National Disability Insurance Scheme
WALLEED ALY: Jenny Macklin, you’d have to say that thousands of Australians with disabilities and with family members with disabilities have every reason to be pretty disappointed about today’s announcement because you went into COAG today looking to announce four launch sites for the NDIS, only three have been launched. They’re small scale sites, two in very small states, one in an even smaller territory. None of the big states are participating. Why the inability to deliver?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well let’s look at the positives first. What was achieved today is the start of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and I am very pleased that we have South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT putting their hands up and also putting their hands in their pockets and making a financial contribution to people with disability and their carers in their states and in the ACT. So that’s very, very good news for those states. But it is also, I think, very good for the National Disability Insurance Scheme that we’re off and running.
It is very, very disappointing, I think a real slap in the face by the New South Wales and Victorian Premiers, that they did not agree today. I’ll just put the money figures to you and I hope demonstrate that the Commonwealth is serious in negotiating with New South Wales and Victoria.
The Commonwealth offered around 300 million dollars for the launch site or trial site in the Hunter, around Newcastle in New South Wales. New South Wales needed to put in 74 million dollars and today they refused, turning their backs on thousands of people with disability in the Hunter.
In Victoria the Commonwealth offered around 100 million dollars for a launch site in Geelong for around 5,400 people with disability. Victoria needed to put in 44 million dollars and they too turned their backs on the thousands of people with disability in Geelong.
WALLEED ALY: Okay, now I understand those points that you’re making but the Liberal states, New South Wales and Victoria chief among them, their argument is that, on money, the Productivity Commission has said that the extra funding should come from the Federal Government, not from the state governments. Do you dispute that?
JENNY MACKLIN: I certainly do. If you have a look at the Productivity Commission, it actually said that in return the Commonwealth should get what they call a ‘tax-swap’, that the states should offer up inefficient taxes to the Commonwealth in return for the Commonwealth’s funding. Now of course we’ve seen no such offer from the states or the territories.
WALLEED ALY: Have you asked for that from them?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I certainly have. I’ve had exactly that conversation with some of the state treasurers but none of them have put that forward. All of the states and territories say they support a disability insurance scheme but it has to be paid for.
The Commonwealth is prepared to pay more than our share. At the moment disability care and support is a responsibility of the states. That was agreed recently by the Premiers and the Prime Minister just a couple of years ago.
The Commonwealth at the moment provides around 30 per cent of the cost of disability care and support in the states. We’ve said we’ll do more, we’ve said we’ll do a lot more as part of the launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. In fact we’ve offered to pay 78 per cent of the start-up costs of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. And still we’ve got New South Wales and Victorian Premiers saying ‘No’.
WALEED ALY: Okay, but you can’t escape the criticism of not following the Productivity Commission’s advice, can you? Because the commission said you should be putting 900 million dollars in the first year and build the scheme upfront, right across the country. Instead you committed a billion dollars over four years to create some launch sites and deliver a Budget surplus which I think many people are entitled to say was related to that decision. Why wouldn’t you just follow the Productivity Commission’s advice right upfront?
JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve taken a different view on the timing. The Productivity Commission would not have seen people, individuals, with disability or their carers getting any extra support until 2014. The Commonwealth thinks that people with disability have waited long enough. And so we’ve changed the order of getting things on the ground. We think it’s better to spend some money as soon as possible on the ground in launch sites. So that’s why we did put a billion dollars- that’s a lot of money…
WALEED ALY: …over four years.
JENNY MACKLIN: Sure. It’s still a billion dollars more than anyone else has put in. A billion dollars over four years to make sure that we can both build the National Disability Insurance Scheme, so of course that means setting up all the infrastructure that’s needed, and the Commonwealth is making it clear that we will pay for 100 per cent of all those start-up costs, and then we’ll also have launch sites across the country.
WALEED ALY: Okay, can I just talk about Queensland though? The Premier Campbell Newman has been bemoaning the state of Queensland’s finances. I think yesterday he even described the financial situation of Queensland and making it the Spain of Australia. Here he is speaking at the COAG press conference this afternoon.
[Excerpt of earlier interview]
CAMPBELL NEWMAN: Should we put more in? You betcha. Do we want to put more in? You betcha. Can we put more in right now? No, I’m afraid we can’t. Why can’t we? Well go and ask Anna Bligh and Andrew Fraser.
WALEED ALY: Jenny Macklin, do you accept Campbell Newman’s statement when he says that he wants to put more money in? And also when he says that Queensland doesn’t have the money to do so right now?
JENNY MACKLIN: No, I don’t accept that at all. Budgets are all a matter of priorities and the Federal Government made our priorities clear in May by putting an extra billion dollars into the establishment of a National Disability Insurance Scheme. It was a very difficult budget for us. The Commonwealth too had to bring our budget back into surplus just as Campbell Newman is trying to do in Queensland. We’ve met our commitment to build a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Campbell Newman is saying to people in Queensland, ‘you just have to wait’. He is saying ‘I might think about it in a few years time.’ Well that’s no good if you already have to wait two of three years to get a new wheelchair or to get some respite or to be worried about where your son or daughter’s going to live when you die. You can understand why people with disability in Queensland are absolutely furious with Campbell Newman.
WALEED ALY: Jenny Macklin thank you. Thank you very much for your time.