Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

National Disability Insurance Scheme, WA Budget, Mr Ashby, Clive Palmer’s nomination for the Liberal Party in Lilley, conditions in Europe, strong community support for the NDIS – Doorstop, Brisbane

Joint doorstop with:

The Hon Wayne Swan MP
Deputy Prime Minister

TREASURER: It’s great to be here this morning at the largest disability enterprise in Queensland here run by Endeavour. The work done here is simply fantastic. It’s great to see that there’s something like 190 people employed here in this disability enterprise and really what this does is gives every one of them the capacity to come to work each day and to really do something worthwhile for themselves and for the community. From my point of view, and Minister Macklin’s point of view, and Yvette’s point of view, nothing could be more important than including Australians with a disability in what all Australians do which is go to work every day, earn a living, and to provide for their families.

In the recent Budget we put aside $1 billion for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. For the first stage of that scheme which will be an historic reform to disability services in Australia. Australians with disabilities have waited simply too long for the full support of their community. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is one way in which we can finally rectify the wrongs of the past and provide justice for Australians with a disability, which is why in the Budget we put $1 billion on the table. What we want to do is work with state governments and also with great community organisations like Endeavour to make this a reality for all Australians with a disability.

We have a report from the Productivity Commission and we are now acting on that report. We’re commencing one year early so we can put in place the first stage of the scheme and we’ve made this $1 billion available in what has been a difficult Budget.

We’re bringing our Budget back to surplus, we’re investing in the productive capacity of our economy, but we’ve also made room for this important reform, an important reform which we are absolutely determined to progress in the years ahead.

We’ve also put in place in this Budget a series of measures to spread the benefits of the mining boom right across our community. Additional payments for families from 1 July next year in terms of family payments. Additional payments for pensioners now in terms of the Clean Energy Package and also a Schoolkids bonus for all of those families that need to clothe their school children, that need to buy the school equipment, need to provide a calculator, get the school jumper. All of these are very important reforms in a very responsible Budget which is going to bring a lot of benefit to the families of Queensland but there’s nothing we’re prouder of than the $1 billion that we’ve put on the table for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. But before you want to ask me your questions I’ll just throw to Minister Macklin.

MACKLIN: Thanks very much Treasurer, and if I could first of all say a very big thank you to everybody here at Endeavour. We are really, really pleased to be able to come here today to congratulate you for the great work that you do and for the opportunities that you provide for 190 people to have a job, to earn a wage, and to make a great contribution to the local community. So a very big thank you to everyone at Endeavour.

It’s also terrific to be here with the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, Yvette D’Ath, Member for Petrie, both great advocates for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. What we know, as a Federal Government, is that the way we’ve delivered disability care and support in the past hasn’t been good enough. It hasn’t been good enough for people with disability or for families and carers and that’s why it was an extraordinary achievement, and I’d like to put on the record today here at Endeavour, our thanks to the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, for his leadership in getting $1 billion in the Federal Budget to make sure that we can start the first stage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

It is a very exciting time in our country, we’re finally going to start the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We want to work with the states and territories to deliver this major reform, a major reform that will see people with disabilities and their families and carers get the support and care that they need and deserve. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Why have you chosen Brisbane as the place to spruik the NDIS? Are you hoping that it will influence the Newman government in any way?

TREASURER: No I’ve been spruiking the NDIS right across Australia all week. So has Minister Macklin.

MACKLIN: So have I.

TREASURER: But it is the case that we do need the state governments to sit down with the Commonwealth Government to get this scheme in place. It can’t be done unless we have that cooperation. That’s why we put $1 billion on the table over the forward estimates, over the next four years and we will need to work with the states and there will need to be a state contribution to make this a reality. That’s just the facts of life.

We don’t want politics to get in the way of this. We want to get this rolled out and we want to cooperate with state governments so that we can get this going. I personally absolutely want to see one of these sites in Queensland if that’s possible in terms of the next couple of years. So I’ll be doing everything I possibly can to ensure that there’s a site in Queensland but it does require the cooperation of the state government here, as it requires the cooperation of the state government right around Australia.

I’ve been in every state in Australia, well not everyone, nearly every state of Australia, in the last five days. State governments are sitting down and thinking long and hard about what they will do to cooperate with the Federal Government to get the first stage processes in place. So we want to sit down with the state governments and do that, absolutely.

I’m here this morning because I’m particularly proud that this facility here, one of the best in the country, is right in the heart of my electorate.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)?

TREASURER: I’ll throw to Minister Macklin.

