Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

National Disability Insurance Scheme; Aged Care; Afghanistan; Interest Rates; Gambling Reform; Budget; Colin Barnett


PM: It’s great to be here in Perth. I’m joined by Minister Jenny Macklin and I would like to say a very big thank you to everyone here at Jellybeans. You can see jellybeans all around us on the doors and paintings, at this great centre. We’ve had the opportunity whilst we’ve been here this morning to talk to some families and meet some wonderful children.

This is a centre that is working to make a difference for children with autism and I’m very pleased that under our Better Start package, our early intervention for children with autism, we’ve been able to support this centre and we’ve been able to support families around the country to get some help to make a difference for their child’s life.

Amongst the things that I’ve heard said this morning, and I do want to say this in front of people who work so hard in this centre, is that they can see the improvement for their child from coming here and being involved in these programs and really you couldn’t get a better compliment than that, that what is happening here is really working to make a difference for that child. So congratulations to you.

That package, working with children with autism, joining with our other early intervention packages, joining with the 200 million we’re investing in schools for students with disabilities, is all making a difference, but I’m here today with Jenny Macklin to talk about the next stage and that’s a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Each of us, I think, has had some insight into the lives of families who have a person that they care for with a disability. Through the Adopt-a-Pollie program that operates here, some of our Western Australian politicians have had a very direct insight but we know that looking around the country for families who care for someone with a disability that at the moment it can be a pretty cruel lottery as to whether or not you get the help you need.

Whether or not you get the help you need can depend on the circumstances in which a person got their disability, whether they got it at work or whether they were born with it. We want to make a difference to that through a National Disability Insurance Scheme, a great Labor reform, a great Labor reform as big as something like Labor’s Medicare, something that would make a difference for all time about how we assisted people with a disability.

Like Medicare was a big thing to build, a National Disability Insurance Scheme is a big thing to build and it’s going to take some time. We’ve made that clear. But we do want to get on with the job which is why we are determined to build the first stage by the middle of next year, 12 months earlier than the landmark Productivity Commission report recommended because we want to get on with this big job of building a National Disability Insurance Scheme and making a difference for families around the country.

As a Labor Government, we always want to run the economy in the interests of working people and we always want to be working with families to get them the help and supports they need so whether it’s the National Disability Insurance Scheme, whether it’s our Paid Parental Leave Scheme, our record investments in childcare, our health reforms and new money into hospitals, our key investments into reforming schools, we are working to support families and the services they need.

So I am very concerned to see overnight that Mr Hockey on behalf of Mr Abbott and the Liberal team has give a speech which threatens all of that. Overnight, he has been talking internationally about their plans for Australia and their plans for Australian families and it makes pretty grim reading. What Mr Hockey has said overnight is that the Liberal Party is committed to widespread cutbacks to the supports and services that Australian families have today, supports and services that Australian families rely on.

Our message to Australian families is we want the economy to work for you and we want to be working with you to get the services that you need. Unfortunately, Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott’s message to those families is you’re in for cutbacks and if you can’t cope, well, just try fending for yourself and if you can’t fend for yourself well, unfortunately that’s too bad. The Liberal Party has said overnight through Mr Hockey that they are prepared to abandon Australian families and take away the very vital services they need.

I’ll turn now to Jenny Macklin for comments on the NDIS and then we’ll take questions.

MINISTER MACKLIN: Thanks very much Prime Minister, if I could first of all thank you very, very much for coming here to Jellybeans today. I’ve been here before and had the wonderful pleasure of meeting with the staff and the parents and children here at Jellybeans and if I could add to your thanks to everybody here at Jellybeans but also to the Autism Association of Western Australia.

When you talk to parents here today, the way in which this service has made such a difference to the lives of children, to the lives of families, we know that we’ve done the right thing. When we decided to put the money into these six centres around Australia, it was a very, very new way of doing things and if I can say to everyone who’s been involved – Curtin University, the Autism Association, everyone here at Jellybeans, thank you very, very much for joining with us to make a difference to the lives of those children. It has made a difference. You’ve shown that and we’re so pleased to be able to continue to work in partnership with you to make sure that the children as they come along and then of course go on to school, that they learn and grow in the way that we all hope they will.

