Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

6PR, Perth, Drive with Howard Sattler

Program: Drive

E & OE – Proof only

Subject: DisabilityCare Australia

HOWARD SATTLER: Jenny Macklin joins us, Disability’s Reform Minister. Hi, Jenny.

JENNY MACKLIN: Hello, Howard.

HOWARD SATTLER: Forgive the voice, sorry about that.

JENNY MACKLIN: [Laughs] that’s okay.

HOWARD SATTLER: It’s all about loving your little nephews and nieces.

JENNY MACKLIN: Ah, that’s pretty nice.

HOWARD SATTLER: Anyway, let’s move on. How are you going to pay for it? You’re going to be, what, $4.5 billion short of what’s required?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, as you know, it’s always been our view that this should be shared between the Commonwealth and the states. So the extra spend for the Commonwealth is around $5.4 billion. We do think that it should partly be paid for by this increase in the Medicare levy. And the rest we think we can afford from the Budget.

HOWARD SATTLER: You think or hope?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, no. We have obviously worked very carefully on this and we know how important it is to make sure that if we are proposing an increase in the Medicare levy that we do it only to the extent that we think it’s necessary.

HOWARD SATTLER: So let’s bed this down. It’s going, you agree it’s going to cost about $8 billion when it comes into operation?

JENNY MACKLIN: Across the whole of the country, that’s right.

HOWARD SATTLER: And you think you’ll raise how much through the Medicare levy increase?

JENNY MACKLIN: $3.3 billion a year.

HOWARD SATTLER: Leaving a hole of?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I don’t see it as a hole, that’s the point. So, the difference is obviously, as you said, but we think that we can afford that in the Budget.

HOWARD SATTLER: So we may have to go further into debt to pay for it then?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, I don’t think so. That’s the point that we’re making, that we think the Budget can pay for the difference, and I can assure you we have put a lot of effort into making sure that we are able to fund this for the future. I think the most important thing that people with disability want to know, which I’m sure is behind your questions, is they want to know that the money will be there, because they’re certainly fed up with waiting for a wheelchair or a respite place, or the care and support that they need.

HOWARD SATTLER: They’re also pretty concerned that you’re going to take about another year to introduce it, because they say, why can’t you introduce it? Why can’t you put a bill before the Parliament, before the election? Why can’t you?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, of course, that is a possibility. And if Mr Abbott would like to indicate his support for it, we will do that.


JENNY MACKLIN: The Prime Minister has said, if Mr Abbott will support it, she’ll introduce it straight away.

HOWARD SATTLER: Before the election?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, before the election.

HOWARD SATTLER: Because at the moment it looks a bit like wedge politics. It looks a bit like, oh we’ll make it an election issue because we might win some votes from the Opposition.

JENNY MACKLIN: No, quite the reverse.

HOWARD SATTLER: That’s what it looks like.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I’m sorry if that’s the case because actually we thought it was the right thing to do to put it to the people at the election. But if the Opposition want to support it then of course we’ll put it into the Parliament straight away. It can’t start being collected until the middle of next year. We’ve got a…

HOWARD SATTLER: …maybe the disabled people just want to know it’s passed the Parliament. They want to know it’s going to be a law.

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes. That’s understandable, and I understand their need for security. So really, we’ve indicated that we support an increase to the Medicare levy to pay for DisabilityCare. And if Mr Abbott would like to indicate his support, then the Prime Minister will put the legislation into the Parliament.

HOWARD SATTLER: Because I think you and I both know that, overwhelmingly, the Australian public would support this.

JENNY MACKLIN: I hope that’s right.

HOWARD SATTLER: There’s no doubt about it. I mean, who’s going to say that the disabled don’t need more help?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, that’s exactly true. There’s no doubt about that. They certainly do need more help.

HOWARD SATTLER: And their carers.

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right. Carers just don’t get enough support, and they don’t get enough support to have a break. And, of course, we know that people wait, sometimes years, for a wheelchair. So the system at the moment is definitely underfunded and broken.

HOWARD SATTLER: What do you think of someone who says, I don’t think I should have to pay for this? Someone who’s able-bodied?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I think we should all contribute, and that’s why we have decided that the best way to do that is with an increase in the Medicare levy.

HOWARD SATTLER: Now it was pointed out to me yesterday, by a father of a disabled child, that they’ll have to pay it too. But in saying this is going to be pretty tough on them, because they’re running pretty close to the wind anyway.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, that’s why we, of course, want to make sure that for people on the lowest incomes, they pay the least increase. And those who are able to pay more, will pay more. It’s a percentage increase.

HOWARD SATTLER: But isn’t it a fact of life that everybody who’s a taxpayer will have to pay.

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes. There are exemptions at the bottom for pensioners and so on.

HOWARD SATTLER: But even if you’ve got a disabled child, if you are a taxpayer, you have to pay.

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes. You pay on your taxable income. Of course we provide other supports for children with a disability.

HOWARD SATTLER: The question of, out of left field and from someone off air said, what is the definition of a disabled person? Because according to some pollies, politicians, there are four million disabled people in Australia. How is this determined and classified?

JENNY MACKLIN: The estimate of the Productivity Commission, when they did this big inquiry for us, was that around 410,000 people will be eligible for the national disability insurance scheme or DisabilityCare Australia. We have worked out the costings on that basis. The eligibility criteria are in the legislation, and the legislation went through the Parliament in March this year. And we were pleased that it went through with support right across the Parliament. So the eligibility is clear. There, of course, will be proper assessments done of what people’s needs are.

But, of course, every person with a disability is different. A person with Cerebral Palsy isn’t going to have the same needs as somebody with Down Syndrome. So we have to work through that with each individual and their families.

HOWARD SATTLER: It’s 410,000, not four million.

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s correct.

HOWARD SATTLER: Four million seemed extraordinary to me.

JENNY MACKLIN: No, it’s not four million. It’s 410,000. And that’s across Australia.

HOWARD SATTLER: So we’re at a point where, let’s just define this, if the Opposition said, we support it, you put a bill to Parliament before the election.

JENNY MACKLIN: We will. We’ll put it in straight away.

HOWARD SATTLER: If they haven’t committed to supporting it, you’ll wait until the election.

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s correct.

HOWARD SATTLER: Thanks for your time.

JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you, Howard.

HOWARD SATTLER: Jenny Macklin, Disability Reform Minister.