Transcript by The Hon Christian Porter MP

2GB Morning Show


RAY HADLEY: Minister thanks for joining us. Good morning.


RAY HADLEY: Now you’ve cancelled one in seven.

MINISTER PORTER: That’s correct.

RAY HADLEY: Does that mean the other six are hunky dory?

MINISTER PORTER: Well, the other six or so being assessed through this process to see whether or not they’ve got any capacity to work, even if that is only 15 hours a fortnight or so along those lines. So it’s not the status quo necessarily for the people who have been checked through this process and who remain on the system, so there is a new range of mutual obligations that will apply to those recipients of DSP. But look as you pointed out this is about being stringent both at the point of time at which people apply to go onto the DSP system but also we’ve been working through on a retrospective basis people who are already on the DSP system. This is just a process to work out who are the most needy, the most deserving, and it is then that we are trying to design the system to be a sustainable force.

RAY HADLEY: I know you’re not into guesstimates, but with 806,000 people claiming DSP, I’ve suggested that is in way excess of what it should be. You’d be aware of a system they used in the UK where they scrapped it all and said we’re going to start from scratch and see who’s fair dinkum and who’s not. I know that’s drastic but over there it did work.

MINISTER PORTER: Well, that eight hundred and thirty odd thousand which is essentially the situation that we inherited, where it entered years of growth at around seven and eight percent per year which is larger than you would expect. But whether you would expect it or not, it is very hard growth for the taxpayer to sustain in terms of where that scheme might end up in 20 or 30 or 40 years’ time. At the inherited level, that we inherited from Labor – that eight hundred and thirty thousand people – about in one in twenty people of working age in Australia. Now common sense would tell you that is a very large number. And I think that this process of driving stringency into the applications to get on, and checking people who are already on to make sure they are still meeting all the criteria is one that is bearing some fruit-

RAY HADLEY: Yeah, but you’re dodging the question. Are we going far enough? Like I said, in the UK they said right you’re all off it, you’re all off it, you can reapply and I think they invoked the system you have now where you have your own doctors checking to make sure people are able to be on the DSP. They scrapped it all to start again, and I think they got rid of half the people. That’s why I am basing the assumption – you know, there is probably five hundred thousand people. You’re talking about five percent of the working population being on the DSP, that’s what you’re talking about. One in twenty.

MINISTER PORTER: And look, yours is the right question to ask and obviously that’s a question as a Minister that I am asking myself given the success we’ve had in looking at people in the thirty five and under age group. There was an audit report from the Auditor-General which recently came out that basically suggested that you might want to extend that process to age groups above thirty five – certainly something that I am giving some thought to at the moment. But, I am giving that thought to other extensions based on the fact that this has been a very successful measure in determining who should be on. And of course the DSP has a much lower set of mutual obligations than say for instance, Newstart or unemployment benefits. And if you have the capacity to work, it is much better for you that you are encouraged and incentivised to exercise that capacity. It’s better for you, it’s better for the taxpayer but ultimately it’s better for people who need the system the most because the system becomes sustainable in the long run. So, look, it’s been a very successful process so far and of course I am going to give it some consideration in terms of how it might be furthered if that’s appropriate.

RAY HADLEY: You see, when I see one in even of people aged up to thirty five, I would’ve probably not been jumping up and down if it was two or three in seven but you know the simple fact is there are still six. And one of the things I spoke to your predecessors about, including Scott Morrison was I’m sick of every person coming to the attention of the law, who looks able bodied, walking into court. You know – twenty two, twenty three and you know has created mayhem with some dreadful crime – being on the DSP.

MINISTER PORTER: Well, you say you wouldn’t have been surprised had there been more than one in seven and I guess it goes back to the original point that we made in this interview. And that is that the remaining six of that seven, the status quo does not necessarily apply and part of this process has been to re-examine on a medical basis to assess people for their capacity to work, rather than having the DSP in its nature as a set and forget style payment. If you are remaining on it and you are assessed as having a limited capacity to work but a fair and reasonable capacity to work 20-25 hours per fortnight, whatever that might be, then part of the mutual obligation of the system now is that we are requiring you to seek, and we hope maintain, that kind of employment. So it is not just business as usual. And I understand the point that you make but some people will say too much and some people say too little, but this is a really substantive effort and of course it results in savings to the taxpayer of $1.2 billion.

RAY HADLEY: That was my next question – so that’s what it is $1.2 billion

MINISTER PORTER: That’s correct. And they’re the sort of savings that are going to create space inside the overall budget of the Federal Government going forward to ensure we are able to pay in the long term for things like the National Disability Insurance Scheme which really should be the first dollar of welfare spent, because these are the most deserving and needy Australians.

RAY HADLEY: By the way that Australian report today says, and you raised it, set up by the former Labor government to finance the NDIS is going to start running down from next year and will be depleted by 2019-2020. Is there enough money to fund the scheme or do you need to find some money.

MINISTER PORTER: Well the money will flow. The first dollar of welfare that is spent will be on the NDIS, but of course to be able to cope with large additional impacts of spending on your budget in 19-20, and return the nation to surplus, you have to engage each year in this rather grinding process of finding savings inside present government expenditure including of course the welfare system. That’s what we’re doing with DSP, it’s what we’ve done with family tax benefits, but what I think people perhaps sometimes don’t appreciate is that it is precisely those savings that allow us to do those things that government’s should have done a long time ago and that is look after the care of people with serious disabilities in Australia.

RAY HADLEY: Okay thanks for your time – I appreciate it.


RAY HADLEY: Social Services Minister Christian Porter on the programme.