MACKLIN: We want to work with every single state and the territories in Australia because we want to build a National Disability Insurance Scheme. As the Treasurer has indicated we are wanting to talk with all the states and territories, staff from my department have already been in contact with officials from every single state and territory. The detailed work is now underway and that will take place over the next few months.

JOURNALIST: How much support will rural Queensland see?

MACKLIN: Well, we certainly want to work with the Queensland Government to see the first stage happen in Queensland if we can, but it will require the Queensland Government to step up. The Queensland Government contributes the least of all the states to the cost of disability care and support for Queenslanders with disabilities. So they’ve really got to pick up their game.

JOURNALIST: By how much?

MACKLIN: If you compare Queensland to the benchmark state of Victoria there’s about $2,500 – $3,000 difference per person. So it’s a big increase but we know that that’s a fair thing for the other states that Queensland pick up its game and contribute for the care and support of people with disabilities here in Queensland.

The Commonwealth is putting $1 billion on the table. We’re prepared to meet 78 per cent of the first stage cost of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We think that is a very generous first stage offer and we’re calling on the states to come to the party including Queensland so that we can start to see improvements in this state.

JOURNALIST: Mr Swan what do you make of the WA future fund and is that something you’ll consider on a Federal level?

TREASURER: Well, it’s been interesting to listen to what the West Australian government has been saying because they have been saying their revenues are down and suddenly they’re now saying they’ve got an excess of revenues which they want to put in the Future Fund. In terms of our Budget, our revenues were down. They’ve been down dramatically and as the consequence of that, we’ve had to put in place savings in our Budget to make sure we could have room to spread the benefits of the boom right around the economy to every corner of our country which is why we’re increasing Family Tax Benefit payments to all families from 1 July next year. It’s why we’re doing the Schoolkids Bonus. That’s our priority, to spread the benefits of the mining boom, not just to the people in the fast lane but to a lot of those people that feel like they’re not in that boom at all but it’s somebody else’s boom. So that’s their priority. Our priority is to spend the benefits of the boom right across the country to every corner of the country and every corner of every city whether it’s Brisbane or Perth.

JOURNALIST: Do you think though that you should be putting some of that aside for the future when the boom doesn’t actually end?

TREASURER: That’s why we’re bringing our Budget back to surplus and we will continue to build our surpluses in the years ahead. That’s precisely what we’re doing. There’s a debate about whether you build up surpluses and put them in some sort of sovereign wealth fund or not. Our priority is to bring our Budget back to surplus, spread the benefits of the boom to many of those people that aren’t in the fast lane of the boom, the sort of people that are really under cost of living pressure. The people with a couple of kids that have got to feed and clothe those children, they’ve got to put them into their school uniforms and all those sorts of things. So we recognise that with the Schoolkids Bonus which is going to go to hundreds of thousands of families here in Queensland. The additional family payments will go to hundreds of thousands of families here in Queensland and of course the initial payments to pensioners which are going out in the next month in terms of the Clean Energy Package.

JOURNALIST: Treasurer, what do you think about the Opposition Leader reprimanding Barnaby Joyce over his comments to do with Mr Ashby?

TREASURER: Well, I wasn’t aware that the Opposition Leader had done that to Senator Joyce. I think there are some in the Coalition who’ve got a lot of explaining to do and a lot of questions to answer. I mean, the relationship for example, the nature of the relationship between Mr Pyne and Mr Ashby is one that does need some real answers supplied by both Mr Abbott and Mr Pyne. Far from getting stuck into Barnaby Joyce, they ought to look at themselves and see what they’ve been up to.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that this never should have become a political issue?

TREASURER: Well, I don’t think it should have become a political issue. The way it has been handled, particularly by the Opposition, is negative and I think unbecoming of our Parliament.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) specific push for funding to support businesses such as Endeavour and I suppose the old hand up rather than a hand out?

MACKLIN: There certainly has. This Government is absolutely dedicated to seeing people with disabilities getting to work whether it’s through disability enterprises like the great work that Endeavour does, but we’ve also taken the cap off the disability employment service. We want to do everything we possibly can to help people with disabilities into work.

When we came into Government there was a cap on the number of places in disability employment services. Under Mr Howard, people had to wait a long time to get help and into work. We’ve taken that cap off. We’re helping people into work. We’re providing subsidies to employers to encourage them to take people with disabilities into their businesses. We’re working on a number of fronts to encourage people with disabilities into work. They want to work, we want to help them get work.

JOURNALIST: Mr Swan, the Australian Government Solicitor has put a submission into the court regarding Ashby’s complaint. Does the Government support this? Do you back it or is (inaudible)?

