6 December 2012
E & OE
The Federal Opposition welcomes the agreement reached today between the Commonwealth and New South Wales for a full rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme by 2018.Today’s agreement demonstrates what can be achieved when the Federal Labor Government adopts a cooperative and positive approach with the states, particularly with the conservative states. At the last COAG the Prime Minister chose to adopt a confrontational approach and she sought to demonise the conservative state governments. But today is good news. And it demonstrates what can be achieved when a positive attitude is brought to bear.
The agreement today is significant in that the Prime Minister has essentially conceded Tony Abbott’s point and followed the Productivity Commission blueprint for the Commonwealth to provide the bulk of the additional funds required for the NDIS. The agreement today is predicated on the Commonwealth coming to the party with most of the additional funds to enable a full roll out in New South Wales.
This will be a template for the other states and we warmly welcome the agreement that has been reached today. Just as the Federal Coalition supported the initial work of the Productivity Commission. Just as the Federal Coalition supported the $1 billion in the last budget. Just as we supported the five launch sites. And just as we support the legislation which has been introduced into the Federal Parliament.
Today is a win for Australians with disability, their carers and their families. They have been ceaseless in pushing the cause for an NDIS. Today is a good result. And I also hope that today indicates that finally the Federal Labor Government have abandoned their attempts to seek to politicise the NDIS. The NDIS doesn’t represent just Labor values or just Liberal values. The NDIS represents Australian values. The Federal Coalition again reiterates its offer today to the Prime Minister to establish a joint parliamentary committee chaired by both sides of politics to oversee the implementation of the NDIS to ensure that there’s a mechanism that can lift the NDIS beyond partisanship and that will see all parties locked in. I hope that the Prime Minister accepts that offer and the Coalition welcomes the agreement today.
Will you put pressure on other states to come to a similar agreement with the Federal Government?
The NDIS was always going to come about as a result of a series of bilateral negotiations between the Commonwealth and individual states. Five states have reached agreement with the Commonwealth for launch sites. We now have New South Wales who have reached agreement with the Commonwealth for a full NDIS roll out in that jurisdiction. And you would anticipate that the negotiations will be ongoing with the other states to reach similar agreements. I should acknowledge the persistence and hard work of Premier Barry O’Farrell and the disabilities minister in New South Wales Andrew Constance, who have been tireless in working towards this agreement. And in fact the agreement today is essentially what New South Wales asked for at the last COAG meeting. So if the Prime Minister had adopted a positive approach I’m sure we could have got to this position much sooner.
Do you think the Premier will take much heart from the final funding model that’s been reached today? The Commonwealth is the dominant funder by 51.4% to 48.6 so is it really that much of a win for New South Wales?
It’s a huge win for New South Wales and Barry O’Farrell because this is essentially the model that the Productivity Commission said should be followed. Which is that the Commonwealth and the states put into the NDIS pot the money that they currently spend and the difference between that and the cost of an NDIS should be met by the Commonwealth. That is what is reflected in the agreement today.
What form should this parliamentary committee called for, what form would it take? What specifically would its role be?
We’ve called for the establishment of a joint House-Senate select committee to be chaired by both sides of politics to oversee the implementation of the NDIS. The NDIS will take several parliaments to fully implement. There needs to be an oversight mechanism so that the Parliament can monitor the implementation. But also so that there’s a forum where questions of eligibility and design can be asked in a forum in a way that isn’t seen to be partisan. We also I think need a symbol to demonstrate that the entire Parliament is locked in and committed to an NDIS. The joint parliamentary committee would be that symbol.
I take it from your comments that an Abbott Government would honour this agreement?
Yes. We’re fully supportive of the agreement between the Commonwealth and New South Wales and we would honour that and we look forward to seeing further agreements between the Commonwealth and the states. New South Wales have been asking the same questions which the Federal Opposition has been asking. And that is for the Commonwealth to provide funding certainty. New South Wales have in this agreement certainty as to what their share will be and a commitment from the Commonwealth as to their share. It’s still incumbent on the Prime Minister to provide certainty over the forward estimates and beyond the NDIS launch sites. The NDIS legislation is now in the Parliament but we don’t as yet have from the Prime Minister a full outline as to how she will fund the NDIS. And it’s incumbent upon her to do that now that the legislation is in the Parliament but certainly no later than the next Commonwealth budget.
Joe Hockey said there will only be an NDIS when there is a strong surplus. How strong a surplus is enough?
Joe was making the point that I’ve made and that Tony Abbott has made which is in order to deliver a full NDIS you need the budget to be in good condition. Now we don’t see an NDIS as the enemy of a surplus and we don’t see a surplus as the enemy of an NDIS. You can work towards both at the same time. And in fact the budget surplus is the guarantee that an NDIS can be fully delivered and that it will be sustainable into the future. Our view has always been that an NDIS should be possible to implement with careful management within the timeframe, the target date specified by the Productivity Commission of 2018-19. Thanks very much.