Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

National Disability Insurance Scheme; Council of Australian Governments; London Olympics

Joint doorstop interview with: Prime Minister Julia Gillard


PM: Can I say what a genuine delight it is to be here today, and we’ve met some remarkable Australians. I’m joined by Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Disability Reform, and I’m joined by our local members here, Darren Cheeseman the Member for Corangamite, Richard Marles the Member for Corio.

You can see people working hard behind us because we are in Dal Cafe. We’ve had the opportunity to meet with Marie, who’s played such a special role in not only conceiving of the possibilities of this place, but in bringing it together.

We’ve met with Tom and Noel and their parents to talk about what is being achieved here. And this is really giving us an insight into what the future can be for people with disabilities.

The work of this place is to offer job opportunities to people with disabilities, to give them training and support, to give them a purpose in life; job, somewhere to go, friends to be doing work alongside, a sense of achievement at the end of the day.

It’s a remarkable success story growing from the very small room that we’re in now to a thriving business and cafe.

I actually asked Darren and Richard what brings people here, whether they were aware of the remarkable work of this place for people with disabilities, and what they said to me is they come here for the great food and the great coffee. That’s how much of a success story it is.

This is really telling us something about what we as a nation can aim to achieve for people with disabilities. What we can do if we act with the appropriate care and concern for people’s futures.

If we give them options and choices about how they run their own lives. That’s what the National Disability Insurance Scheme is all about.

That’s why I’m pleased that we’re making a start and we will be launching sites for the National Disability Insurance Scheme in three parts of Australia. But I’m standing in a community that wants to be a launch site too.

I’m standing in a community that the Victorian Government has identified as a launch site. Indeed, the Victorian Government has been here with local Liberal members raising expectations amongst this community about people being involved in the trial.

That is, people having an opportunity to see change very soon.

We all know that that hope has foundered because Ted Baillieu, the Premier of this State, hasn’t been prepared to put an extra $40 million into the services in this region for people. He’s being asked to put $40 million into their direct care, and so far he’s refused to do it.

I’ll turn to Jenny Macklin now to give an update on the state of discussions, and I’d also like to acknowledge John Eren who is with us too.

MINISTER MACKLIN: Thanks very much Prime Minister, and I’d really like to join the Prime Minister in thanking everybody here in this fantastic cafe for having us today, and for giving young people with a disability the opportunity to learn a skill and to be independent and to have such a wonderful chance to work with other people and to provide such an outstanding service to the local community.

This is a very exciting time in Australia. We are starting the National Disability Insurance Scheme. From July next year it will start in South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. And we want it to start here in Geelong as well.

The Australian Government has announced that we’ll put $100 million into a National Disability Scheme launch site here in Geelong, for over 5000 people. $100 million of Federal Government money is there today for people in Geelong who need that extra care and support.

We’ve asked Mr Baillieu and the Victorian Government to make a contribution of $40 million; relatively the same contribution that the South Australian, Tasmanian and Australian Capital Territory governments are making.

So those governments have been prepared to put money on the table. We’re saying to South Australia, to Tasmania and the ACT we’re now ready to start in your states. But we want to start here in Geelong, and we also want to start in the Hunter in NSW.

Mr Baillieu and Mr O’Farrell need to put their hands in their pockets and put state money on the table so that we can make the National Disability Insurance Scheme real here in Geelong. Now our offer stays on the table.

If they want to come to the Prime Minister or to me and indicate that they now have their $40 million ready to spend here in Geelong, we’ll do the deal.

JOURNALIST: Why do you refuse to meet either Mr Baillieu or his ministerial representatives so far?

MINISTER MACKLIN: We’re ready to meet any time the Victorian Government – Mr Baillieu or his minister – puts money on the table. Yesterday we were available all day. They asked the Prime Minister for 24 hours, they have had their 24 hours. In that 24 hour period the officials met.

