Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

National Disability Insurance Scheme, polls, poker machine reform – Doorstop, Canberra

E & OE – Proof only

JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you very, very much for being here with us today on this very special day. If I can also say a very big thank you to everyone from the Woden School for having us here today and for the young people who have shown us how they’re using i-Pads to learn and also how they’re using the i-Pads to have fun, just like other teenagers right around Australia. It’s also great to be here with Andrew Leigh, the Member for Fraser, a great supporter of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, so thank you very much Andrew for joining us here on this very important day.

We were in Sydney yesterday and there were people with disabilities, people who are carers, friends and families, right around Australia, to hear the news that this Government is determined to introduce a National Disability Insurance Scheme. So from July next year, we will start with 10,000 people eligible for a place in the new National Disability Insurance Scheme, going up to 20,000 places from July 2014. So this Government is determined to make sure we make a difference for people with disabilities, for their families and for their carers.

In making these announcements, we also understand how important it is to involve carers, to involve people with disabilities, to involve those experts in the insurance sector, to make sure that we build this scheme in the best way possible. So we have previously announced the establishment of an advisory group, they are already up and running, but today I’m announcing the membership of a range of expert panels, to give us advice on some of the critical issues that really will inform the development of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

So one of the most important issues, for example, is eligibility – who is going to be eligible for a National Disability Insurance Scheme place, who will make sure that we get these decisions right. And so today we’re announcing a number of expert groups, including people from Carers Australia, who will be part of the range of people who will give us advice over the next 12 months as we build the National Disability Insurance Scheme. If I could thank everyone who has agreed to be part of these expert groups. It’s critical that we not only have your advice, but your expertise in involving as many people as possible right around Australia as we bring out this really exciting reform, a National Disability Insurance Scheme. People with disability, their carers, families and friends, have waited too long for this National Disability Insurance Scheme. We are very pleased to be now on the path to deliver this major commitment that will change peoples’ lives.

JOURNALIST: What sort of advice will you be hoping to get from (inaudible) ?

JENNY MACKLIN: Really first and foremost, the detail about, for example, eligibility for the scheme. One of the main concerns that a lot of people with disability and their carers have, is how they get into different types of care and support. One of the criticisms of the current arrangements is that people have to be tested and re-tested. That understandably just looks like a huge amount of red tape. The reason it exists in the current schemes is because there isn’t enough money. There isn’t enough money to go around. People are put in queue, after queue, after queue. We want to get rid of the red tape. We want to have a much smoother way for people to get access to care and support, so we’ll get advice from the expert panels about those sorts of matters.

JOURNALIST: Does that mean someone, or some will miss out? Do you have to draw a line in the sand?

JENNY MACKLIN: We will have to of course say who will be eligible, and who will be eligible for lesser supports. So for example, the Productivity Commission recommended that around 410,000 Australians will be eligible for, or should be eligible for long term care and support. These will be people with permanent and significant levels of disability. So that of course needs to be carefully defined. There will of course be care and support for other people with disability, and so the different levels, or tiers of support, also will be assessed and worked through with disability groups, with carers, and of course also with the states and territories.

JOURNALIST: Where are the four pilot locations going to be and how are they going to be chosen?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’re going to determine the four areas with the states and territories. We don’t call them pilot locations. The Government has announced that we are launching the National Disability Insurance Scheme. So this is not a pilot, this is not about whether or not we’re going to continue the National Disability Insurance Scheme once we start. We are starting the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We’ll start in four locations, with 10,000 people, going up to 20,000 people a year later, and we’ll work out the locations with the states and territories.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

JENNY MACKLIN: It may be in some regional locations, so we’ll talk with the states and territories about that. I think it’s more than likely that it will be spread across a number of states and territories. But of course all of these matters have to be discussed and different states and territories will need to think themselves about where they consider the best location would be, where they have good disability services so that we can make sure that people with disabilities and their carers will get access to the care and support that they need. One of the big issues is making sure that we have the workforce in place in the locations that we start with. But all of these issues will have to be worked through.

JOURNALIST: Minister, one of the challenges of people with disability is living on homelands for example, in remote Aboriginal communities or in the Torres Straits. How can they access something like this and there is also a myth about what the disability is in the communities, a lot of confusion about that. How are you going to ensure that this expert panel and the new scheme will address those issues?

JENNY MACKLIN: As you may be aware we have a National Disability and Carer Council and Indigenous people are represented on that council. This is an issue that they are acutely aware of and of course I’m very aware of with my responsibilities as the Minister for Indigenous Affairs. I do agree with you that the way in which we deliver this National Disability Insurance Scheme in more remote parts of Australia is going to have to be different. That’s really why we want to make sure we get a range of different launch sites, so we can make sure that in different parts of the country where service delivery is different, we can both develop the scheme to suit those areas and to suit the needs of different groups of people.

