The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

14 May 2012

Doorstop Interview

Joint doorstop interview with
the Hon Jenny Macklin MP,
Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and
Minister for Disability Reform

Melbourne

SUBJECTS: National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Government's priorities, MRRT revenue, Craig Thomson

TREASURER:

Well good morning. I'm here with Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Disabilities and Bruce Bonyhady from Yooralla which is I think one of the largest organisations not just in Victoria but in the country that works with Australians with disabilities.

We're here to talk about the $1 billion which has been put in the recent Budget to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This is a very, very big social reform for Australia. Our recent Budget shows that you can balance the books as well as making room for important social reforms. An economy which is strong is one which is also fair and which promotes social inclusion. In Australia for far too long Australians with disabilities have been left behind, they've been undervalued and underappreciated. We do need a major reform in Australia called the National Disability Insurance Scheme to provide Australians with a disability with the dignity and support that we expect for all Australians.

So this is a really significant reform. A really significant reform that's been a long time coming and the Government approaches this reform from a constructive point of view. We look forward to working with state governments and we look forward to working with all of those involved in the disability sector to make sure that over the years ahead, Australians with disability have the respect and support they so justly deserve.

MACKLIN:

Thanks very much to the Treasurer. If I could say just how exciting it is to be here with so many people with disability, so many carers, family members, people from Yooralla. I'd like to say a very special thank you to Bruce Bonyhady, the Chair of Yooralla, for making sure that this campaign for a National Disability Insurance Scheme has ended up in the Commonwealth Treasury, announcing $1 billion for a National Disability Insurance Scheme. This is the first stage and we're so excited to be able to start this major reform. I want to thank the Treasurer very, very much for his determination to see that this major social reform actually happens here in our country.

To the people behind us, the people with disability, their carers and their families, they've waited long enough. People with disability have waited long enough. They think that having a disability is just one big long wait. It's waiting at the end of a phone for a respite place, waiting for a wheelchair. Well, this Government is ending that wait. We will commit $1 billion dollars to the first stage of a National Disability Insurance Scheme. It's a very, very exciting reform for Australia and I will just ask Bruce Bonyhady to say a few words.

BONYHADY:

Thank you very much, Jenny. Look, there's no doubt that we stand here today at an historic moment, where disability has moved from the margins of public policy in Australia to the mainstream with this commitment of $1 billion in the recent Budget. I think if you had asked a year ago or two years ago, would we see this sort of commitment in this sort of tight fiscal environment, people would've said 'you're dreaming'. But what we have seen is for the first time in Australia's history, people with disabilities being put front and centre in a Commonwealth Budget and with the Commonwealth showing that it's prepared to do the heavy lifting in terms of shifting from a system that the Productivity Commission has described as underfunded, inefficient, unfair, and fragmented, to one that we in Australia can be really proud of. A system that I hope, and I think every person with a disability hopes, will take its place alongside Medicare as one of the great social and economic policies that underpin not just a fair Australia but one which enables people with disabilities and their families to participate in the economy and in the mainstream of Australian life. Thank you very much.

TREASURER:

Okay, over to you.

JOURNALIST:

Do you acknowledge the disabled have been treated as an underclass in Australia until this time?

TREASURER:

There that's no doubt that they've been left a long way behind and it's time we rectified this grave injustice. In my time in public life, I've observed that there have not been enough services out there and as the disability population has grown, and as our population ages, and as medical technologies get better and better, we can do much more for Australians with disability but what we have to have in place is a public policy framework to provide them with the support that they require. That's why the National Disability Insurance Scheme is the way to go because it provides a new public policy framework to ensure that people are not left behind. It provides a framework where we can measure their need. It provides a framework where we can deliver the services having measured their need.

This is a very complex policy for the future. That's why putting $1 billion dollars over four years in this Budget is so important because, as Minister Macklin said, it's the first stage. And as we go through the first stage we will be talking to the states about how we can work together, we will be talking to great community organisations such as Yooralla, about how we can work together to put in place a new model for the future that will change the way in which see and work with Australians with disability. So it's very complex but that's why it's important to put down the resources for stage one.