They agreed on the understanding about all of the numbers, all of the details of the offer, but we’re still waiting for the Victorian Government to put money on the table. The other states have put money on the table, they have a launch site. It’s now up to the Victorian Premier.

PM: Can I just add to that, I mean the unfortunate truth here is that Premier Baillieu and Premier O’Farrell are not being sincere. They’re not being sincere about these discussions.

To be sincere about these discussions they’ve got to come to the table and say what they’re prepared to do, what extra they’re prepared to put in for the care of people in this community and in the Hunter region in NSW.

And the unfortunate truth is they’re not being sincere with these communities.

Darren and Richard have been very clear with me as local members, a lot of expectation has been raised here about 5000 people getting the opportunity to participate in the trial of the NDIS, seeing a change in their lives, and then actually providing a pathway for the nation to a broader scheme.

People were rightly excited about that; a lot of expectations being raised. Well, if you’re going to raise expectation, then you’ve got to be sincere about meeting it.

Premier Baillieu is being asked for a modest contribution of $40 million over his budget period of four years.

Premier O’Farrell is being asked for a modest contribution of $70 million over his budget period of four years. It’s no more, proportionally, than their colleagues in other states have found themselves able to do.

So we just want to see some sincerity in their approach to discussions with us and to the representations they’ve made to the people of this community.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’ve accused them, effectively, of playing politics but aren’t you doing the same by refusing to meet them until they’ve agreed to stump up that $40 million?

PM: Well there is no point talking and not acting. I mean we can – you look at the people here. The people here are engaged in activities today.

I’m sure there was some talk when people decided that this was going to be a great way of helping meet the needs of people with disabilities, but that talk was followed up with action. Talk matters if it leads to action.

There won’t be action unless Premier Baillieu and Premier O’Farrell are prepared to be involved in the National Disability Insurance Scheme trial in a genuine way, and that means that they need to be prepared to put some resources into it.

And I do say again on the question of this community, and also the Hunter region in NSW, I mean, it’s the people of Victoria, the people of NSW, the people of these regions that have had their expectations raised by their Premiers about what their Premiers were going to do for them and all we’re asking is for them to live up to the expectations that they’ve put into the minds of their own community members.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of the Queensland suggestion of a levy-type system?

PM: I used the word before ‘insincere’ and there is no more appropriate word to describe the approach of Premier Campbell Newman here. Premier Newman’s approach is completely insincere.

This is the Premier, Premier Newman, who didn’t bother putting in a real bid for an NDIS trial site; who has the embarrassment of leading a state where the per capita spend on people with disabilities is the lowest for any state in Australia.

This is the Premier who’s just taken money out of services for people with disabilities – $6.50 that cab drivers used to get as an incentive to help a person with a disability – he has just ripped that away. And on top of that, today there is news of slash and burn cuts in his healthcare system.

So all of this from Premier Newman is insincerity designed to distract from the appalling approach he is taking to a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Not prepared to put in a proper bid, not prepared to spend one new cent, and he’s in the business of disability cutbacks.

JOURNALIST: Do you favour a levy though, or do you favour money out of general revenue. The full – here’s what Tony Abbott is saying – he’s saying the full scheme should be paid out of general revenue.

PM: Look we will make the appropriate arrangements out of the Commonwealth’s budget without a new tax, income tax, to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. But let’s not follow Premier Newman down this burrow.

All this is designed to do today is to get you to ask that question in the hope that the story you’ll put to air tonight won’t be about Premier Newman failing the people of Queensland, won’t be about Premier Baillieu and Premier O’Farrell.

All this is just a very callous attempt to distract from the real issue. The real issue here-

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: Let’s go to the question of certainty. In fact I might ask Jenny Macklin to talk about the discussions that were had in the lead-up to COAG on the long-term funding of the scheme, and having heard this you might want to reflect on why all of this issue has been raised now.

MINISTER MACKLIN: Thanks Prime Minister. We had a select council meeting of disability ministers and some state treasurers just over a week ago, and we talked about the options for full funding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The Council of Australian Governments had asked us to put forward different options so we did.

