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

4 August 2012

Doorstop Interview

Joint interview with
The Hon Lara Giddings MP
Premier of Tasmania

SUBJECTS: National Disability Insurance Scheme launch site for Tasmania, Polls, Personally abusive language, GST arrangements in Tasmania, Situation in Syria, Campbell Newman not signing up to the NDIS

TREASURER:

It's great to be here in Tassie with my Tasmanian colleagues. It's also particularly good to be here with the Premier and also Julie Collins and of course we've got Jane Austin who's the newly endorsed candidate for Denison. It's also good to be here with all of the families today who've come today because they understand that the National Disability Insurance Scheme will have a vital impact on their lives and the lives of their families. This is a long overdue launch which will begin in Tasmania. I'm pleased to say the Premier here has been enthusiastic, from day one has participated in all of the discussions and the billion dollars that the Commonwealth Government put aside in the May Budget will now be deployed here in Tasmania, and across five launch sites across Australia to make sure we get this scheme going.

The truth is that Australians with disabilities have waited too long. There's been too much injustice, there has been too much need which has been unmet over a long period of time. It really warmed my heart to talk to the young people up over there and their families about what a difference this can make to their lives over a period of time. Now it can't just happen overnight, that's why we need launch sites and that's why the Government was so delighted to reach agreement for a launch site here in Tasmania. The Premier has agreed with our Government, the Gillard Government, to ensure that this launch site will have around one thousand people involved in what we call stage one. We will learn a lot from our launch sites here, five sites across the country I'm pleased to say across the political divide, that's important. It's sad that in my home state the Premier up there has taken a very cold-hearted attitude to this. But across the political divide elsewhere people have come together to put in place this scheme for the first time in our history. As I said upstairs this is a very big reform for Australia. It's a reform not unlike a big reform like Medicare, or putting in place national superannuation or for that matter aged pensions. Many families in our community have a great need when it comes to caring for people with profound disabilities. That's why we're moving on this scheme a year earlier than is recommended to us to get it going and to make sure we can do better for Australians with disabilities than we've done in the past.

I might just throw to Lara.

PREMIER:

Thank you Wayne. Thank you to your Government for your absolute commitment to this major reform and such a significant reform. As a former disabilities minister, I have worked closely with families in Tasmania for many years around the issues that are confronting their children. One of the things that of course they fear the most is what happens when they're no longer here. This sort of reform gives them absolute comfort that from cradle to their own ending of life in that sense, that they will have the protection and the support that they require.

Importantly, it's not just the support that's dictated to them, it's support that they themselves can make instinctive choices about what they want and how they want that care delivered. So this is so important and people know that here in Tasmania we're facing tough economic times. Our budget's very, very tight. But we as a government knew the importance of being part of this trial and that's why we found the additional funds to be part of the trial and to help the cohort of 15-24 year olds in Tasmania test the system. To give it the feedback that we'll need in order to be able to develop the larger NDIS for the entire country that will look after all Australians with a disability.

JOURNALIST:

When are we expecting to see the money start flowing into Tassie for this?

TREASURER:

On 1 July next year. A lot of work has to be done before 1 July next year. We decided we wanted to get cracking on this so we've brought forward the launches by a year to 1 July next year. This is a very big undertaking and if you talk to the parents around here, a very complex area of public policy. The whole idea of having a National Insurance Scheme is that we can assess people correctly, according to set criteria right across the country. We can evaluate the support that they require on an income basis right across the country. We're going to put an end to the vast disparity in services that exist between the states and for that matter probably between regions within states.

JOURNALIST:

How much of the $1 billion of Commonwealth funds is going to Tasmania?

TREASURER:

We're still working our way through the exact costings..

JOURNALIST:

Is it enough to retain all the seats that you've got here in Tasmania at the moment?

TREASURER:

It's got nothing to do with seats. We're announcing a major reform for the nation. It's a National Disability Insurance Scheme and we're here to right a wrong that has been experienced by too many Australians right across our country.

