Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Radio National, Breakfast with Fran Kelly

Program: Radio National, Breakfast with Fran Kelly

E & OE – Proof only
Subject: DisabilityCare Australia

FRAN KELLY: Disability Reform Minister Jenny Macklin says increasing the Medicare levy to two per cent will ensure a strong and stable funding stream for DisabilityCare. I spoke with the Minister earlier this morning.

JENNY MACKLIN: We’re saying to Mr Abbott, we want your support, people with disability want to know that this is supported right across the Parliament, and if we don’t get that support from the Opposition then of course we will take it to the people.

FRAN KELLY: So my question is, why not take it straight to the Parliament?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’d have to see whether or not we had support in the Parliament, as you know it’s a minority Government so we’d have to see what the support is. But I think…

FRAN KELLY: …well Tony Windsor says there’s never been a surer bet in Parliament than the support for this levy increase.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s one. As you know we need more than that. So we’ve got to make sure that we have widespread support, and I think that’s what people with disability really expect. And they don’t just expect one side to support this, and the Independents, they actually expect everybody to support it. That’s what was so good when the legislation establishing the National Disability Insurance Scheme went through the Parliament, it had the support of everybody.

FRAN KELLY: But Minister what the people with disability have been saying in the recent week is they want a secure funding base for this. That’s why they like the levy.

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right.

FRAN KELLY: What they want to see is a levy put into law and secured and they believe, and all the signs are, that this Government could do that within the next eight weeks.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, and we may do that, but I think people with disability also want to know, especially this close to an election, what all sides of politics are going to do to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

And that’s really what we made clear yesterday, is that from Labor’s point of view, we will introduce an additional amount onto the Medicare levy for disability care. So our position is clear and really now it’s up to Mr Abbott to say what his position is.

FRAN KELLY: Let’s go to the levy itself, everyone would be asked to contribute, or almost all of us, through the Medicare levy. A lot of people don’t trust Governments to spend their taxes wisely. How do you reassure everyone listening today that the money raised from this levy will go only to disability expenses, not into general revenue and a big black hole?

JENNY MACKLIN: We have been really clear that all of the money raised as a result of this increase in the Medicare levy for disability care will go into a special DisabilityCare fund, and will only be able to be used for DisabilityCare. It will not be able to be used for anything else. I think people, especially people with disability and their families, want to know that that’s where this money is going to go, because they of course are desperate for the additional care, and they want security and peace of mind.

FRAN KELLY: The Medicare increase though, this levy, will raise about $20.4 billion in the five years up to 2018-19, but that’s only 60 per cent of the full cost of the NDIS. The remainder will come from general revenue. Considering the parlous state of the Budget, how certain is that revenue stream?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course we’ve thought very carefully about this matter because we have to strike the increase in the levy at a rate that would raise sufficient funds, but not put too much of an impost on the community. So we think this is a fair balance of an increase in the Medicare levy for DisabilityCare, around a dollar a day for the average income earner. We do think that there is sufficient room in the Budget to pay for the remainder.

FRAN KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast. Our guest this morning is Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Families, Community Services and the Minister for Disability Reform. Minister, Jenny Westacott from the BCA says announcing a levy before the details of the scheme are worked out is putting the cart before the horse. Joe Hockey had similar concerns yesterday on this program.

JENNY MACKLIN: I found those comments from Joe Hockey yesterday extraordinary. He voted for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill when it went through the Parliament at the end of March. It is very clear in that legislation who is eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, how people go about getting that support. We’re establishing an independent statutory agency that will start on 1 July. People will start coming in the doors in the Hunter, in New South Wales, in Geelong, right across South Australia little children will be eligible.

We already have staff employed, all the assessment tools are being developed, so it’s just wrong. I’m amazed that somebody who supposedly, and would’ve known what he was voting for when he supported the National Disability Insurance Scheme legislation, would say such a thing.

FRAN KELLY: People currently with disability or caring for people disability are looking at the future and hoping it looks brighter, but they’re worried about criteria. Later on the program we’ll be speaking with Sally Richards. She has a profoundly disabled son called Jackson. He’s 27 years old now. After years, literally years, of fighting for help and support they have just had funding approved for Jackson’s long-term care. Sally’s concerned she’ll have to go through this process all over again, now, to get reassessed for the NDIS. Is that right?

JENNY MACKLIN: There are two things I would say to her. One, we have heard this concern many times, and have done a couple of things to allay people’s understandable fears. One is that if people have care and support now we will guarantee, and we’ve got this agreed with the state, that there will be no reduction in that care. So people have been worried to know that what they have now won’t be reduced in any way, especially during any transition period. So I can give that guarantee to people.

I can also say that in the process of working out what level of care and support, what extra care and support you get, of course what we’ll do, the local people in the communities where we’re starting the scheme will do, is work through what people have now and what extra people need. So I think this issue is very, very well understood by the staff who are being employed.

FRAN KELLY: And, just finally, Minister, I think people too are keen to get a sense of when this help might be there for them.


FRAN KELLY: We have the pilot programs beginning on 1 July across a number of states. But when could all of those 410,000 people who you’re estimating will be covered in the immediate years by this insurance scheme, when would that cover be available?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, the first point I’d make is these are not pilots. This legislation has gone through the Parliament. There is already $1 billion to pay for the first stage of the scheme, the launch site. Ten thousand people in the Hunter, 5000 people in Geelong, 5000 children across South Australia, adolescents in Tasmania, all of these people will start to be covered from 1 July.

We have agreements now in New South Wales for everybody in New South Wales, so that’s 170,000 people, many of them will start to come into the scheme in 2016-17 after the launch in the Hunter. We have an agreement with South Australia for a full roll out as well. That will be completed by 2018, and we also have an agreement in the Australian Capital Territory for the whole of the territory to be covered within two years starting next year.

So agreements are continuing to be signed. We’re very pleased with the attitude of the states, and I hope that we’ll see further agreements with the remaining states in the near future.

FRAN KELLY: Minister, thank you very much for joining us on Breakfast.

JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you Fran.