Then on the Friday of last week we had a call from the Minister’s office in NSW telling us that they did not want to talk about the full funding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme at the COAG meeting this week. They wanted that off the table, they wanted to focus just on how we were going to get the launch sites underway.

So let’s be very clear about what we’re talking about here today. We’re talking about getting the National Disability Insurance Scheme off the ground. It is going to start next year in three places in Australia, 10,000 people will benefit.

We want that to be increased to include Geelong and the Hunter.

But that depends on NSW and Victoria, and it is a complete furphy for them now to suggest they wanted to talk about full funding. They took it off the table.

PM: Can I just add to that. We will do, as we have done for big reforms in the past, make the appropriate arrangements on the Federal Budget. We have funded, you know, a huge reform agenda in health – $20 billion more in health.

We’ve doubled the amount of money going into school education. We’ve expanded the amount of money going into skills and into universities. We’ve, you know, increased the childcare rebate, we’ve put in new supports for families and the list goes on and on.

We are a Government with a proud track record of making hard budget decisions to support big reforms and we will do it again for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

But you just raise the question of the Leader of the Opposition’s position. Tony Abbott is the Federal Leader of the Liberal Party.

Tony Abbott today should speak to his Liberal colleagues and friends. He should speak to Premier Baillieu, a member of his political party, he should speak to Premier O’Farrell, a member of his political party and he should persuade them to put the money in.

If Tony Abbott isn’t prepared to say that it’s wrong for Premier Baillieu to not put $40 million in here, that it’s wrong for Premier O’Farrell to not put $70 million in, in New South Wales; if he isn’t prepared to call his colleagues wrong then I think people are going to doubt his sincerity about the National Disability Insurance Scheme as well.

JOURNALIST: Mr Baillieu said yesterday about (inaudible)

PM: Well spin, spin and spin from Premier Baillieu to get away from one just hard and immutable fact, he’s being asked for a modest contribution of $40 million.

Let’s go through the spin, spin and spin. What the Productivity Commission recommended was that the Federal Government should fund the scheme in circumstances where the states withdraw from the field of disability and provided new revenue sources to the Federal Government.

So when Premier Baillieu said that did he say that he was giving stamp duty across to me, payroll tax? If he wants to do the Productivity Commission report then he needs to do all aspects of it.

So unless he’s able to identify to you the revenue sources that he is giving over, all of this is spin.

On the question of, you know, figures and arrangements of the launch sites, why is it that going through the same process, the Premier of South Australia can come to COAG and shake hands and get it done, the Premier of Tasmania can come to COAG, shake hands and get it done, the Chief Minister of the ACT can come to COAG and get it done.

And with all of the resources of this great and sizeable state of Victoria, Premier Baillieu is unable to do it.

Explain that to me, that he’s got less public servants, he’s got less advisers, he’s got less people at his command than the Chief Minister of the ACT and the Premier of Tasmania?

This is spin; it is nonsense; because he doesn’t want you looking at the core issue.

And the core issue is just so blindingly simple. He’s being asked for $40 million over four years in the Victoria Government’s budget. That’s all it is.

He’s being asked to put $20,700 into care packages for people who live here. That’s all it is. Anything else – distraction, fudge, designed to try and get our friends in the media looking at other things that are wholly irrelevant.

JOURNALIST: There’s evidence that the Coalition is planning to decapitate the Labor Party by trying to weaken the next generation of Labor leaders by piling on the resources. Have they got any hope of doing that?

PM: Well it says everything about the priorities or the Liberal Party, that on a day we’re here trying to push through to get more trials for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, they’re all about war-gaming and the politics of the next election.

I’ll leave them with the values that that speaks to – it’s all about them – while we get on with doing the job for the people who stand behind us.

JOURNALIST: Just back on the, it is a relatively small amount over four years. So are you really saying that Barry O’Farrell and Ted Baillieu are just being stingy? Given the political heat they’ve been coping, why wouldn’t they agree or is it more about the process and the way they’ve been ambushed a bit on Wednesday?

