Thursday, 16 August 2012
Questions without Notice
National Disability Insurance Scheme
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Disability Reform, Senator Evans. As the minister would be aware, there is strong cross-party support for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
In that context and on behalf of Australians with disability, my question is: why, given the Productivity Commission recommended $3.9 billion of Commonwealth expenditure to support the first phase of the NDIS, has the government only allocated $1 billion over the forward estimates? Given this discrepancy, how can the first phase of the NDIS be completed?
I thank the senator for his question. I think that Senator McEwen made the pertinent point that it is all very well to wear the T-shirt and say you support the NDIS; there is a question about whether you actually show that support and whether you actually commit funds to it. The reality now in Australian politics is that there is only one party in this country that is actually putting money up. I have listened to the opposition's Treasury spokesman, Joe Hockey, on the subject and he made it very clear that there is no commitment from the Liberal and National parties to fund this. So I will not be lectured by the senator about commitment to this scheme. What this government has done is commit $1 million to the trial phase—real money on the table—and as a result of that financial commitment, we have got support from the state governments, many of them coalition governments, for the first stage to go ahead. So we are not just mouthing the rhetoric, we are getting on making this work. We commissioned the report, we have responded to it and we have allocated $1 million to make sure that the first stage works. We have now reached agreement with New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory for launch sites. We have insisted, and they have responded, by putting real money on the table.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Mr President, on a point of order. My question was: how does the minister account for the discrepancy between the $3.9 billion the Productivity Commission said was necessary to deliver the first phase of the NDIS, and the $1 billion that the government has allocated? You cannot complete the first phase with almost $3 billion less than the Productivity Commission said was necessary.
Mr President, the senator would have more credibility if he said that the Liberal coalition were supporting the expenditure of $3.9 billion, but they are not. We responded to the Productivity Commission report by planning a first stage and funding that first stage. That is happening. That is being rolled out on the ground now and we have got even coalition states to come to the party and help fund this. I think that the senator ought to focus on supporting rather than trying to nitpick. (Time expired)
Mr President, I have a supplementary question. I have been asked by many Australians with disability to inquire of the government whether they are indeed committed to both fully funding a national rollout of the NDIS and achieving the Productivity Commission's target date of completion of 2018-19. Has the government committed to 2018-19? Has the government committed to fund the full national rollout?
We have started to build the national scheme and from 2018 under this government we will have a NDIS. So I am interested to know that when the senator is asked, 'Will you ask the government whether they are fully committed to funding it,' whether they also ask you, 'Is the Liberal-National coalition committed?' and I wonder, Senator, whether you are honest with them. Do you tell them you have committed nothing? Do you tell them that the shadow spokesman for the Treasury has made it clear that you cannot add to the $70 billion black hole anymore—that you have committed to paying back the super tax to the big mining companies, and that that will drive every expenditure cut you have to make and prevent you implementing new programs like the NDIS? That is the reality.
This government is committed to the NDIS, we are funding it and we are rolling it out. That is in sharp contrast to the Liberals' commitment— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I ask the minister—and to take it on notice if he needs to—whether the government will reconsider its rejection of Mr Abbott's proposal to establish a joint parliamentary committee, chaired by both sides of politics, to oversee the implementation of the NDIS—a proposal that would see the NDIS owned by the parliament as a whole.
I think that the senator may have missed the key point: we are actually getting on with it. We are doing it. We are actually doing it! And interestingly, we are doing it with the cooperation of many state premiers. I think that the Liberal opposition in this chamber wants to show that this is possible and that they can support it: let us see you commit to funding it. Let us see you be honest and say, 'I am not just going to wear the T-shirt, I am not just going to say yes to everybody when they ask me the question: I am going to be honest with them and say, "This is how much I will put on the table. This is how much the Liberal Party will put on the table."'
Mr President, I rise on a point of order, on relevance. My question to the minister was whether the government is prepared to accept the hand of bipartisanship and whether the minister is prepared to convey to the Prime Minister again the request that there be a joint committee established to oversee the implementation; not a talkfest, but to oversee the implementation.
I think it should be clear to people that we are dealing with the people who have some relevance: the state governments have some relevance because they are making a financial commitment, not just mouthing platitudes. We will continue to work with those who show real commitment to the scheme, and I suggest that the senator spend his time talking to the Premier of Queensland, Mr Newman, about whether he is prepared to support the scheme. That would be a useful use of his time. (Time expired)