JOURNALIST:

Will there need to be a levy to fund this?

TREASURER:

Let's not put the cart before the horse. The fact is here we've got $1 billion dollars on the table, over four years, for the first stage. Some people will want to run all sorts of arguments about that but I say let's learn from the first stage, from this commitment, let's get a framework in place so we can make the judgments about the long term. This is a very important first step, if you like, in the evolution of a National Disability Insurance Scheme. The money is on the table. It's not necessarily there from our political opponents, I hope it is and we stand ready to work with them, to work with the state governments, to make sure this first stage gets done.

JOURNALIST:

How do you rate it as a social reform in Australia's history?

TREASURER:

There's no doubt that this is every bit as big as Medicare and as we all know that when Medicare was first was introduced in the early 70s, there was substantial opposition to it. It took over 20 years for that opposition to fade and for Medicare to become an essential part of the life of every Australian and to be seen in world terms as one of the best insurance schemes and one of the best medical schemes of just about any other developed economy.

We are now facing a similar mountain with the introduction of stage 1 of a National Disability Insurance Scheme. We've got to work really hard at it. Its complex policy, but I tell you what, we're up for it.

JOURNALIST:

Why hasn't your Government responded to Tony Abbott's efforts? I believe he sent your Government two letters to help?

TREASURER:

I'm sorry, we have been responding to what has been a recommendation of a Productivity Commission report, which was delivered to us and we've taken very seriously. This stage one starts a year early, a year early, and we stand ready to work with anyone in the political system and the not for profit sector and the business sector to make this a reality. We're the ones who are responding to the Productivity Commission report which we commissioned and we are doing that a year ahead of time.

So that sort of silly political talk really isn't necessary in what is a much more serious public policy issue. I'd like to see from the Liberals a commitment of the money. That's what I'd like to see. I would like to see them come out and say they're up there supporting $1 billion dollars we've put on the table over the next four years.

JOURNALIST:

Sam Dastyari, a member of New South Wales Labor, was on radio this morning and said that Labor is actually preparing for the possibility of an election this year. Is that true?

TREASURER:

I'm not aware of what Mr Dastyari said. What I've been preparing for and doing and the Government has been preparing for and doing, is putting in place a Budget which comes back to surplus almost alone amongst the major developed economies. We're coming back to surplus and despite the fact that our revenues are substantially down, we have found room to put in substantial resources for a National Disability Insurance Scheme and they're the factors that drive the policy decisions of this Government. The good of the nation, the good of the economy, and to make sure we're not just a strong economy but a fair society as well.

JOURANLIST:

Are you confident that the projected revenue of the mining tax will come in?

TREASURER:

Look, I'm certainly confident that our forecasts are accurate, yes. Can I just say, at the moment we've just got the usual suspects out there who opposed the mining tax from the very beginning. There wouldn't be any revenue from the mining tax if Tony Abbott had his way. The revenue would be zero if Tony Abbott had his way so he could give a tax cut to Gina Rinehart and to Clive Palmer. So we're out there, we've got it through the Parliament, we've got it done. We've got an aged care package in the Budget, we're getting that done, and we're getting the NDIS, National Disability Insurance Scheme done as well. Thanks.

JOURANLIST:

Do you believe Craig Thomson?

TREASURER:

Mr Thomson's position is one which will be determined in courts of law. There's not a role for Parliament to be judge and jury. Australians will make up their mind about what he's has had to say but at the end of the day he will be judged by the proper processes and that is as it should be, thank you.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible)?

TREASURER:

Sorry, this is the last one.

JOURNALIST:

Do you support a broadening of penalties?

TREASURER:

There was a report to the Parliament about a code of conduct, not too long ago. The Government as the Prime Minister said yesterday is happy to look at all of those issues and we are, thanks.