Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

National Disability Insurance Scheme; Private health insurance rebate; Car industry; Surplus


PM: I’m delighted to be here today at FRANS with Minister Macklin and also with Parliamentary Secretary Jan McLucas. We’ve come here today to Sydney, to Marrickville, to the electorate of Anthony Albanese, who has been with us this morning to talk to families about what it’s like to have a member of their family who has a disability.

What kind of services make a difference, how hard it is get those services, what the challenges are with the fragmentation of services. Needing to go to different places and prove and reprove your level of need.

We’ve been talking about these things today because we’re working to build a National Disability Insurance Scheme. It’s not going to be built overnight. It will be a change as big as Medicare and it will make a difference for Australians around the country who live with disability or have a family member or friend who lives with disability. At the moment what you get depends on how you got your disability – did you get it at work, did you get it in a transport accident, were you born with it, did you get it in some other circumstances, not work, not in a motor car? Or is it something that is the result of getting a debilitating illness?

Depending on the answers to those questions you can get a good package of care, or you can be left really struggling. It really is a pretty bad lottery and too many people come out losers in that lottery. We’ve been investing to improve disability services and we’re going to keep doing that, but ultimately we need to change the system so that all Australians, no matter how they acquire their disability can look forward to getting appropriate care and support and that there’s one door that they open to then access the service and service providers that they need in their local community.

It’s been good to have these discussions today. Clearly there’s a lot of pain around, some frustration and all of that’s really understandable. Now the families who live and love and care for people with disability do remarkable work and it can come at considerable cost to them personally and to other family members. We want to try and lift some of that burden.

Investing in a National Disability Insurance Scheme is the kind of change we can make if we keep our economy strong. We’ve been in Parliament all week talking about how important it is to make sure our economy is strong today and that we build the strength our economy will need tomorrow, when times have changed and challenges are different.

We’ve been doing that because we want to make sure our economy’s strong now and into the future, but we want to do that for a purpose. A strong economy is not an end in its own right; a strong economy is what we need so that we can meet the needs of Australian families, that we can get them the supports that help them in times of trouble and one of those new supports needs to be a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

I’ll turn now to Minister Macklin for some comments and then we’ll take questions.

MINISTER MACKLIN: Thanks very much Prime Minister, it is so good to be here today to be at such a service that is plainly so loved by the people who come here and by the families that depend on it. So to everybody here, can I say a huge congratulations. Today your work has been given the huge tick by the people that you care for so much.

We are here today to make sure that we listen to people, that we do the work that’s necessary to design a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Today we heard that families and people with disability don’t want the confused and difficult and multiple places to get access to disability services. They want a clear entry point, they want national standards that make sure that wherever they live they’re going to get a decent service. They want to know that there won’t be multiple times that they’ll be assessed when their needs for disability services change.

That’s what we’re about, we’re about developing these tools, doing the work that’s necessary to get ready to launch this National Disability Insurance Scheme.

We do appreciate the opportunity to listen to people today, but in the meantime we have a lot of work to do, we intend to keep getting on with it because people in Australia have waited far too long for this change and this Labor Government is determined to deliver what people need.

PM: Righto, we’re happy to take some questions.

OK, well we’ll go and have morning tea. Right.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) issue a directive to your Cabinet for them not to speak to the editors of some newspapers?

PM: I’ve seen that story and I’m very happy to answer it. I’m not going to talk about what happens in Cabinet, but I am going to say this: as a government we’re out and about every day explaining what we do to the Australian community and that’s important. I want Australians to understand what we’re doing today to manage the economy. I want them to understand our view and perspectives on the global economy. I want them to understand what we think about Europe and how it might have implications for our economy, but how strong our economy is.

I want them to understand our big reform projects like the National Disability Insurance Scheme. So, of course every day we’re out explaining what the Government is doing to the community, today and tomorrow, what we’re doing to build a stronger economy for tomorrow.

And we coordinate the explanation of that message, we always have and we always will and there’s nothing new in that.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you sure you’ve got the numbers to pass the means testing of the private health insurance rebate and have you got an iron clad guarantee from Rob Oakeshott (inaudible)?

PM: Well Mr Oakeshott will speak for himself I’m sure. As a government we are working hard to secure support for the passage of the changes to private health insurance and we’re doing that because this is about fairness. I mean if you can imagine someone who’s say a businessman who supports his family, maybe earning $300,000 a year, works pretty hard to do it I’m sure. But if you can imagine that businessman and you can imagine a young apprentice who’s earning a few hundred dollars a week.

At the moment basically we ask that young apprentice to subsidise the private health insurance of that businessman and his family. Well I actually think if you’ve got the two of them together, the young apprentice and the businessman, and the young apprentice was getting his wallet out to give some dollars to that businessman, I think that businessman would probably say ‘mate, keep your money, I don’t need it.’

That’s the Australian kind of ethos, that’s the Australian fair go and we think that that should be in private health insurance as well.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you think that your team is coordinating their messages around-

PM: As we always have.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) your Government (inaudible). Presumably this gag on speaking to newspaper editors is because members of your team aren’t coordinating (inaudible)?