Of course that’s what the National Disability Insurance Scheme is all about. It’s all about making sure that we no longer have a system of providing support to people with disability, their families and their carers that really ends always in tears for so many people. People who miss out on the care and support that they need because the system is broken.

We want to fix it and we’re determined to do so and with our Prime Minister’s leadership, we will deliver a National Disability Insurance Scheme. It’s a very exciting time for people with disabilities but also for their families and carers and can I just say how important it is that we develop this National Disability Insurance Scheme together to make a difference for people’s lives. That’s what it’s all about. Thank you.

PM: Thanks, Jenny. Happy to take questions. We’ll go here and then here, thank you.

JOURNALIST: You’ve criticised Joe Hockey for flagging cuts. It’s been reported today that you’re also flagging means testing some aged care subsidies or payments, can you-

PM: I flagged in the election campaign that we would be reforming aged care in this term of government. This is a system which is showing many, many signs of stresses and strain. It’s a system that in the past has served Australia well but it’s not meeting the needs now of older Australians to have the options and choices they want and it won’t meet our needs into the future as our society ages so we’ve said we’d have something to say about aged care reform and when I’m in a position to say it I will.

JOURNALIST: You’ll be announcing something tomorrow?

PM: I’ll allow you to speculate about it and we’ll talk today about the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

JOURNALIST: Will there be cuts to-

PM: I’ll deal with the aged care reform package when I announce it.

JOURNALIST: Why is it that you say the Reserve Bank has wiggle room to move on rates?

PM: Thank you for that question. The Reserve Bank of Australia is independent of government and that’s of course the appropriate thing, that the Reserve Bank must exercise its best independent judgment about where interest rates should be but the point I will be making later today in a speech in Western Australia is that it is important at this time in our economy to return the Budget to surplus.

We came out of the global financial crisis strong, we protected jobs, the IMF confirmed yesterday that our economy is leading in the world compared with other major advanced economies. That means it’s the right time to be returning the Budget to surplus. That will give us a buffer in case the international economy takes a turn for the worst and we need to protect jobs. It also means that it gives the Reserve Bank more room to move should it choose to do so, but of course the decision to act lies in the hands of the independent Reserve Bank.

JOURNALIST: Are you going too far by suggesting that it will lower rates given its independence?

PM: I’ve always said and always will say that the Reserve Bank exercises its best judgment and acts independently of Government. What we can do as a Government is to have the right Budget setting for the economy today and that is to bring the Budget to surplus.

JOURNALIST: Another of Mr Hockey’s comments was there was a sense of entitlement for Western societies. Now it might be an uncomfortable reality, but would you acknowledge that there is in some parts of the community a sense of entitlement and could you rule out any cuts to welfare in the upcoming Budget?

PM: Mr Hockey overnight was speaking overseas but he was speaking directly about their plans as a Liberal Party under Mr Abbott’s leadership for Australia and Australian families. Mr Hockey was saying to Australian families that if you feel entitled to your family payments if you feel entitled to your childcare support, if you feel entitled to things like Medicare, well you shouldn’t because Mr Hockey believes that there should be widespread cutbacks to those very services and supports that families rely on.

You couldn’t get a sharper difference from our approach. We believe that you should run the economy in the interests of working people and be working in partnership with families. Mr Hockey believes in widespread cutbacks to Australian families, leaving them abandoned without Government support, left to fend for themselves.

JOURNALIST: We won’t (inaudible) see any cutbacks in the Budget (inaudible)?

PM: We’ve made it very clear we’ll be bringing the Budget to surplus and that does demand some tough choices but as we make those choices we will be working to protect frontline services. We will be working to protect the frontline services that Australian families rely on.

What Mr Hockey is talking about is huge widespread cuts to the supports that families need, whether it’s childcare, family payments, the pension, carers’ benefits, the supports that many families rely on to get by day to day.

JOURNALIST: On poker machines, this might be more a question for Jenny Macklin, but Clubs ACT are quite concerned about linking the trial with reform. Firstly, will this delay the trial and secondly do you urge Club ACT to continue talking with the Government?