TREASURER: Look these are court processes which I wouldn’t comment on. The processes here are the processes that apply under any government. This is what would happen if someone lodged a court document involving the Australian Government. There’s nothing particularly different about what the Australian Government is doing now.

JOURNALIST: This is the Government Solicitor.

TREASURER: That’s right.

JOURNALIST: He’s working for the Government.

TREASURER: And responding to a case which has been brought by someone against the Government and doing it in a way in which they normally do it. There’s nothing unique. There’s nothing political about it. It’s how the Australian Government solicitor works within the legal system.

JOURNALIST: Are you distancing yourself from that?

TREASURER: No I’m not. The Australian Government Solicitor responds to these types of court documents in the way in which they’ve responded to this one, every day of the week under this Government and the previous government.

JOURNALIST: Nominations for federal pre-selections is starting. Are you concerned that you might be running against Palmer in the seat of Lilley?

TREASURER: Well, Mr Palmer and Mr Abbott are hand in glove the whole of the time. I mean, the LNP in Queensland has been bought lock, stock and barrel by Mr Palmer. He owns them, I guess. So it’s no surprise that Mr Abbott wants to give Mr Palmer a tax cut by abolishing the MRRT and of course wants to take away tax cuts for average working Australians equally by abolishing the tripling of the tax free threshold. I look forward to the contest here in Lilley with Mr Palmer. I hope he’s got the courage of his convictions. I hope he runs like he says he will, so that Australians here locally can choose between a Member of Parliament committed to helping low and middle income earning Australians and someone like Mr Palmer who just wants to stick up for the billionaires.

JOURNALIST: He said that he’ll be running a grass roots campaign. Do you think you can compete with that given your federal commitments?

TREASURER: I noticed that Mr Palmer put a tweet out a couple of days ago saying that he would be visiting Lilley next week. The only time he ever visits Lilley is when he lands in his jet at Brisbane Airport and sometimes when I fly in I see Mineralogy on the tarmac and that’s the closest Mr Palmer usually gets to the households and families in Lilley. So if he finally decides to go out and meet some of them next week I’ll be delighted.

JOURNALIST: Your Budget announced two weeks ago, how much did it account for (inaudible)?

TREASURER: Well, it did take into account that there would be a recession in Europe, that’s there in our forecasts. Our forecasts had negative growth in Europe of 0.75 per cent. They were contained in the forecasts that we published last week. We have anticipated a very long and painful adjustment in Europe over the next year and beyond. What’s important for people to understand is that we are forecasting growth of 3.25 per cent next year and we’re doing that taking into account all of these events in Europe. Our economic fundamentals are strong, growth around trend, contained inflation, very strong investment pipeline, solid consumption. That’s in stark contrast to everything going on in other developed economies particularly in Europe.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)?

MACKLIN: We’re certainly working with the Public Service Commission and my own department has a particular desire to see increased numbers of people employed in the public sector. We do think that that is a good idea. In fact I was speaking at a disability forum in Sydney just the other day with businesses and with the Public Service Commission on exactly this issue. So we certainly want to see an increase in the number of people with disability employed both in the public sector and in business.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)?

MACKLIN: Well, not with quotas, but certainly with increased effort by businesses and by public service departments.

JOURNALIST: Is there another plan b if the state government doesn’t work with you for the (inaudible)?

TREASURER: Can I just say that I think there is tremendous community support for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. As I’ve moved around Australia, and I’ve moved around my local area here, I think there’s really strong community support. So I think any state government that starts to play politics with the putting in place of the National Disability Insurance Scheme will meet a wall of community opposition.

So I would certainly urge state governments across the board to be constructive. This is an historic reform for Australia and we’ve got to get it in place. It is complex policy. It’s very difficult to do and what we need is everybody pulling in the same direction and that’s what we hope to achieve by talks with the state governments. That’s the spirit we bring to this discussion.

JOURNALIST: So there is no plan b then?

MACKLIN: We want it to work.

TREASURER: Let me say this. It is impossible for this to occur unless the state governments put their shoulder to the wheel as well.

JOURNALIST: So does that mean that you’re ruling out a levy at all?

TREASURER: We’ve already put $1 billion on the table over the forward estimates. A year earlier than the Productivity Commission recommended and we decided to do that to demonstrate our strong support, our faith, and our commitment. And we need to see the same support, faith and commitment from state governments. I know we’ve got it from the community sector. It’s really strong. I know we’ve got it from the wider community. We now need to see that from state governments. So we will sit down and have these discussions in the national interest and in good faith. Thanks a lot.