JOURNALIST: Given that it’s an important reform, how frustrating is it for today’s headlines to be dominated by polls rather than what was a good announcement yesterday? How hard is it to get the message across?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think the thing I’m so excited about is that we are able to really demonstrate to the Australian people, and most importantly of course to people with disabilities and their carers and their families, that this reform is going to happen. We have been working on a National Disability Insurance Scheme for some time. Our Government asked the Productivity Commission to do a major inquiry. They gave us an excellent report last August, and of course we’ve been doing a lot of work on the detail of the scheme since then. So my task really is to keep very focussed on delivering this National Disability Insurance Scheme. I think it’s a very, very exciting time and I wish you could have been there yesterday in Sydney, and I know it was true in other parts of the country, just to see the joy on people’s faces that they now know it’s going to happen.

JOURNALIST: Just on polls, how bad is it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course we understand we’ve got a huge amount in front of us. But we know that we have a lot of policies that people actually care about and the one that I’m here to talk about today is something that I think a lot of Australians understand it’s time we had in our country. Disability, serious disability, can happen to anybody at any time. Any one of us could have a serious accident. Any one of us could have a child or a grandchild born with a serious disability. These are the people who unfortunately often get hidden away because disability really has not been brought out into the open. We know that people with disability and their carers want this issue out in the open. People with disability want to live strong and independent lives, and we want to do everything we possibly can to do that with them.

JOURNALIST: Should Julia Gillard continue to lead the Labor Party?

JENNY MACKLIN: She certainly should. And she has just been the most wonderful advocate for people with disabilities and for their carers. She’s the Prime Ministers who has made this announcement. She’s the person who has put this at the top of the Government’s agenda, in a very difficult budgetary environment, and I really acknowledge her commitment and I think people with disability and people who are carers also understand that.

JOURNALIST: Why shouldn’t she step aside for someone else given those poll figures and the fact that you’re going to get massacred at the election?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think I’ve just indicated to you that on the issues that people really care very passionately about, we have a Prime Minister that is actually standing up and making hard decisions that haven’t been made before. Never before have we had a Prime Minister to commit to a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Our Prime Minister has done that, and I thank her on behalf of people with disability and on behalf of carers.

JOURNALIST: Is there a danger that you could be unfairly raising the hopes of people with disability and their families and then to have an Abbott Government come in and then (inaudible) ?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I want to deliver a National Disability Insurance Scheme and of course we will do everything in our power to make sure that we make it a success. Mr Abbott, I’m sorry to say, is speaking with two voices on this issue. Mr Hockey yesterday said that he didn’t think that Australians would be willing to pay for a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Unfortunately that does demonstrate that the Liberal Party is not committed to this very, very important reform. I think the Liberal Party will be hearing loud and clear from people with disabilities and from carers that they want this major refom, that it’s time it was delivered in Australia, and a Labor Government will deliver it.

JOURNALIST: Can you still win the next election?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s exactly my objective. We’re here because people rely on us and I think the closer we get to the election, the more that people will understand that, that Labor has a real agenda, an agenda that is about people who need our support. Working families, people who want a decent education, people who want the National Broadband Network, not the knockers and destroyers which is what the other side are demonstrating every day, that they’re only on about destroying things.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

JENNY MACKLIN: We’re on about delivering major reform, and this is a very, very significant reform and one which we’ve been working on for some time. So I think you can see that are we are determined to put in place the changes that are necessary to build a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

JOURNALIST: Just on the NDIS, and the launch sites, the states and territories will they be (inaudible) or are they just going to fight I guess to have these launch sites in their states?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I certainly hope all the states and territories put their hands up and will say that they’ve got a place, that they’ve got a commitment, a financial commitment that goes with it to make sure that we can find four different places at least to deliver the first stage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Council of Australian Governments recently agreed that disability reform is a shared responsibility between the Commonwealth and the states and territories. The Commonwealth will demonstrate next week on budget night our financial commitment and then we’ll start the process of discussing this with our state and territory colleagues.

JOURNALIST: Andrew, does the Prime Minister still have your support?

ANDREW LEIGH: Absolutely. And I think you can see so clearly in terms of the values of the two parties right now. We’re here talking about a National Disability Insurance Scheme, Joe Hockey is saying he wouldn’t pay for it. But at the same time, Mr Hockey is perfectly happy to pay for reinstating the Private Health Insurance Rebate for millionaires, and to pay for the cutting the tax rate on mining billionaires. It’s a clear question of values.

JOURNALIST: Is there any chatter about toppling the Prime Minster?

ANDREW LEIGH: None that I’ve heard of.

JOURNALIST: So she’ll lead you to the next election?

ANDREW LEIGH: Absolutely.

JOURNALIST: Minister Macklin, has Andrew Wilkie asked you to return to the original deal on poker machine reform?

JENNY MACKLIN: Where we’re up to with discussions on poker machine reform, you’d be aware that a few weeks ago we released a draft bill to introduce, for the first time, national poker machine reform. Mr Wilkie and I have been discussing some of the clauses in that draft legislation. I put some further proposals to him a week or so ago and he’s still considering those.

JOURNALIST: Is he nit-picking?

JENNY MACKLIN: These are important issues for Mr Wilkie, they’re very important issues for the Government. This Government will be the first Government in history to introduce national poker machine reform and I look forward to the parliament’s support.