MINISTER MACKLIN: We’re very pleased with the way in which we’ve been able to work with clubs in the ACT and I appreciate their in principle support for a trial of mandatory pre-commitment in the ACT. We also are very determined to bring into the Federal Parliament the first ever national legislation that addresses problem gambling and I call on all Members of the House of Representatives to support that legislation when we bring it in. It is the first time we’ll see such legislation in the Federal Parliament because we do understand that problem gambling is an issue that needs to be addressed.

JOURNALIST: For the Prime Minister on the same issue, Andrew Wilkie has threatened to withdraw support for the legislation by close of business tomorrow if his amendments aren’t – are you able answer this question?


PM: He’s been in discussions with Jenny so she’ll take the question.

JOURNALIST: If he’s needs aren’t met, will you (inaudible)?

MINISTER MACKLIN: We had a good discussion earlier in the week. We’re still going through the issues that he’s raised. From the Government’s point of view, we’ve had legal advice that our legislation does do exactly what Mr Wilkie is asking for but we’re still talking, we’re still working through the issues and I hope we’ll find a resolution.

JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard, overnight we’ve seen photos of US soldiers posing with the bodies of slain Afghanistan civilians. Are you concerned this may impact the community’s support for our troops over there and have you been briefed that Australian troops haven’t been involved in this?

PM: There’s certainly no evidence in relation to Australian troops. What’s been revealed overnight is some conduct by US troops and the pictures are truly shocking and grotesque so this is a very disturbing incident, a very shocking and grotesque incident. It’s very important, I think, that the people involved are held to account for their conduct here but we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that the conduct of a limited number of US soldiers speaks to us about the conduct of soldiers generally in Afghanistan.

Our troops are there, US troops are there, troops from other nations working hard to train the Afghan national security forces to make sure Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists and in doing that they are working alongside the Afghan people so we can’t generalise from one very disturbing incident to the conduct overall of troops in Afghanistan.

JOURNALIST: Will the Federal Government still be in a position to increase foreign aid by 0.5% of GNI by 2015 – with surplus or not?

PM: I saw today that we’ve seen some Budget speculation break out again. I’m not surprised, it’s Budget speculation season and you won’t be surprised when I say I’m not commenting on it.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) do you think that’s the case and that the Fair Work Act review should have gone broader?

PM: I don’t think it will be surprising to you that I’ve never seen eye to eye with Mr Corrigan on industrial relations matters. I didn’t see eye to eye with him and the Howard Government when they chucked hard working Australians off the waterfront and brought in dogs and men wearing balaclavas to get them off the waterfront. It was despicable conduct by the Howard Government. Says everything about what the Liberal Party believes in in workplace relations.

We take a different view about making sure working people get protections and support at work and they work in decent and fair work places.

JOURNALIST: Arthur Sinodinos and Andrew Robb said on your decision to try to urge the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates, that it’s a con. Is it a con?

PM: Usual wall of negativity from Tony Abbott’s Opposition. We’d never expect anything else. Tony Abbott and his spokespeople really need to address two things today. First, they have the man who would be Treasurer in an Abbott Government talking about widespread cuts to working families’ benefits. Well, who’s going to get the cut? What is going to be cut? What can working families expect from Mr Abbott if he’s ever Prime Minister? Is it their childcare money that will be gone, their family payments money, their carers’ benefits? What are these cuts going to mean for working people? That’s the question for Mr Abbott and his team today and I also note that they’re out talking about interest rates.

They might, whilst they’re talking about interest rates, want to explain why for a family on a $300,000 mortgage they’re paying $3,000 less a year on that mortgage under this government than when Mr Abbott and his colleagues were in government.

JOURNALIST: One of the major projects for us in the West, that’s on the horizon is a new football stadium. They’ve earmarked about $700 million or billion for its cost. Have you had any discussions with the State Government here and would you be prepared to front up federal cash for it?

PM: I haven’t had any direct discussions with the State Government here. If there’s a proposition that the State Government puts forward then we’ll certainly look at it but I would make this point on infrastructure generally, Western Australia’s a growing state and it’s hungry for infrastructure and we certainly understand that which is why per head in Western Australia we are investing $261 per year in infrastructure compared with $155 per year which was invested by the Howard Government. We’ve responded. We are investing more in infrastructure in WA.

