Disability Insurance Scheme. And that is based on having a severe and permanent disability. And then what will happen is they will meet with an individual planner, who will look at what their needs are. And they’ll look at their needs of – it might be needs in terms of equipment. It might be needs in terms of personal support and housing.

At the moment, if you’re a person with a disability, you’ve got to get on a wait queue for all these different things, often in different organisations. But this individual planner will work with that person to develop a plan of what they need and then they will be funded directly, so that they can sue that money to actually buy in the services that they need. So rather than having the organisations controlling and giving out aids and equipment, for example, the control will be given to the individual with a disability, and their family, to actually be able to get what’s suitable for them.

So it is a real change of the system. It’s not just about more money. I think that’s a really important point. There does need to be more money in the system, but it is completely changing the way that disability services have run for a long time. The other really important element is that these individual planners will ongoingly work with an individual as their life circumstances change.

So this is a long-term for a lifetime support. Obviously those needs change. But that certainty is also what’s really critical when I speak to people with a disability. Because often they may have signed up with a program, or been on a waiting list; they got their new equipment, then they need something else. They’ve got to get back onto the waiting list again. So it’s a very frustrating situation for so many people and their families.

MERYL SWANSON: So these planners that you’re describing to me now, are they going to come through existing agencies, or will they be new positions created? Tell me about the framework of the bureaucracy, for want of a better word, surrounding this. I’ve had suggestions from callers saying today, look I think it’s a great idea but I’ve got concerns about the level of bureaucracy that it’s going to create.

How big is the bureaucracy going to be?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well look, we are going to have Disability Care Australia officers at the coal face, with people planning this for them.

So in the launch site there will be Disability Care Australias – and these individual planners, I wouldn’t label them as bureaucrats. They are working with individuals to ask them some fundamental questions like what do you want to achieve with your life? Now people with a disability have often never ever been asked that before.

And so I wouldn’t call these planners a whole lot of – extra level of bureaucracy. They are helping individuals with a specific plan, and then allowing them to then choose what services they want.

Now, in some states and territories depending on where you live you might already be provided that by another service organisation but you’ve got to pay for it. So, these sites will be in the first instance located in the launch cost. They will have expertise in the areas of coordinating Disability Services, and I actually visited the Disability Care Australia office in Geelong yesterday. Actually talking to individuals, and it’s – their job will not be bureaucracy, it will be working with individuals with a disability…

MERYL SWANSON: Sure. But I guess a lot of people are just saying look it sounds like a great scheme, we want – and what you’ve told me about those planners sounds like an excellent idea. But I think people are nervous that there’s going to be a lot of the money required for the scheme going to a new level of bureaucracy, and they want to know that most of it is actually going to the coal face and isn’t going to get sort of swallowed up by people sort of working not at the coal face.


MERYL SWANSON: Is it going to be a public service efficiency ratio put on this? I mean what sort of assurances will people have?

AMANDA RISHWORTH:Well we’ll be working through this, but I can tell you that this [indistinct] scheme, based on the modelling rules we have done, is much more efficient than what is currently the case.


AMANDA RISHWORTH: What is currently the case is someone has to get on a waiting list of a range of different services, and they’re all got their overheads and their costs, got to sit on that waiting list and hope that your number comes up. Whereas currently what will happen is a person will be able to buy in their services. They will have the money with them and they can buy in a private physiotherapist, if that’s appropriate, or they can go to an organisation that provides it. They have the choice and control, which actually takes away from all the overheads of the many service organisation now that you have to line up to actually get on the list for.

So it actually takes away a lot of that bureaucracy and puts a lot of that control and coordination back to the individual and their family. So I would say that this is a much more efficient system and that’s what the Productivity Commission backed up.

MERYL SWANSON: Mm, Amanda Rishworth joining me this afternoon, the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers. Amanda I have to go to a news commitment very shortly, but will the Government put this forward as a piece of legislation before September as Tony Abbott has suggested?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well look, I’d like to hear from Tony Abbott whether or not he will support it. We have already put the legislation up to create Disability Care Australia. We’ve also put the money up in the Budget for the launch site, so we have made a clear commitment about how we’re funding the launch site, and now we’ve been transparent about how we’re going to fund this into the future.

Tony Abbott has not done that. He has said that he supports it and then has criticised all the options on the table of how to fund it. So I think the question and the ball is really in Tony Abbott’s court to explain – if they don’t support how we’re going to fund it how will they fund it?

MERYL SWANSON: Amanda Rishworth, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers. Thanks for your time.