Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Joint press conference with Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister


Subjects: DisabilityCare Australia; Medicare levy; Federal budget; Government advertising

PM: I’m delighted to be here with the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan and the Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin.

And we are here today to make an important announcement, an announcement that is important for all Australians.

Every Australian lives with the prospect that at some time in their lives they, or one of their family members could be confronted with a profound disability.

A child born into your family with cerebral palsy, an older relative who gets one of the debilitating diseases that can come with older age.

Someone who has an accident and acquires a brain injury as a result.

At the moment, in our nation if this happened to you or one of your family members, whether or not you would get the care you needed would depend.

It would depend on the circumstances in which you acquired your disability, it would depend on where you lived in Australia. It would depend on your family’s income and the ability of your family to provide support for you.

It would depend on whether the patchwork of services out there managed to meet your needs, whether you got in before they reached their cut-off and could assist no-one else.

Whether what you wanted fitted with what they were able to provide.

We are determined to change all of that, to create a new body, DisabilityCare, which would ensure that the current underfunded fragmented system of services is replaced and replaced for the long term.

That Australians with profound and significant disabilities would get the support that they needed and that that would give their families and carers the peace of mind they need to know that their loved one is getting appropriate support.

This is a big agenda for change and we have been working on it step by step.

On 1 July this year DisabilityCare will launch in a number of locations around Australia and then we want to move from those launch arrangements to a full national scheme.

We’ve also been frank that that will take some years and that we need to work with our State and Territory counterparts to get it done. But we are very determined that it should be done.

Not only as a matter of fairness for the 410,000 Australians who currently have a disability, but as a support for every Australian because we never know what life’s chances and life’s risks might bring for us or our families.

Many Australians, of course, would say yes we should have DisabilityCare, we should build on Labor’s great Medicare model to create a new system of supporting people with disabilities.

That’s when the choices come in about how you fund DisabilityCare for the long term.

So I’m here today to announce that the choice that I and my colleagues have made is that DisabilityCare should be supported by a 0.5 per cent increase in the Medicare levy. That’s an increase of half a per cent.

What that means is for an Australian who is on an average income of say $70,000 a year, that they would be asked to contribute around $1 a day in extra Medicare levy to create DisabilityCare, to get the peace of mind that will come with knowing that there are support services for them or their families if they ever confront a disability during their lifetimes.

What this will enable us to do is to raise money through this increase to the Medicare levy.

All of the money raised will be put in a special fund for DisabilityCare. It will be put in a special fund and only spent on DisabilityCare and its creation and the rollout of services.

The first day on which this increase in the Medicare levy would come into effect would be 1 July 2014. Every cent raised would be spent on DisabilityCare.

As I said earlier, we do need to work with the States and Territories to get DisabilityCare rolled out across Australia.

We’ve been seeking to enter agreements with States and Territories for them to step up their efforts, to reach appropriate benchmarks, to roll out this new system of care for Australians with disabilities in their jurisdictions.

Some States have already said that they will step up, others are considering it. But we understand that this too is putting pressure on State budgets.

So we are intending to make grants from this new fund to States and Territories equivalent to a quarter of the amount raised. So a quarter of the amount raised would be used for grants to States and Territories.

Those grants would be used to assist States and Territories with the costs that come with building up to the full scheme in States and Territories.

The arrangements that I’m announcing today for the support of States and Territories are ten-year arrangements; at the end of ten years when the system is well and truly in full operation then there would be an appropriate review of the shares between the Federal Government and the State Government in supporting DisabilityCare.

To announce what we have today, we have needed to make a choice, and I will be asking the nation in September to make a choice too.

To endorse this plan, to make sure that we support DisabilityCare around Australia.

Now it is true that last year I had hoped that we could fund what we needed to do for DisabilityCare out of the money that was already available to government, that we could do it through savings.

And of course, we have been working long and hard on responsible savings, things like the changes we’ve made to the private health insurance rebate to free up money for priorities like DisabilityCare.

But I do today say that I have thought about this deeply and I have changed my mind. I’ve changed my mind for three reasons.

First, it is clear from what I said to the nation on Monday that the amount of tax money coming to the Government is not what we expected.

