WA Government’s threat to pension increases, National Disability Insurance Scheme
E & OE – Proof only
HOWARD SATTLER: Good afternoon and welcome to Drive and welcome especially to all the pensioners out there. Are you still celebrating the big pension rise you got on March 20th, the $6.70 a fortnight for pensioners and then for couples $10 a fortnight. Now if you live in Homeswest accommodation you might not be celebrating anything because Homeswest may have taken the lot or a big part of it, a big slab of it when they increase the rents, that’s what they do here in Western Australia. When people get a pension rise it seems that at Homeswest, the vulture jumps in and takes it away. I’ll be fronting the Minister about that shortly, the State Minister. But for now the Federal Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin’s in town, in our studio. Hello Jenny.
JENNY MACKLIN: Great to be here.
HOWARD SATTLER: So what does happen in Western Australia when we get a pension rise here and people live in Homeswest accommodation?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well when we put the pension up back in 2009, a long awaited decent pension rise that people got, it was around $70 a fortnight, we asked all the states to quarantine it, not count it for public housing rents. Unfortunately, here in WA they did decide to count it. The reason I really wanted to come here today and talk to you is because in the next couple of months pensioners will be getting an additional amount of money to help with the cost of living pressures that we know that they’re under. And as you know the carbon price is starting on the 1st of July. Pensioners will get around, if you’re a single pensioner, around $338 on an annual basis, and I’ve written and the Prime Minister has written to all State Premiers saying, we don’t want them to count this $338 when they’re calculating public housing rents. This money is for pensioners. It’s to help pensioners make ends meet. It is not for State Housing Authorities.
HOWARD SATTLER: So what responses have you had?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I have nothing from Western Australia, even though we’ve written to Mr Barnett twice. We’ve had good responses from some states. So South Australia for example, have written to us saying that this extra money that we’re giving to pensioners in the next month or so will not be counted for public housing rents in South Australia. So I’m saying to Mr Barnett, here’s your chance. Tell pensioners in Western Australia that this extra money that the Commonwealth’s giving you to make ends meet won’t be counted for public housing rents.
HOWARD SATTLER: So is the only one that’s replied is South Australia, a Labor State?
JENNY MACKLIN: No. No. We’ve had South Australia, Tasmania and the two Territories.
HOWARD SATTLER: No Liberals?
JENNY MACKLIN: Correct.
HOWARD SATTLER: So Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, no response?
JENNY MACKLIN: No response.
HOWARD SATTLER: They’re tick-tacking with each other.
JENNY MACKLIN: I don’t know about that, but I do know that we’ve not only written, I’ve raised it with Housing Ministers the other week when we were all together. Basically I’m just not getting anywhere, so thanks for the opportunity to say it today on air because pensioners want to know if they’re going to get the money, that a quarter of it won’t be taken by State Housing Authorities.
HOWARD SATTLER: Have any States said they are going to take it?
JENNY MACKLIN: No.
HOWARD SATTLER: Or part of it?
JENNY MACKLIN: No. They haven’t, the others…
HOWARD SATTLER: See, all this has just become a political issue now. They’re going to say, I know what Colin Barnett would say, well you ask Jenny Macklin why they’re only going to give us fifty-five cents in the dollar of our GST contribution. That’s why we have to increase rents in Homeswest. What do you say to that?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well what I’d say to that is the last huge increase to public housing actually came from the Commonwealth. We put around $6 billion into building, just over 19,000 new public homes, many of them here in Western Australia. So if we saw the states putting in that sort of money to build extra housing I might be a bit sympathetic, but I haven’t seen it.
HOWARD SATTLER: If they said okay…
JENNY MACKLIN: But more importantly this is money for pensioners. It’s not about public housing rents, it’s about pensioners getting this extra money and being able to keep it for their own cost of living pressures.
HOWARD SATTLER: Maybe if you didn’t take so much of the GST we’d have more money and they could put more into building houses?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, you know, I’d like to think that was the excuse in every state but they can’t all use that excuse. In Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, let’s just stick to the issue at hand which is that we …
HOWARD SATTLER: Well it’s money, that’s the issue.
JENNY MACKLIN: The issue is money and in this instance it’s money for pensioners.
HOWARD SATTLER: Okay, I wonder what pensioners think about that particular if you live in accommodation in Homeswest accommodation, give us a call 922 11 802. The other issue you’re here to talk about is the Disability Insurance Scheme, tell us about that, where’s that at the moment.
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s going well. Basically what we want to do is really dramatically improve the standard of care and support that’s provided to people with significant levels of disability, disability that is permanent. And we know that wherever you are in Australia and I’m not having a go at any particular part of the country here. We know that wherever you are, people with disability and their carers, their families are under enormous pressure.
