SUBJECT/S: National Disability Insurance Scheme is transforming the lives of people with disability, Tony Abbott must deliver the NDIS in full and on time.
JILL EMBERSON: The Hunter has been a testing ground for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, making our disability community the first to enter a new world of being able to select your own service providers for your needs. But there’s a real air of uncertainty over the full roll out across Australia of the NDIS despite bi-partisan backing of the whole concept. Reports in the Financial Review last week showed divisions emerging within the Expenditure Review Committee, suggesting that Treasurer Joe Hockey was against signing an imminent deal with the New South Wales Government that would help the state-wide rollout of the NDIS. Labor MP and Shadow Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin is calling on the Prime Minister to sign the bilateral agreement with New South Wales on the full rollout of the scheme. She’s in the Hunter today and she’s in the studio this morning, welcome to 1233 Jenny Macklin.
JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES & PAYMENTS: Great to be here.
JILL EMBERSON: Now before we talk about the money the drier side of the equation I wonder if you could isolate one example of something that you’ve seen in your visiting of NDIS sites, programs and people, one example that convinces people that this model is right.
MACKLIN: That’s exactly the right question because it’s all about making sure that people with disability and their families, carers have got access to the services that they need so they can have a good life. Most recently I was up in Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory where there’s another part of the trial for the NDIS going on and there were a number of Aboriginal people there that day that came to see us and are now part of the NDIS. A young man in a wheelchair who is now getting access to the sorts of supports and services that will work for him in that pretty harsh environment. It’s just ground breaking for so many individuals. I can think of another women in Geelong who told me that before the National Disability Insurance Scheme she wasn’t able to get toileted more than twice a day. Imagine how horrifically uncomfortable her life was – that’s all changed.
EMBERSON: Shining examples, graphic examples of what is a kind of revolutionary program of supporting a community that has found life so challenging on so many fronts. Now money does come into the equation because it’s a damn expensive program and looking over recent media coverage with say for example by Nicholas Stuart in the Brisbane Times reporting as of yesterday arguing that the scheme is unfunded and that neither side of politics is seeking or daring to address that basic fact. Is this program fully funded?
MACKLIN: It is fully funded in the budget and when of course the Prime Minister finally gets around to announcing the agreement with New South Wales he’ll be able to do so because it is fully funded in the budget. When Labor left office, we left the National Disability Insurance Scheme fully funded partly as a result of an increase in the Medicare Levy, which people are now paying. But also as a result of a range of other decisions that we made to make room for the National Disability Insurance Scheme so let’s put this issue aside. Yes it does cost more money because if you’re going to look after people properly and make sure they get access to the sorts of supports they need so they can go to work, if that’s what they want to do and they are able, that they can participate in the community, that they can go to the sorts of activities that you and I love. People with disability have every right to have access to those sorts of things and we as a community are going to help them.
EMBERSON: New South Wales has stumped up and said we’re here we’re ready to sign a deal with Canberra. What’s your understanding? You’re down there in Canberra, your down in the melee, what do you think is going on, such that the Federal Government won’t sign a deal with their own political party here in New South Wales?
MACKLIN: Well I am very concerned about it because everything I hear is that New South Wales is ready to go and of course people with disability here in New South Wales want to know are we next, which area is going to come into the National Disability Insurance Scheme next?
EMBERSON: So what’s going on?
MACKLIN: Well we saw that article in the Financial Review last week that said there was trouble inside the Expenditure Review Committee, that Joe Hockey was showing that he wasn’t 100 per cent committed. We want the Prime Minister to come over the top of Mr Hockey and say the National Disability Insurance Scheme is going to be rolled out in full and on time. No delays. I think that’s what people with disability really want to hear.
EMBERSON: Now the Government has reminded us time and time again that the deficit is pretty much their number one priority and anyone who has had to put any budget together – there’s lots of jockeying for getting your little pocket of funding. How do you go about being able to influence what seems to be a bit of a split inside the Government’s ranks over stumping up for this one?
MACKLIN: Well I do understand these difficulties, I’ve been on the Expenditure Review Committee myself in government for six years, it is hard to make sure that you get those decisions right. But all of us, both sides of politics have signed up to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and really Mr Abbott now needs to show that he really means it. He is going to sign this agreement with New South Wales and make sure that people with disability get access to this wonderful new scheme right across the state by 2018.
EMBERSON: It’s a big scheme for anybody to bite off. It was a real winner for Labor in government and many did criticise Labor for biting it off before it was fully ready. But it’s been bitten off and the community wants it, the disability community as I understand will take to the streets if this doesn’t get fully funded.
MACKLIN: And rightly so.
EMBERSON: What do you think? Are we looking at days in which you’re asking the Prime Minister to sign this?
MACKLIN: Well I hope he’ll do it immediately. I understand there is nothing standing in the way – except Mr Hockey. So he should get out of the way, stop trying to derail this scheme that will make sure that people with disability get the supports that they need to have a good life and we want the National Disability Insurance Scheme with no more delay.
EMBERSON: My guest this morning as we head to the news here on 1233 ABC Newcastle, Jenny Macklin, Shadow Minister for Disability Reform, she was in the Hunter when the trial here was launched a couple of years ago. She’s heading off today to the House with No Steps after being with us on 1233 let’s hope that the community is able, because this seems to be one of those things that’s almost untouchable in terms of saying no – there is bipartisan support.
MACKLIN: Well let’s hope so. That’s really the message to Mr Abbott today – let’s get on with it, let’s make sure that people with disability can get access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme – they deserve nothing less.
EMBERSON: Thanks for coming into 1233 today, Jenny Macklin on 1233 and I hope you can stick around because we have a rather gorgeous story for you - 1233’s Jenny Marchant spent some time meeting a local women who has used the NDIS to get her voice back after losing it to motor neurone disease – it’s something very special.