Second, through my dialogue with the States and Territories it has become clearer to me the dimensions of the fiscal ask we are putting on States and Territories and that we will be able to see the national rollout of DisabilityCare occur more easily if there is some more support for States and Territories to get it done.

And third, I have heard loud and clear the calls from disability advocates, from the disability sector, from people with disabilities themselves, from their family members, their friends and carers, to make sure that there is peace of mind and security around funding arrangements for DisabilityCare.

Now I do want to be clear, the amount raised from the additional Medicare levy will not fund the full cost of DisabilityCare when it’s in full operation.

The Government will need to make savings for that full cost and there will be no free ride for States and Territories. They will need to step up too.

But the announcement we are making today does enable us to get this done for the nation and I will be asking the Australian people to endorse this choice in September.

I’ll turn now to the Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister for some further details.

DPM: Thanks very much, Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister has gone through a fair bit of the detail so I just want to make a couple of pretty important points but also to make the remark that I’m really proud to be here with the Prime Minister and our Families and Disabilities Minister because this is an historic day.

It’s a historic day for the 410,000 Australians who have got a permanent or severe disability, but it’s much larger than that. It’s for their families and their friends as well.

Because in this area there has been such a tremendous amount of unmet need, which has caused enormous angst for so many families over a long period of time, and this goes to the core point that the Prime Minister made about why there needs to be a stable, secure funding stream.

That’s why this announcement today is so important.

A stable, secure, funding stream that gives the capacity not just to Commonwealth but also to the States to ramp up their additional expenditure which is required over the next few years.

The advantage of this fund is that all of the money raised from the levy goes straight to the fund and cannot be used for any other purpose.

What that means in the early years is that the funds accumulate, then as the scheme comes on, as the States get more deeply involved, as the Commonwealth spends more money and more resources, there is a fund to kick-start those activities so that when it comes to 18/19, which is the first full year of the scheme right around the country, we’ve got the critical mass to support this vital reform.

And I guess that’s the importance of the decision that we’re taking today: that every dollar in this fund goes to DisabilityCare.

And as the Prime Minister said, we are also putting in place arrangements where the States will receive a share of the fund.

That is important to assist them to get up and to get running. I don’t think there’s going to be too many premiers with any excuses left after this announcement today when it comes to signing up for DisabilityCare.

What the Commonwealth is clearly saying is ‘you can have a share of this fund once your expenditure moves over the critical benchmarks that have been established for this scheme.’

So in that sense this is a recognition that we’re all in this together and we want the States to join us, those that haven’t yet signed up to join us, to make this truly national.

And I think as the Prime Minister indicated, this is a logical extension of the arrangements that are in place with Medicare because this is, if you like, one of the last big social reforms that needs to be put in place in our country.

Because everybody here is absolutely aware that there are more and more people living in our community with severe and permanent disabilities.

This is an issue of participation, not just in society but also in the workforce. A lot of discussion around at the moment about productivity.

This is a big productivity enhancing reform making sure that tens of thousands of Australians that have been excluded from participation in our work force as well as our society have a better opportunity to do just that.

And of course, we are asking people to pay a little more. To pay a little more to do a lot more for a group of Australians who have been left behind.

I would just like to make the point that in terms of the tax cuts that this Government has put in place and tax reforms, they are substantial and they have delivered substantial amounts of money, particularly to those on lower middle incomes and yes, this will cost some of those people a little bit more but for that a very important reform which brings peace of mind to so many Australians.

So today I think with this decision we are recognising the hard work and the contribution of literally tens of thousands of Australians who have laboured long to make sure that this sort of reform became a reality for people who have been excluded from our community for far too long.

And that’s why I’m proud to be here today with the Prime Minister and Minister Macklin, who in particular has made such a significant contribution.

Because it’s not just what’s been done today, it’s what’s been done in recent years as well.

The billion dollars, for example, in last year’s budget to get this scheme cracking. With those few words I’ll throw to Jenny.

MINISTER MACKLIN: Thanks very much, and thank you, Prime Minister and Treasurer.

I just want to take a moment to explain why it is so important that we have this decision today.