PM: Well I absolutely reject this spin suggestion once again from the Premiers that there was anything other than a proper process here.

We would be very happy to talk about the hours and hours and hours and hours Federal officials, state officials and Minister Macklin herself, at the table with her state counterparts, have worked through these issues.

Look, I’m a Victorian, I live here, I chose to make this state my home when I was 20 which means I’ve been here a fair old time but let’s just put that to one side!

I’ve lived here for a long period of time. I understand this state well and all of the feedback I get about Victoria today is people think from the perspective of the State Government it’s adrift; that decisions don’t get made quickly, that they don’t get made well, that they don’t get made at all.

Premier Baillieu’s been asked for a fairly simple decision. Now we’ve made a decision, a billion dollars of new money. If Premier Baillieu was being asked for a proportionate amount, he’d be asked for something like $250 million. He’s being asked for 40.

Now you’re telling me, a competent state premier, after discussions between officials, can’t sit with the nation’s leaders and make a $40 million decision, a $40 million decision? Really, you’re trying to tell me that?

MACKLIN: I’ll just add a point on this because Victoria and New South Wales decided at the end of last week to join their two bids together and then from Monday refused to allow their officials to meet with the Commonwealth officials.

So not surprisingly, time was lost between that date and the date of the Council of Australian Governments. Yesterday we got officials together again to make sure that we all understood each other’s numbers – that’s been done.

It now is up to Premier Baillieu and Premier O’Farrell to make this modest contribution to the needs of people with disability.

This is what it’s all about – people with disability and their families, here in Geelong and in the Hunter need this extra money from Premier Baillieu and Premier O’Farrell.

The Commonwealth has put $400 million on the table for those two places. We stand ready to spend that money for those people and their families.

JOURNALIST: Wouldn’t it be better for those people involved if the Commonwealth just put in that extra amount on money?

PM: Why should Premier Baillieu say to the people here that they’re not worth any new investment from him? Why should he be able to say that, why should Premier O’Farrell be able to say that?

This is fundamentally a question of values, that’s what it really is about. We’re going through all of the mechanics of Commonwealth-State negotiations because people are interested and a lot of incorrect claims have been made.

But let’s step back from the mechanics of those relationships and say, what is this really all about?

Well at the end of the day, it’s about who you are and what you value. We have put the highest possible priority on getting a new deal for people with disabilities in our country.

We are asking Premier Baillieu and Premier O’Farrell to put a priority on people with disabilities too. And whilst the expenditure figures are modest, they’re not even prepared to do that.

So what does it say about their values, their perspectives, the attitude they take to the people who live in their state with disabilities, to their families, friends and loved ones when they won’t step forward for this quite simple decision? I think people are entitled to judge them on that.

And this is against a back drop where they sat at a table in April at COAG and said this is shared between the Federal Government and the states and here particularly, it’s against a backdrop where they come here to expectation raise about what they’re prepared to do for this community.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: I’ll take both those questions, two other topics.

Firstly, the current works at the Lodge and indeed at my home in Altona have been decided upon by our security people and they’re being worked on now.

As for the longer term repair issues for the Lodge, the timeline of that is still being worked on and it is sometime into the future. It’s not even known by me. But the current work is actually some security work, as is the work at Altona.

We are here with some pretty remarkable Australians but your question has got me to focus on some other pretty remarkable Australians that we will see proudly marching into that Olympic stadium.

So yes, we’re in the final countdown now. It’s not too many hours before people will be able to see the opening ceremony.

I’m really proud that we’re seeing Lauren Jackson take the flag and take us in. She’s a great leader and she’s going to be a great leader of the team as it proudly marches in wearing its green and gold and getting ready for the games to come.

Australians love sport, we love the Olympics, our athletes are made of great stuff and I know they’re going to do us absolutely proud.

Thank you very much.

MINISTER MACKLIN: Thanks very much.