HOWARD SATTLER: Specifically where and how, what sort of pressures?
JENNY MACKLIN: So for example, just not getting not enough respite care, so carers not getting the break they need to really give them some time off from the …
HOWARD SATTLER: I mean if they weren’t there how much would it cost Government?
JENNY MACKLIN: Exactly, billions.
HOWARD SATTLER: It would cost Government, you’re right.
JENNY MACKLIN: Billions, it would.
HOWARD SATTLER: Hopeless, hopeless. It’s been hopeless for years.
JENNY MACKLIN: It has been hopeless for years and that’s why we want to make a dramatic change. It’s going to be expensive and we know that, that’s why we want to work with the states but we know the states can’t do it by themselves. I think each of the states understand that this is a huge pressure on them so the Commonwealth wants to work with them but also with people with disabilities and carers to increase the level of the whole range of supports, it might be equipment. I’m sure you have people who tell you how long they have to wait for a wheelchair, or how long they have to wait to get respite. It’s just not good enough.
HOWARD SATTLER: Yes, it’s not. And look, saying this would help fund professional carers to take the place of those loved ones, close people to…
JENNY MACKLIN: Not necessarily to take the place, I wouldn’t call it that and I don’t think most …
HOWARD SATTLER: Well to get respite they’ve got to have someone take their place?
JENNY MACKLIN: But if you say take your place sometimes that makes it sound like the carers don’t want to do it anymore and that’s not the case.
HOWARD SATTLER: Aren’t they dedicated.
JENNY MACKLIN: Exactly. And it’s more that we want to be able to give carers a break. We want to make sure that people with disability get the things that they need. I had a case in my own area where people have waited two years to get a new wheelchair for their twenty-five year old, he’d grown, he needed a new wheelchair. Eventually they raised the money themselves because they couldn’t wait any longer.
HOWARD SATTLER: Okay, now both you and the Prime Minister have gone on the front foot in your brief time in Perth this time round. You’re having a real shot at the Housing Department and the Minister here, Buswell, who I’ll be talking to shortly and also Barnett, Colin Barnett. The Prime Minister has really slagged off on Colin Barnett today. Is this a new front foot policy that might regain some of the lost ground because you’re looking pretty sick politically in Western Australia aren’t you?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think we’ve got some good things to talk about. The National….
HOWARD SATTLER: And a lot of ground to make up.
JENNY MACKLIN: Well you and I both know where we’re at. I’m more keen to…
HOWARD SATTLER: You’re a pragmatist that’s why I asked you the question.
JENNY MACKLIN: I am. And the thing I’m really pleased about is that we’re getting on the front foot for people with disability, for public housing tenants who want to be able to keep more of their pension. So let’s talk about the practical things that people really care about.
HOWARD SATTLER: Okay, so why do you think you’re on the nose so much?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think…
HOWARD SATTLER: As far as the opinion polls are concerned, why is it if you’re doing great things in thinking about these people who are vulnerable people, why are you so low in the polls. What’s gone wrong?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think we’ve had to make some pretty hard decisions and some of them have obviously been especially hard here in Western Australia. But we’re also doing some very good things. The National Disability Insurance Scheme will be good, not just in the eastern states, it’ll also be good here in WA. We want to make sure that pensioners get a good go when they live in public housing, so yes we’ve got some good things to talk about. It’s a good idea to come in here and see you and do so.
HOWARD SATTLER: So you’d rather talk about things like that than the carbon tax or the mining tax when you’re in Western Australia?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I’m happy to talk about whatever you’d like me to talk about Howard, but there are real issues that people are concerned about. And the things that I hear about as, in my portfolio, that the job I have is really to make sure that pensioners get a fair go, that’s a really big deal for me. We delivered a very significant improvement to the pension in 2009. I want to make sure pensioners get to keep as much of that. We’re about to give them another lump sum increase in May and June. We want to make sure that especially for people in public housing, that doesn’t get gobbled up by extra rent.
HOWARD SATTLER: Okay, thanks for your time.
JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you.
HOWARD SATTLER: I’m about to talk to Mr Buswell, you don’t want to engage in a slanging match?
JENNY MACKLIN: No we don’t.
HOWARD SATTLER: I respect that, so you are welcome to stay and listen to what he has to say.
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I hope he’ll reassure me and also …
HOWARD SATTLER: This is your big chance Troy coming up.
JENNY MACKLIN: Reassure public housing tenants that …
HOWARD SATTLER: We’re talking $338 for a single pensioner?
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right.
HOWARD SATTLER: How much for a married couple. Do you know?
JENNY MACKLIN: Just over $500, that’s annually. And we don’t want public housing rents going up when pensioners get this money.
HOWARD SATTLER: Okay take a break, Howard Sattler with you and Troy Buswell coming up next.