Treasury Place, Melbourne
25 July 2012
E & OE
Subjects: National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), COAG
The COAG meeting today is an important opportunity for the Prime Minister to demonstrate that she is serious about delivering a full National Disability Insurance Scheme. It’s important to acknowledge that the Premiers bring not only enormous goodwill towards the NDIS, but they also bring with them the funds that they currently allocate to disability services in their states. It’s very important that the Prime Minister views the Premiers as partners, that she doesn’t follow the example of her Treasurer, which is to attack the Premiers, for the reason that there can be no NDIS without the agreement of the States.
Now the Prime Minister has talked a big game in relation to the NDIS but she failed to deliver in the budget in May. At that time, she committed to $1 billion, not the $3.9 billion, that the Productivity Commission said was necessary to kick off an NDIS over the next four years. So I can understand why the Premiers are asking the Prime Minister how she intends to fill that gap. Given it’s the Prime Minister who has deviated from the Productivity Commission timeline and the Productivity Commission funding profile, it is incumbent upon her to explain how she is going to make an NDIS work.
I do hope that at the end of today we don’t see merely a series of mate’s agreements with Labor states. It’s my hope that at the end of today we see a comprehensive series of national launch sites agreed to. But even if we have that agreement, which I hope is the case, it’s important to recognise that would just be the start of an NDIS. That agreement to launch sites doesn’t constitute agreement to a full rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
So assuming the best, and that there is agreement today, the Prime Minister will still have to explain how she intends to fund a full rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and whether she is committed to the Productivity Commission’s target date of full implementation by 2018-19. To date, she hasn’t done either of those two things. She needs to.
For the part of the Federal Opposition, we think that an NDIS is so important that it needs to be elevated beyond partisan politics, which is why Tony Abbott has written to the Prime Minister proposing the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee to be chaired by both sides of politics to oversee the implementation of the NDIS. The implementation of the NDIS will span several parliaments. And so it’s important that we find a mechanism that can elevate the NDIS above partisan politics, but also a mechanism that can see the NDIS become the property of the parliament as a whole rather than any one side of politics.
Best case scenario, when could the NDIS become a reality?
The Productivity Commission have outlined a timetable which sees national launch sites commencing in 2014. The Government is proposing to bring those launch sites forward by a year. And then a national rollout, which the Productivity Commission envisages being in place by 2018-19.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said that the states offered the PM a deal on the scheme, but he won’t reveal the details of that. Do you know the details of that offer?
I don’t know the details of the discussions that were had at the Lodge last night, but I do know that Campbell Newman and Ted Baillieu and Barry O’Farrell and Colin Barnett are all very committed to the NDIS. They are very much supportive of the timetable outlined by the Productivity Commission, and also the funding profile outlined by the Productivity Commission.
Why do you think they won’t release the details of that offer?
I assume that they are negotiating in good faith. Whereas it’s been the tendency of this Government to publicly lecture and berate the State Premiers over the National Disability Insurance Scheme, I can only assume that the Premiers are wanting to take these negotiations seriously and to treat the Federal Government with respect.
Do you think it was helpful for Campbell Newman to compare his state to Spain in distancing himself from the scheme?
Campbell Newman has at no stage sought to distance himself from the National Disability Insurance Scheme. He has merely sought to ask the questions, which the Federal Opposition are asking, which is how the Prime Minister intends to fund the balance of the National Disability Insurance Scheme given she only allocated $1 billion in the budget rather than the $3.9 billion recommended by the Productivity Commission.
Would you as the Federal Opposition like to know what the coalition states have put forward?
We will find out in the course of the day. But I think New South Wales and Victoria have been very upfront that they’ve put forward a joint bid to see a launch site in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales and a launch site in the Barwon region in Victoria. I think any series of national launches needs to have a couple of the big states included. As I said, I hope that we don’t see at the end of today a situation where there’s just a series of mates agreements with Labor states.