There’s a family that lives around the corner from me here in Melbourne. Mum and dad, Rod and Janette, and they have an adult son Thomas.

Thomas has been severely disabled since birth. He is looked after by his mum and dad, they have to get up three or four times a night to turn Thomas so that he doesn’t get bed sores.

They have to wash and toilet him, they have to feed him through a tube because he can’t swallow anymore.

Rod and Janette have explained to me how hard it is for them to get respite, how hard it is for them to get even a couple of days off.

They’ve also explained to me that they’ve had to fund raise to get a new wheelchair for Thomas as he’s grown into a young man.

His old wheelchair was causing him terrible pain and because they were having to wait so long for a wheelchair they decided to raise the money themselves for a new wheelchair.

This is the reality for families and carers, for people with disability in Australia at the moment.

This is why we need DisabilityCare Australia, the national disability insurance scheme.

DisabilityCare is being built in the Labor tradition, as we built Medicare and as we built our social security safety net.

It’s there because we know disability can strike any one of us at any time.

A child can be born with a severe disability, a person can have a terrible accident or get an illness that leaves them with a profound disability.

That’s why this decision today is so important. It means that each and every one of us is contributing to the security and peace of mind that will say to every Australian if disability should strike you or your family you will get the care and support that you need.

So today’s decision will deliver what so many people have been waiting for.

I do also just want to briefly deal with some of the media speculation that’s been around today about further possible changes to the disability support pension.

I know that this is of serious concern to people with disability and carers and their families in this country, so I want to deal with it here.

I want to say to those families that there will not be any further changes to the disability support pension in the upcoming budget.

This Government has already delivered significant reforms to the disability support pension.

We introduced major changes to the impairment tables which had not been done for 20 years, we also took the cap off the disability employment service.

These major reforms that this Government has delivered in previous budgets has meant a significant change in the grant rate for people coming on to the disability support pension.

In fact, we’ve seen a 20 percentage point drop in the number of people coming on to the disability support pension.

So major changes have been delivered but I do want to reassure those people who need the disability support pension and their families and carers that this very important part of the social security safety net will remain.

PM: We’re happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Do you regard this in any way as a broken promise? Why are you so quick to rule out a levy earlier?

PM: Well I did have a discussion with state premiers in what is normally a confidential format which is the dinner at the Council of Australian Governments meeting.

At the time I thought there was potentially some politics being played and some distractions from the efforts that States would have to go to, to lift the services in their States.

It’s no mystery that we as a Federal Government have been very concerned about low levels of services around the country but particularly in places like Queensland where there’s been a long-term pattern of under-investment in disability services.

I’ve worked through with my colleagues to make sure that we make the right decisions about long-term funding here and the right decision is the one that we’ve announced today.

So I’ve made it for three reasons. There’s less tax money available to government than we were expecting.

All of the work we’ve done with States and Territories, and that’s been very in-detailed work now on their expenditure and their budgets has made clearer and clearer to me the dimensions of the ask for States and Territories to not only get up to the benchmark, which everybody has to do, but then to fund the growth as we roll this out for everyone around Australia.

So the dimensions of the challenge there.

And third, and I think this is absolutely legitimate, obviously people with disabilities and their families worry that something is good as this starts and then it gets whittled away, taken away over time so there’s a few years when things get better and then they go back to being as they were before.

I do want to give some security to those families around how this will be funded.

Now, this is the choice I’ve made and it’s not an easy choice. I know I’m asking Australians in their millions to step up to paying an increase in the Medicare levy.

Australians will be able to ask of themselves that question when they vote in September whether or not they think it’s worthwhile, just like Medicare is, where we all contribute and we all benefit to have DisabilityCare, where we all contribute and we all benefit.

JOURNALIST: On that point Prime Minister, do you think there are votes in what you’re announcing today?

PM: This is the right thing for the nation.

I want to just be clear with people about the nature of the choice and then they will make it.

JOURNALIST: Can you clarify whether this will cover people with mental illnesses as well as intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities, and is it your plan to legislate this before the election?

PM: We’ll go to Jenny on eligibility for the scheme.

MINISTER MACKLIN: The legislation for the national disability insurance scheme passed the parliament at the end of March.

