Transcript of Interview, ABC Radio National
FRAN KELLY: Jenny Macklin joins us from Newcastle in the Hunter. That’s where the New South Wales launch site is. Minister, good morning.
JENNY MACKLIN: Good morning, Fran.
FRAN KELLY: You’ve fought for DisabilityCare for a long time. What does this moment mean to you?
JENNY MACKLIN: It’s such a special time and it’s great to be here in the Hunter. I have to say I’m really looking forward to seeing the hundreds of people we’ll celebrate with here in Newcastle today who, of course, wanted this to start in the Hunter but have also wanted to be part of this massive national change. And there are just so many parts to it, Fran, but the thing I wanted to emphasise with you this morning is that it really puts people with disability in charge.
And there are many, many changes that will come about as a result of the introduction of this huge reform, but the most important from my point view is that people with disability will be able to choose when they get care, the sort of care and support that they receive. They won’t have to wait for years and years to get a wheelchair that fits them. It really is a fundamental shift in the way in which our country makes sure that people with disability really do get the respect that they deserve.
FRAN KELLY: You’re there in the Hunter in New South Wales, and over the past week here on Breakfast we’ve been hearing from people there in that region who are going to be involved, the recipients of or the participants in this new system. There’s plenty of support, as you say. There is also some anxiety. This morning on the program we heard from Linda Hughes. She has an adult son with a disability. Let’s have a listen to what Linda had to say.
[Excerpt from interview]
LINDA HUGHES: We come from a system which has been rationed. So people had to really fight hard for the services they’ve got and often people have gone without and often people don’t get enough support. So there’s a real fear that they might lose what they’ve, you know, really struggled to get. So that creates a whole level of anxiety. I don’t want a change because what if it’s not as good or is not as much? So that, in particular, is the point of anxiety that we’re really finding, particularly with families with older parents. The NDIS has a promise that no one should be disadvantaged, which we keep thinking means that things can only get better, but we want to ensure that the reality meets the rhetoric.
[End of excerpt]
FRAN KELLY: That’s Linda Hughes from the Hunter Valley. Minister, what’s your message to people like Linda and the people she was referring to who are excited but anxious about what if it’s not as good or not as much as what they’ve already got, which they’ve fought long and hard for?
JENNY MACKLIN: I can totally understand her anxiety and I’ve, of course, heard this anxiety from many, many people as I’ve talked with people around the country about the introduction of DisabilityCare, and I just want to reassure Linda and all of the people listening who are rightly concerned that they will keep at least what they have, because, as she said, she’s fought so hard and other parents have fought so hard for the limited amount of care and support or equipment that they have.
It is going to change. They are going to be part of a better system that isn’t rationed and where they won’t just be told what they can have and when they can have it, but the guarantee that we have got agreement with the states and territories is that the current levels of care and support will remain until improved services can be delivered. So that’s very, very important.
FRAN KELLY: It won’t happen overnight, of course.
JENNY MACKLIN: It won’t.
FRAN KELLY: Eventually 10,000 in the Hunter will be covered by DisabilityCare, but realistically only a couple of hundred of people, if that, will switch over in the next few weeks. So we’re going to have a situation of haves and have nots based on what service provider you’re with or which local government area you’re in. It’s still a lottery for the moment for people.
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, it’s not a lottery because we’ve now agreed with the New South Wales Government in the case of the Hunter how people will gradually brought in to DisabilityCare Australia. And, of course, it has to be that way. We have to make sure that people are treated properly, but they are able to get the care and support that they need. That’s why we’re introducing this whole reform over a seven year period.
We’re expecting to double the size of disability care and support across our country over that seven year period. That means a lot of extra staff are needed, a lot of extra equipment is needed, home modifications. All the things that people need, respite. This can’t be delivered in one day and I think if we do it properly, people will have much, much more confidence than if we make commitments that, of course, people know aren’t realistic.
FRAN KELLY: Last week on the program we spoke with Dr Simon Duffy. He’s one of the architects of the disability scheme in Britain. He applauds our scheme, but he has concerns and one of those is the decision to, as he called it, strip fiscal responsibility away from the states and the services. He thinks that’s a mistake. He says that means no one beneath the Federal Government structure has an incentive to work within budget. What’s your response to that?