PM: You misunderstand the situation. We’re coordinating, as we always have and always will.


JOURNALIST: Alcoa’s asked this morning for a bailout package along the same lines as the automotive industry. Will you consider such a package or other measures such as payroll tax concessions or carbon tax concessions for the company?

PM: Well payroll, of course, is in the domain of state governments and I know that Premier Baillieu in Victoria has had some discussions with Alcoa.

From the point of view of the Federal Government, first and foremost the situation at Alcoa is not about carbon pricing, they’ve made that absolutely clear. It’s about the structural changes that are going on in our economy because of the structural changes that are going on the global economy.

Our dollar is very high. That’s because we’re in the right region of the world that’s growing and we’re selling a lot of resources to the region of the world we live in. That’s makes our dollar strong.

Our dollar’s also strong because we’re increasingly viewed as a safe haven currency. Now that strength brings changes and it brings pressure on manufacturing industries, including in aluminium. So of course we’ll keep working with all of manufacturing, including Alcoa. I want us to be a nation where we’ve got manufacturing jobs, that’s why we’re working hard against the opposition of the Liberal Party to keep the car industry in this country.

But no one should confuse this with the Opposition’s fear campaign and Alcoa has made it crystal clear this is not about carbon pricing.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what are the major impediments to the National Disability Insurance Scheme? Is it the tough choices you’ve got to make in the upcoming budgets, is it the design of the scheme itself, or is it the states are dragging the chain on it?

PM: I’ll turn to Minister Macklin for some comments too, but taking it in order: we need Commonwealth State cooperation, we have to do this together. We provide funding into disability now together, there are things the Commonwealth does, things states do and we’ve been stepping up our level of investment.

As a government we’ve got a proud track record of investing more and more in disability. Indeed I think the last time I was in this state for a media conference was when I was announcing with Premier O’Farrell our $200 million investment into better supporting kids at school who have disabilities. So Commonwealth State, we’ve got to work together.

Then we’ve got to get the design right. This is an incredibly big thing to do. I mean if we take a comparable example – Medicare. Well we all kind of take it for granted now that you can go to the doctor, you can be bulk billed, or if you pay you can go to the Medicare office, get the rebate. But the design of Medicare, to get it right, took a considerable period of time. It didn’t happen overnight. It’s a big complex system, but in the lived experience for Australians it makes so much about their lives simpler.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme, in the design is going to be a big complex system, in the lived experience for Australians we want it to make their lives easier. But we’ve got to get the design right.

The Productivity Commission talks about things like launch sites, like testing it in various parts of the country to get a sense about design and whether or not we’ve got it right, so all of that work has to be done.

And we’ve coming off a basis where we don’t even have across the nation at the moment, we’re one country, but we don’t even have a common assessment approach to what a disability is.

So even the kind of measuring sticks you would use, the rulers that you would use in this area, no one’s designed them yet.

So that’s why it’s going to take some time. I’ll turn to Minister Macklin. I’m going the wrong way again, Minister Macklin for some comments.

MINISTER MACKLIN: Just one additional point that I’d make to those that the Prime Minister has outlined – we’re also fundamentally rethinking the way in which we will finance such a National Disability Insurance Scheme. At the moment we have many different schemes running differently in different states. We also have a charity model – a model that is based on rationing of very limited resources.

What we want to build is an insurance system that says ‘If you are born with a disability we will make sure that you get the care and support that you need over your lifetime. We will make sure that what you need is assessed at regular intervals, so that you’re able to be as independent as you possibly can be, that you get the supports to be able to participate in our society as much as you possibly can.’

But this change in approach is absolutely fundamental. It hasn’t been done before in Australia, it really requires a major rethink, we don’t have any of the technical work done that the Prime Minister has just outlined, the assessment tools, the quality standards. All of these things need to be developed. We do want to have launch sites, we are doing the work to prepare for them, because we also know that we are going to have to test how this works in practice.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister said that there was some hard headed budget decisions that were required on expenditure in this area. Is this core Labor business, as opposed to others who might see it as an aspiration (inaudible)?

PM: I’m very happy to answer that question and what we are working to do as a Labor Government is to bring the budget to surplus because that’s the right economic call for jobs and growth in our economy today.

Whilst we do the big things, like work on the design of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, on the other side of politics they’re in a mess on both, on both the surplus and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

I think the Leader of the Opposition today came out with the thirteenth position the opposition’s had on bringing the budget to surplus. They’re in a complete muddle and that’s not surprising because they’ve got to find $70 billion worth of cuts to services families need before they even get to the starting line about talking about how to do a surplus.

And Mr Abbott has said that a National Disability Insurance Scheme is now parked behind their big muddle in their eyes.

Well we’re very clear about what we’re doing, whilst they’re in that muddle, we will bring the budget to surplus in 2012-13, exactly as promised and we will be working on a National Disability Insurance Scheme as you’ve heard us talk about today.

Thank you very much.