JOURNALIST: I’m talking about the levy.

MINISTER MACKLIN: I know that, but the eligibility for the scheme was the first part of your question and it does cover people with permanent disabilities including those with permanent mental illnesses, intellectual disability, physical disabilities, yes, it covers those people.

The Prime Minister will go to the issue of the levy.

DPM: I just wanted to make the point that there is a greater public good here.

Yes, it’s not been an easy decision to take but it’s the right decision.

And when you take decisions like this, which sometimes are controversial, you lose some political paint.

The fact is this is in the interests of the country and most particularly in the interests of all of those people and their families with a severe or permanent disability.

Just going back to Mark’s question, the real importance of the national disability insurance scheme is that it has a thorough assessment process. That’s where the insurance part of the scheme comes from.

The way in which we assess the degree of impairment, if you like, the degree of severe disability, is critical to how funds are spent.

And I’d certainly like to reassure all Australians that the utmost rigour will be applied in this process.

That is terribly important, always to see that there is value for money and that the money goes absolutely where it needs to go.

That was at the core of the recommendations of the Productivity Commission, a process started by Bill Shorten who put a lot of work into this as well.

And I would urge people who are now looking again at what’s been going on here to go back and see the very early work that was put in, which is the foundation of the scheme.

I guess the thing that really changed for me and the Prime Minister was as we worked our way through this issue was to think about how do we set this down for the future? How do we make sure that there is a degree of certainty that people have craved in this area?

Anyone who knows an elderly couple such as Jenny was talking about before who live around the corner knows that the thing that worries them if they have got a family member. What happens when they’re not here?

And what the national disability insurance scheme is all about is answering that question.

But it takes a substantial amount of time to get it up and running and as you do that you’ve got to have the policy rigour at the core of it.

PM: Just on the legislation, this is to start on 1 July 2014, so the legislation can be dealt with in the next Parliament. Australians will have an opportunity to make a choice in September this year.

JOURNALIST: How much is actually being raised with the levy and how much will you need to raise in savings to meet the shortfall?

DPM: I can give you all the detail later, so we’ll get a little scrum up the back and go through it.

In terms of amount raised, $20 billion between 2014-15 and 2018-19.

Now of course the money will come in early when expenditure is low but it remains in the fund so that when the fund gets to, if you like, critical mass, when the scheme gets to critical mass in 18/19 we will then start drawing down those funds to support the very extensive activities which are ramping up.

You may not be aware, and Jenny Macklin can talk about this, but the trials are starting now. They’re informing how we go about constructing the scheme but the aim is to have the scheme fully operational in 18/19.

So monies will build up in the fund then they will be drawn down as it becomes fully operational. In terms of the Commonwealth, yes it’s $3 billion in the first year, but in terms of the Commonwealth this will fund as you go out past the full operation of the stage about 60 per cent of our additional expenditure.

In terms of the States, I can tell you over a ten-year period what they would get out of the fund.

New South Wales $3.2 billion, Victoria $2.3 billion, Queensland $1.9 billion, Western Australia $976 million, South Australia $727 million, Tasmania $216 million, ACT $192 million, Northern Territory $92 million.

All of this detail will be available later but it is really important that you understand that the fund builds up, the scheme is in its early stages and then the monies are there as the scheme becomes more mature and fully operational.
JOURNALIST: You just said that you are not intending to bring legislation before the parliament before this coming election?

PM: This can be dealt with in the next parliament, there is time.

Obviously we will see what the responses are in the parliament as to what people’s dispositions are on the legislation but I anticipate that this legislation will need to be dealt with in the next parliament.

JOURNALIST: Is that because of a lack of certainty that the crossbenchers would support a levy?

PM: It’s a commitment we are making to the Australian people and the Australian people get an opportunity to have a say on it.

JOURNALIST: Is there a danger that you’re raising expectations from a very vulnerable group in the community that the levy starts next year, you’re still in the phase of having pilot programs and the full scheme doesn’t roll out for a long time, you will have a very tight conditions about who is allowed in and who is allowed out.

Is there a danger that a lot of families are going to think they’re going to get a lot of help quickly from this scheme, they might have to wait a long time?

PM: I will turn to Jenny but let me make some comments too.