JOURNALIST:

What are you doing though, to make sure, I mean there's been polling this week that will show Labor won't win any seats here in Tassie at the next federal election. What are you doing to make sure you do?

TREASURER:

What we are doing here is what the public expects us to do. Which is to put in place the services that they need. And in the case of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, this was not something that was even thought of by our Liberal opponents who were in government for twelve years. We're not here for political reasons, we're here for the families that we're dealing with today. On the broad question of polling, it's not worth the papers it's written on.

JOURNALIST:

Can I ask you about the comments made about the Prime Minister, comparing here to a cow. Is there a low ebb in Australian political commentary?

TREASURER:

There is no place in Australian society for this sort of personal abuse. No place whatsoever. But unfortunately it's crept in. It's crept in because people like Mr Abbott and the shock-jocks, particularly in Sydney radio have descended to new lows in terms of the public conversation.

JOURNALIST:

Should he apologise? Should David Farley apologise to the Prime Minister?

TREASURER:

I wasn't present but what I can say is that…

JOURNALIST:

The transcript is pretty clear though.

TREASURER:

I haven't seen the transcript. But what I can say is this; there is no place in Australian life, not just public life, in Australian life for this sort of personal abuse. Now it's become frequent, it's there especially in Sydney radio and we see it in the behaviour of some people in the Federal Coalition. There is no place for it in our public life or indeed in society.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

We'll keep working our way through these issues. We've made a very big commitment to work with community groups, to work with the Tasmanian Government getting these issues sorted out. They are difficult issues as everybody out here is aware, but we'll continue to work as hard as we possibly can to get a decent outcome. I'm not going to pre-empt that outcome.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

I had a whole list of things we've done in Tasmania and in fact it was taking too long for the speech. The fact is that Ministers are down here all of the time. Minister Burke, Minister Ludwig, Parliamentary Secretary Sidebottom and the rest of the crew here are working on these matters all of the time and we give them the highest importance.

JOURNALIST:

As Treasurer, how would you feel about more Commonwealth funding being allocated to try and get a deal over the line?

TREASURER:

I'm not going to talk about the discussions that have gone on. We've put a lot of Commonwealth money on the table for Tasmania for a whole lot, for very important reasons. We've done that because there are vulnerabilities here which have been caused by factors like the Global Financial Crisis, which has impacted here more harshly in some industrial sectors. We recognise that which is why we have been working so hard and doing everything we humanely can to make sure we deal with some of the challenges down here, and we'll continue doing them.

JOURNALIST:

You mentioned GST a couple of times in your speech. How safe is Tasmania's share of GST from a district distribution under your own government?

TREASURER:

We've made a commitment to the current arrangements. We've had a fifty odd year commitment to the current arrangements and so too did the Liberal Party until Mr Abbott became leader and broke the bipartisan consensus. I'm absolutely committed to this technical term, Horizontal Fiscal Equalisation. It sounds technical but it's really important. It's the fundamental Australian commitment, the commitment that we made to ensure that Australians wherever they live, get broadly a similar level of services. That's what it is and that's what's provided through distribution arrangements. Here we've been talking about disability when it hasn't been happening. Now the fact is that if Mr Abbott had his way then it would strip something like $600 million from the $5 billion budget in Tasmania. That is scary. That is seriously scary. But he canvassed it and we've not seen categorical statements to the contrary. Indeed it seems lately that he agreeing with some Liberal colleagues for more per capita distributions. The impact of that in Tasmania would be absolutely savage.

JOURNALIST:

Just quickly on another matter. The Australian Government considering the ongoing situation in Syria?

TREASURER:

Of course we are. It's followed closely by Foreign Minister Carr.

JOURNALIST:

Are any of the states not on board for the NDIS so far any closer to getting on board?

TREASURER:

Queensland's no closer to getting on board. We've got a very cold-hearted Premier up there who's playing a very brutal political game and sadly Australians with disabilities in Queensland are going to be left behind under Mr Newman.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

I think the discussions been going on with Western Australia. I haven't got an update of where they are. But the attitude of the Queensland Government has been very clear.