Conservative governments are putting Labor’s policy into doubt
The Australian 15 May 2012
THE conservative states have virtually written off the chances of securing an agreement on a National Disability Insurance Scheme with the Gillard government and are suggesting it will be Tony Abbott who negotiates the details of an NDIS with them.
In the strongest attack from the states so far on the approach being taken by federal Labor, NSW Disability Services Minister Andrew Constance said yesterday Labor, by committing $1billion only over four years, was not serious about an NDIS and was simply “taking advantage” of a sector with low expectations.
“The community now understands Tony Abbott will likely introduce the NDIS, and I would like to think he would be a lot more consultative and engaging in the development of the scheme,” Mr Constance said.
Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan kept up their public pressure on the states, demanding they lift their disability funding to a new national benchmark to support the NDIS, which is expected to cost $15bn each year.
The Australian has learned the states will have to spend between $1100 and $2500 extra on services for each person with a disability before they can take part in one of the four launch sites for the first stage of the NDIS announced in the budget last Tuesday.
The government has set a new benchmark for disability funding by the states of $8738 a person. Victoria and Tasmania are the only state governments that meet that level of funding.
Mr Constance called on the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to commit to funding the anticipated growth in the cost of disability support out of federal income tax revenue. He said the scheme should be designed by a board with independent experts rather than by Families Minister Jenny Macklin and bureaucrats in her department.
“I think the idea that Jenny Macklin and her department build this is ridiculous,” he said. “They don’t have the skills set. It’s just ‘big brother stuff, with bureaucrats establishing a system that will establish another system of bureaucrats. (Finance Minister) Penny Wong and Wayne Swan know income tax is going to have to underwrite the scheme, but they have done nothing to discuss the funding allocation for a national rollout. NSW is not going to roll over and have its tummy tickled by Canberra.”
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman also gave a grim view of the Gillard government’s chances of pushing through a funding mechanism for the NDIS before the next election.
“Many quite distinguished commentators now in the media have realised what … a cynical game is being played on NDIS,” Mr Newman said. “The Prime Minister has said one thing to the premiers behind closed doors … then rushed into a headlong push through public announcements to try and sadly tell people with disabilities, their carers or their families that something’s going to happen. “(She’s) pretending she has a plan and a funding mechanism for the care of people with disabilities; we all wish that she did, but sadly that is not the case.”
He added: “These savings are there to be found (in the federal budget) and when they are found, they should go to people in need.”
A spokeswoman for West Australian Disability Services minister Helen Morton did not care which federal government took carriage of the NDIS: “What I care about is that the handling of an NDIS is not lost to a federal centralised bureaucracy with unnecessary duplication of administration and wasted funding.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING: JARED OWENS, PAIGE TAYLOR
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