We have been crystal clear with people all along, that this was going to take some time to build.

We’ve worked hard to accelerate the period that the Productivity Commission identified, but the Productivity Commission itself said this is a huge thing to do.

Just the same way Medicare was a huge Labor initiative, this is a huge change for our nation and it will take some time to build.

We decided to get started a year earlier than the Productivity Commission recommended because we were so keen to get a start.

And then we have been very clear with people that there will be launch sites and we will learn things from those launch sites.

The one here in Victoria which will show us how it works in a regional area, the one in New South Wales which will also show us how it works in a regional area.

The one in South Australia that shows us how it works for children.

The one in Tasmania that shows us how it works for young people, adolescents becoming adults in that time in their lives where like children generally they want to start making some more of their own decisions and have their parents make less for them and they want to exercise more independence, how does this scheme work then?

Obviously the ACT is a discrete jurisdiction we can learn things from too.

And now we’ve entered an arrangement with the Northern Territory to learn some things about remote service delivery.

So we’ve always said we would do the launch sites, we would learn from the launch sites, and then we would move into the ramp-up of the scheme.

So there is nothing the Government’s ever done other than be very clear with people about the timeframes here.

As Jenny says, the legislation’s gone through the Parliament, which defines some of the eligibility questions that you go to, so there’s words of law for people to look at about how the scheme is going to work.

So there are good sources of information around, and I would urge people and I am very conscious that there are 410,000 people around the country who hang off every word when we talk about DisabilityCare.

I would urge people and their families and carers to get the benefits of all that information. We will just go to Jenny briefly.

MINISTER MACKLIN: Did you want to ask some other detail before I answer any more?


MINISTER MACKLIN: You’re dead right to concentrate on the issue of security because for people with disability they do want to know that this is coming.

And, as the Prime Minister has just outlined, for 26,000 people around Australia it’s about to start being a reality on 1 July.

So here in Victoria, down in Geelong, around 5,000 people will start to become eligible for DisabilityCare from that date, from 1 July.

We are launching the national disability insurance scheme, DisabilityCare Australia.

For 10,000 people in the Hunter, 5,000 children in SA, and so the list goes on.

I think very importantly the other big security that people with disability have as a result of the agreements with the New South Wales Government, with the South Australian Government and with the government in the ACT, we now have agreements for the introduction of the full rollout of DisabilityCare across all of those jurisdictions.

That means by 2018/19, we will have delivered to all of the people with disability and their families in those States all of the things that DisabilityCare will deliver for them.

We hope that we will get agreements with other jurisdictions shortly.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’re not going to legislate this before the election. It’s a pretty gutsy decision going into the election on what is effectively a policy to increase taxes.

PM: It’s the right decision for our nation’s future and that’s why we are standing announcing it today so people can judge it and weigh it.

It’s the same proposition that Labor fought for election after election because we were so bitterly opposed by the Liberals.

It’s the same proposition we fought for on Medicare, which is that we all contribute and we all share.

That is what Medicare is about. That’s what the Medicare levy is about.

In the modern age of course the Medicare levy does not pay for all our Medicare or health care expenditure but the fundamental principle of the Medicare levy is we all put in and we all take out because we all need services in the community like GPs, we’ve all got an interest in how our hospitals are going.

In accordance with that Labor principle that we fought for with Medicare, we are prepared to fight for this, for the principle that we all put in and we all share a risk that every Australian faces.

And lots of people, particularly younger people, like to think that they’re bulletproof and that nothing bad is ever going to happen to them but I think all of us at the age in life many of us in this room are, all of us would know someone who had a child born into their family with a profound disability.

We have seen many friends have healthy babies and then there’s the one friend you know who has a child with a disability and it completely changes their life and their family’s life and their expectations about the future.

I think we all know someone in our family or in our circle of friends who has got that dreadful diagnosis, whether it’s Parkinson’s or MS or one of the really debilitating diseases that can forever change someone’s expectations about what it is to age and what the rest of their life is going to bring them.

The kid that did something they thought was fun and amusing at the time – diving off a pier into shallow water and ends up with an acquired brain injury that actually changes the rest of their lives and the rest of their families’ lives.