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, I heard that interview, Fran, and I’ve spoken with Simon Duffy. In fact, the system in Australia is being done with the states and territories. We have bilateral agreements with each of the states where we’re starting the scheme. So here in New South Wales, we have an agreement with New South Wales. Many of the staff who’d been previously contracted with New South Wales will, of course, work on DisabilityCare. Many of the private or not-for-profit providers, of course, will be registered to deliver care.
We, of course, expect those providers to respond to the needs of people with disability and to the needs of carers in ways that they may not have in the past, in a more rationed system, but nevertheless, it will be the case that certainly in the short term we’ll have a lot of input from the states and, of course, from existing providers, because they’re the people we have to work with.
FRAN KELLY: It’s nine minutes to eight on Breakfast. Our guest this morning is Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Disability Reform. She’s in the Hunter Valley this morning to launch DisabilityCare, which is probably the key policy and will be the lasting legacy of Julia Gillard’s prime ministership. Jenny Macklin, can I bring you to the politics now of the last week? Do you think Labor made the right decision, switching from Julia Gillard to Kevin Rudd last week?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, as you’d know, Fran, I’m a very old fashioned sort of person. I do respect the decision of the caucus, and I am very, very pleased that Prime Minister Rudd is here with me today in the Hunter celebrating the opening of DisabilityCare. I know how committed he is, as the previous Prime Minister was as well. In fact, it was under Prime Minister Rudd that we sent the request off to the Productivity Commission to do the inquiry into long term care and support for people with disability, so I’m really pleased that both of our leaders have demonstrated their strong support for people with disability and for carers, and that is the way it should be.
FRAN KELLY: As a senior woman in Labor, though, how do you feel about the fact that caucus dumped the first female Prime Minister?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course it’s hard, Fran. I’ve been a very, very difficult time, but I think one of the important things for me, personally, is that I’m in politics to deliver for people who are especially the most vulnerable in our community. You know that that’s what I’ve dedicated my political life to, and that’s most particularly today for people with the disability and the carers. They need a strong advocate. They have one in the Cabinet in me, and I intend to deliver for them.
FRAN KELLY: Is that why you didn’t quit? A string of male Cabinet ministers quit after that vote. You, as I understand it, you voted for Julia Gillard in the leadership contest. Anne Summers writes ‘not one of the nine woman ministers showed any sisterly solidarity. Do these women seriously think it was okay for our first Prime Minister – woman Prime Minister to be hounded out of office by bullying, duplicity and outrageous trashing of her reputation.’ Why didn’t you quit?
JENNY MACKLIN: Because I’ve got a lot to deliver, and to deliver for the most vulnerable people in our community I think is the priority, and I certainly know that Julia Gillard thinks that too. She wants to make sure that what we do, as members of Parliament and members of the Cabinet, is that we actually deliver to the people we care so much about, and…
FRAN KELLY: …did she indicate to you that you should stay in the ministry?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I’m not going to go over any personal conversations we may have had, but I can assure you that she, like me, understands how important it is to actually make sure you keep your eye on the main task, and the main task is to deliver for people who really need the sort of advocacy that I hope I’ve been able to deliver for people with disability.
FRAN KELLY: And, just finally, there were many criticisms made by some of your colleagues in the past of Kevin Rudd and the way he ran Cabinet and Government, the way he worked, and criticism of Cabinet members for not standing up to him and forcing him to put in place good process. Will you, as a Cabinet minister in the Rudd ministry, stand up to Kevin Rudd this time around?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I’m not going to go along with the premise of your question. I think the important point that I would make about the way in which I work is that I will make sure that we deliver DisabilityCare Australia effectively, in a way that makes sure that people with disability and carers get the care and support that they deserve, that they’re put in a place in Australia that they have never been before, at the top of our policy priorities. That’s what I want to do. I know that that’s why Kevin Rudd is here in Newcastle with me today.
FRAN KELLY: Jenny Macklin, thank you very much for joining us on Breakfast.
JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you, Fran.