Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Sky News, PM Agenda, David Speers

DAVID SPEERS: As we mentioned a little earlier, it now does look a lot more likely that a levy will be introduced to help fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme which both sides of politics support. Tony Abbott today has said that he is prepared to back this half a per cent levy on top of the Medicare levy, as long as more details are provided from the Government.

Well I’m joined now by the Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin. Thanks for your time. The conditions that Tony Abbott – or the details that Tony Abbott is demanding, are they reasonable or unreasonable?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think before we get to that David, it’s very important to acknowledge what an exciting day this is for people with disabilities and their families, right around Australia. One of the things that people with disability really want is to know that there will be funding for disability care right out into the future, and we have the Prime Minister, and now the leader of the Opposition, agreeing that there will be this increase to the Medicare levy. We’ll put the legislation into the Parliament in budget week, and we’ll be able to get on with it so that people with disability can know that from July next year, this increased amount of money will start to flow.

DAVID SPEERS: Well you can get on with it, Tony Abbott says, if you meet a number of conditions. He just wants some more detail on the funding, on who’s covered. You know what he’s asking for. Again, are they reasonable demands? Will they be met?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well just on the issues of eligibility, I would suggest to Mr Abbott that he actually read the legislation that we put through the Parliament, all of us, just at the end of March. So, in March, I put the legislation in the Parliament to establish the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Disability Care Australia, and it got…

DAVID SPEERS: [Interrupts] That’s the framework legislation. What he’s after on this front is what the assessment tool is that’s used to decide whether someone’s in or out. Is that public?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well first of all I’d just say he is asking for the eligibility criteria, and that is in the legislation that was passed by the Parliament, and voted on by Mr Abbott and all of his colleagues. And I’m very pleased that we did get support right across the Parliament. But the eligibility criteria are there, the assessment criteria of course will be made public by the National Disability Insurance Agency, they’re – that’s the body that’s responsible for doing…

DAVID SPEERS: [Interrupts] Okay, when will that happen?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s a matter for them to make public once they’re, of course, up and operational from 1 July. And that’s the exciting thing, is that from 1 July we’re actually starting Disability Care Australia. We’re past these issues, David, and Tony Abbott should know this.

DAVID SPEERS: Well not yet for Tony Abbott, because this assessment tool…

JENNY MACKLIN: [Talks over] Well we are.

DAVID SPEERS: …are you saying that won’t be released until after Parliament has risen? Because he’s saying he wants it before he agrees to this.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I’m sure we could provide a briefing for Mr Abbott about the details that the legislation has established, the detailed workings of the scheme that in fact have all gone through the Parliament. So if Mr Abbott would like a further briefing, of course we can organise that. But the important thing to say today is that if we are going to be starting Disability Care Australia on 1 July – so all of the work on all of these issues, of course, has been done over the last few months and will continue over the next two months.

DAVID SPEERS: Okay, but just on this…

JENNY MACKLIN: This work is absolutely critical for the working of the scheme, and of course it’s being developed.

DAVID SPEERS: Okay, but this is an important issue, not just for Tony Abbott, I think a lot of families want to know as well…


DAVID SPEERS: How is it determined whether someone’s in or out. For example, Down syndrome, visual impairment, autism, these are some of the issues that have been raised. Are they covered or not?

JENNY MACKLIN: And if people can be directed to the legislation, of course that is all public. What we’re doing…

DAVID SPEERS: But you can tell us now, surely?

JENNY MACKLIN: I can tell you. I’m just about to. What we’re doing in the legislation is something quite different from the past. What people don’t want is narrow definitions of disability that leave a lot of people out of getting support. That’s the way things were in the past. So what we’ve got in this legislation is very clear eligibility that goes to whether or not people have a functional disability, we’ll look at what they can and can’t do, and what an individual’s needs are. So a person’s needs will be assessed, we’ll make sure that they get what they need, whether it’s a wheelchair, whether it’s respite for the family, whether it’s making sure they get assistance to go to work. All of these different needs will be assessed against every person. And it’s people…

DAVID SPEERS: So it’s an assessment individually you’re saying?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right.

DAVID SPEERS: You’re not just saying a blanket Down syndrome means you’re in, or you know, autism you’re in or out. It’s an individual assessment for each person?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s an individual assessment of people who have a permanent disability. So you raised the issue of somebody with Down syndrome, of course that is a permanent disability. But a person with Down syndrome – one person is quite different to the next. Of course they will all be in the scheme, but we don’t want to treat them as identical. They’re not identical, they have different needs and they should be treated as individuals.

DAVID SPEERS: This will only cover around 410,000 people, what happens beyond that rough limit?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well this of course is the amount – the number of people that was estimated by the Productivity Commission in their work that was done to advise the Government on the establishment of this scheme, and they did a lot of work estimating the people who would need Disability Care Australia’s support. It will include a wide range of people with different disabilities, like those with Down syndrome, or cerebral palsy, people with vision impairment, people with hearing impairments. People who have these permanent disabilities, of course, will get support from Disability Care Australia.

DAVID SPEERS: Okay and just back onto the conditions Tony Abbott is attaching to his support, he wants more details on how the whole thing will be funded, because the levy only funds half, or a bit more of it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Around 60 per cent.

DAVID SPEERS: Sixty per cent from the Commonwealth. So will the rest of it be revealed?

JENNY MACKLIN: Of course the rest will come from the Budget, and we will outline additional structural savings in the Budget when the Treasurer presents the Budget on budget night.

DAVID SPEERS: Alright, so we’ll find out then. Just finally Minister, the Myer CEO has apologised after comments about the levy, and the fact that it might damage profits for Myer because people would be spending less in their stores. What did you make of that? Is the apology good enough?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well – yeah one has to accept the apology, but I think you’d have to say it was totally insensitive. I am really pleased to be able to tell you that everywhere I’ve been today, I’ve been down in Tasmania witnessing the agreement signed between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Tasmania bringing all of Tasmania into Disability Care Australia, and just walking in the street people stopping me, saying how great it is that we’ve got the National Disability Insurance Scheme, that we’ve got everybody supporting it. I think it’s time the head of Myer got on board.

DAVID SPEERS: Jenny Macklin, Minister for Disability Reform, thank you for joining us this afternoon.