When any of us could face up to that, it is the right thing for all of us to share some of the costs and that is what we’re asking the Australian people to do.

JOURNALIST: The 2012 budget included a billion dollars for the trial, over four years, can you explain how this funding works? Does that pay for the rollout now? At what stage can you start spending from the fund, talking about critical mass (inaudible). At what stage do you spend from it?

DPM: The profile of all of that is being settled but we’ve effectively already spent a billion dollars and we’re not seeking to recoup that either from the fund.

But what we will do is we will draw down from the fund for the additional expenditure we are putting in both State and Federal. The States are entitled to around 25 per cent of the fund over time.

The great bulk of that money will come to the States after they’ve met the basic standard. So it will come in a couple of years’ time.

But it is there when they have to put in there when they have to put in the big additional dollars to make the next leap. So it will draw down over time.

I am happy to give you the profiles and we will spend every dollar on these endeavours and nothing will be spent on anything else out of the fund.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, your opponent Mr Abbott says that you’ve had to impose this levy because you’ve mishandled the economy and that it should be paid for, the NDIS should be paid for, through consolidated revenue and that’s how he would do it.

I wanted to get your response to that and also if I could the Treasurer’s response to the BCA’s comments in similar vein today?

PM: Mark, thank you for your question.

On Mr Abbott’s views, we are talking about 410,000 Australians now, their families and their carers, and every Australian for the future.

So if Mr Abbott says that there is another way to do this, then he owes those people not platitudes, he owes those people precise facts.

So he can only stand by that claim if he publishes where he would cut to make available the amount of money necessary for DisabilityCare, not only now but into the long term when the scheme is up in full operation.

Where the money would come out of; would it come out of pensions?

Would it come out of other sections of health care?

Would it come out of education?

Would it come out of defence?

Would he put company taxes up?

What would he do to do the funding?

Now, this is really serious. It’s not for political platitudes and a slogan, it is not for the talking of nonsense.

I said before there are probably 410,000 people and their families and their carers who are concentrating on every word of this press conference because it means so much for their lives.

I feel that burden really acutely. Mr Abbott needs to shoulder that burden too and if he’s got a different way of doing this, spell out every dollar and every cent, otherwise he’s letting those Australians down and every Australian who wants to see this rolled out for the long term in our country, letting them down too.

DPM: Mr Hockey thinks it’s fair enough for there to be a levy to pay for a parental leave scheme for people on very high incomes but it’s not fair enough to have a modest levy to support the most disadvantaged Australians.

I think that says a lot about Mr Hockey and the Liberal Party and I’d also say I am profoundly disappointed with the reaction of the Business Council this morning, because they’ve got very little to say about Mr Hockey’s levy, and they can’t support a modest levy to right this wrong and to make sure we don’t leave people with profound disabilities behind.

I am deeply puzzled by the approach of the Business Council on this question.

JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott suggested yesterday that you may have left the door open to increasing in death taxes or capital gains taxes on the family home. Any plans to do that?

PM: This is silly political games and we don’t have time for that this.

We’ve got to run the twelfth biggest economy in the world, we have got to create jobs and opportunities for Australians every day, we have to build for the future which is not assured and we have to treat our fellow Australians more fairly through things like DisabilityCare.

Politics at the end of the day is not about the quick grabs at press conferences in the hope of getting something negative on the nightly news. Politics at the end of the day is about values and it’s about facts.

We are putting our values on the table here today, we don’t think any Australian should be left behind and we’re prepared to make a big decision so that Australians with disabilities don’t get left behind and politics is about the facts.

We’re laying the facts out on the table today – how much it costs and how we are going to fund it by asking Australians to pay an increase in the Medicare levy.

Mr Abbott owes Australians the same courtesy. They are not children, they’re adults, they’re smart, they want the facts, he should give them the facts of his alternate approach.

JOURNALIST: The program may be the right thing to do, but is it the right time to do it considering there is so much debt at the moment?

PM: I will go to the Treasurer on the economics of it, but first and foremost if you were the family that Jenny spoke about that lives around the corner from her, what would you be saying about the timing for this?