JOURNALIST: You haven’t seen eye to eye in the past with Andrew Forrest either. He’s stepped up his rhetoric around the mining tax and the evolution of that and says that you had a deal in train with the miners well ahead of the time when the actual deal was settled. How do you respond to that?

PM: I responded to some of Mr Forrest’s claims yesterday by saying this was rehashed nonsense. It was nonsense yesterday, it’s nonsense today.

JOURNALIST: What will the first stage of the NDIS entail?

PM: Well we’re moving to have that first stage – we’re already working now on some technical and important policy matters. We’re working towards laying the foundations by mid 2013, a year earlier than the Productivity Commission talked about.

I’ll get Jenny to speak in some detail about what that means.

MINISTER MACKLIN: Thanks very much. We’re working with the States and Territories on a range of different technical pieces of work so the development, for example, of a common assessment tool, the development of decent quality assurance framework to make sure that parents and people with disability are able to know that they’re getting high-quality services. We’re working of course on the costings of the scheme. We’ve had the Commonwealth Actuary work with the Commonwealth Treasury and State and Territory treasuries on the details of the costings.

Some of the work was done by the Productivity Commission but given the cost of the scheme that’s been projected, of course we are taking a very careful look at all of those detailed costings. We know that it will be important to get all this right. There’s an enormous amount of work to be done. At the moment we wouldn’t be starting from one place, given we’ve got eight different disability systems in this country, so there’s an enormous amount yet for us to do.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

PM: On the Budget, you have to wait until budget night. Sorry about that. There would be kids here that want to get their birthday presents early too but it doesn’t work like that.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) budgetary environment (inaudible).

PM: We’ll have to just wait and see some matters in the Budget and how we generally work but I would make this point, budgets ultimately are about making the appropriate choices. This is a Government that has funded new spending from saves since mid 2009. We’ve shown the ability to get big things done whilst managing the budget prudently.

JOURNALIST: Should the State Government exempt increases to the pension from public housing rents?

PM: I’d better let Jenny answer that or I’ll get killed in the crush.

MINISTER MACKLIN: They certainly should. We’ll be providing additional assistance to pensioners starting in the middle of May so for a single pensioner we’ll be providing in annual terms around $338. The Prime Minister has written to all the Premiers, I have written to all the Premiers.

The Premier of this State has yet to respond so I would call on Mr Barnett to reassure pensioners who live in public housing here in Western Australia that they will be able to keep all of the money that the Commonwealth is giving them in extra pension payments. This money is for pensioners. It is not for State Governments to gobble up in public housing rents.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on the aged care reform generally, do you recognise the attachment a lot of people have to their homes? What assurances can you give around that (inaudible)?

PM: I certainly do recognise the attachment that people have to their homes on aged care reform, when we announce it we’ll announce it.

Thank you very much.

JOURNALIST: It was suggested this morning that your labelling of Colin Barnett as a boom time Premier was a deliberate attack on him. Have the last couple of days in your so called war of words with the Premier damaged your relationship?

PM: I’ll take this as the last question. I’ve worked productively and well with Premier Barnett on things that really matter to Western Australians. We struck together a health reform agreement that has got more money into the hospitals in this State so people aren’t waiting in emergency departments as long, they’re not going to wait on elective waiting surgery waiting lists as long. I struck with him last Friday a skills agreement for this State which means that some people who are currently locked out of a job and locked out of hope for the future can go and get the skills they need to get a better job and to be more employable and that people who do have qualifications but are looking to upgrade can get the same deal for upper level qualifications as university students currently do so you can study now and pay late.

So I’ve worked well with Premier Barnett on things important to this state.

My point over the last few days has been: the resources boom in this state is a fantastic thing, it’s a fantastic thing bringing wealth, bringing jobs, bringing opportunities to many in Western Australia but not to everyone and when we look at the economy of this state we’ve got to make sure that we’re helping those families who today think, “What boom? It’s not my boom. I’m not in the resources boom. What’s it getting for me?”

I want to make sure those families get something from this resources boom. That is a difference between Premier Barnett and me.

Thank you very much.