Sky News Lunchtime Agenda
With Ashleigh Gillon
13 April 2012
E & OE
Subjects: National Disability Insurance Scheme, Bob Brown
Joining me now is the Opposition’s Disabilities spokesman Mitch Fifield. Mitch, thank you for joining us. On this support that we heard from Tony Abbott today, we’ve seen a lot of discussion about aspirational goals – is this something that the Coalition is going to support, even if the budget isn’t in a surplus? Even if it means going into deficit?
Tony made it clear at the Press Club at the start of the year that he thinks that the NDIS is a necessary reform, and today he pledged his support to act in a bipartisan manner to see an NDIS become a reality. Ashleigh, you mentioned the budget situation. Is a strong budget surplus necessary to deliver an NDIS? I don’t think a budget surplus should be seen as an impediment to an NDIS. A budget surplus is what will actually ensure the delivery of an NDIS. And if we’re to believe the Government and their forecasts, the budget will be in surplus next year and forecast to be in surplus for the years thereafter. So if we can take the Government at their word, then there won’t be a problem because the budget will be in surplus anyway.
But just to clarify, if the Coalition does get into government and the budgetary position isn’t as healthy as it may be forecast to be now, the Coalition will still implement this reform?
We’ve made clear today that we think that the Government should, in the coming budget, set aside money for the next stage of implementation of the NDIS. Yes, a strong surplus and a budget which has been repaired is necessary to fully implement an NDIS, but that’s not to say that you can’t get a start on it in the meantime. And we think the Government should put money aside in this budget, and if they do, we will support that.
How far along is the planning for this then? Can you give us a sense of what exactly it would mean for the average person that finds themselves in the situation where they would be applying for that insurance?
It would transform the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of Australians. If you are in a car accident in Victoria, for instance, you get pretty good long-term care from the TAC. If you are in a workplace accident in New South Wales and acquire a disability that way, you get pretty good long-term care from Workers’ Compensation. But if you fall off the roof at home and sustain a significant disability that way, or if you acquire a disability later in life such as Multiple Sclerosis, then you’re currently subject to a state-based system of rationing. So you take a number, you stand in a queue, and if the pot of money dries up before you get an entitlement to a wheelchair, then it’s too bad. If the pot of money dries up before you can find a supported accommodation place for your intellectually impaired adult son, well then it’s just too bad. So this will dramatically change the lives not just of people with disabilities, but also of the people who care for them.
It is a significant step forward, and disabilities groups today were certainly welcoming the Coalition’s support on this today. Just finally, what’s your reaction to the news that Bob Brown is stepping aside as Greens Leader? What do you see that that will mean for the future of the Greens?
I think it could well be the sort of situation that we witnessed when Don Chipp retired as the Leader of the Australian Democrats there was a slow and steady decline and no one ever really quite filled the shoes of the founder. I must say I hope that’s the case with the Australian Greens. I don’t think that they’re a positive force in Australian politics. But I guess you’ve at least got to acknowledge that Bob Brown was a person of conviction. He had the wrong convictions, but they were convictions nevertheless, and anyone who has served for a decent period in public life should be acknowledged. I wish him well in his post-political life.
Senator Mitch Fifield, appreciate your time this afternoon, thank you for that.