If you walked out of this press conference and got some hideous news today about a family member or a friend, what would you be saying about the timing of this?

I am prepared to be judged by these choices.

Then on the question of the Government’s budget, and deficit and where the budget is, facts.

Did the global financial crisis happen?

If you say yes to that, did it have an implication for government revenues?

If you say yes to that, did we need to stimulate the economy to keep people working?

If you say yes to that then you have got the explanation about what’s going on with the Government’s budget and why we have had deficits in our budget and obviously we’ll deal with all of the figures on budget night this year.

So any person of reason seeking to explain where deficits came from needs to go through that.

Is anybody seriously denying the global financial crisis happened? Maybe Mr Abbott is. He can answer.

But everybody knows it happened. Is anybody seriously denying it had implications for government revenue or maybe Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey are they can answer that themselves.

Is anybody seriously denying we should have supported jobs? Clearly the Liberals do deny that because they voted against it.

We’re happy to be judged by that choice. We supported 200,000 jobs. That is the explanation about where we are along with the high Aussie dollar and some pressures on the economy.

Against that background, how do you make choices? You make choices that are important for people for the long term and you properly fund them and that’s what we’re doing today.

DPM: Just a couple of things on that because our debt is a fraction of the debt of major advanced economies.

When I sit around the table at the G20, they all look at us and see a government with a strong public balance sheet, they see a government with a triple-A credit rating from the three major agencies in the world.

Our country is rated as highly as any other advanced economy in the world when it comes to the strength of our public finances.

And Mr Abbott is not entitled to go round with his fiscal fear mongering about debt and reflect on the strength of our economy the way he does.

The truth is we have low unemployment, we have solid growth, we have a high investment pipeline, we have strong public finances and we have lower interest rates.

But yes, at the moment, revenues are down. The responsible thing to do is to keep our economy strong and to keep people in jobs.

So as a matter of choice because we have modest debt we support jobs and growth and in this budget we will put in place again a pathway back to surplus, consistent with our strong support for employment.

900,000 jobs created in Australia since the end of 2007. That demonstrates our priority.

Conditions change in the global economy from time to time and governments must change too if they wish to protect the security of their citizens.

So we’ve got a bright future. We’ve got some challenges with revenue in the short term but also we know if we make the smart investments for the future we can strengthen our economy for the long term and the thing to do in the circumstances we are in at the moment is don’t starve the future.

Make the investments and education which will drive the prosperity of the future and while you’re doing it, also do the right thing about people with disabilities.

JOURNALIST: On the question of stability and security because that is what you’re setting up here, the whole purpose is to give certainty to people with disabilities or who may develop disabilities over time.

Why don’t you then legislate when you have time in the parliament before the election which would dare any future Government to dismantle something which is then already in place, so really taking a promise to the next election.

PM: Hugh, with respect, I think you misunderstand the nature of our democracy.

Governments get elected and governments change legislation. That is what happens.

So if you make a choice, it’s a big choice, and it’s got consequences.

When people make their choice in September, they will be making a choice between me and a majority Labor Government with a clear plan for the nation’s future, including this plan for DisabilityCare, and the alternative.

JOURNALIST: Are you not bringing it to the parliament because it wasn’t a promise at the last election?

PM: I’m just being clear with you Hugh, you’re talking about the mechanics of legislation and I’m talking about the real world.
In the real world, governments govern and they make choices.

And if you change the Government, you change the choices that are made.

We’re standing for this choice: DisabilityCare and an increase of half a per cent in the Medicare levy.

If others want to stand for other choices, then they’ve got an obligation to be as clear and as detailed as we have been and then Australians will choose.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Labor once described government advertising as a cancer on democracy. You said you would end this practice. Now we’re heading into an election you’re talking about a range of government taxpayer funded advertising campaigns.

Why are you doing that and what protection is there that this is not just asking taxpayers to pick up a shortfall in Labor’s fundraising?

PM: Number one, I’ve seen some reports today bandying around figures which aren’t right. So fact number one.

Number two, we have put in place guidelines here about government advertising which never existed in the past, so the need for information can be worked through.

Number three, we will never engage in a propaganda campaign of the style and dimensions of Work Choices under the former government.

Thanks very much.