Australian Government coat of arms

Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

Doorstop with the Treasurer, the Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Minister for Social Services, the Hon. Christian Porter MP and Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, the Hon. Jane Prentice MP and John Della Bosca

14 June 2017

Mural Hall, Parliament House, Canberra

Prime Minister

Treasurer

Minister for Social Services

Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services

Subjects:

NDIS; Chief Scientist’s Review

E&OE

PRIME MINISTER:

Good afternoon.

I'm here with the Treasurer, the Minister for Social Services and the Assistant Minister for Disabilities, to talk about the NDIS. We're joined by John Della Bosca and other advocates for disabilities, who have come to Parliament today to ask every member of the House and the Senate to support the increase in the Medicare levy, 0.5 per cent. That will ensure this great national enterprise - this great national enterprise of practical love, of compassion, of community solidarity, of supporting each other and as we have just discussed, with the mothers there with their children, an important exercise in productivity -  this deserves to be fully funded.

John and his colleagues have been leading a campaign for years, demanding that the NDIS be fully funded. This budget delivers that. Increasing the Medicare levy by 0.5 per cent from 2019 will ensure that the Commonwealth share of the NDIS is fully funded. It will mean those two little boys will know, when they need the NDIS in the future, it will be paid for. Their mothers will know that. Their parents will know that. Their grandparents will know that. That is the commitment that we make. It is the least we can do.

We speak a lot about compassion, we speak a lot about love and empathy and community in this place, but we have to make sure we can pay for it. So John, thank you for coming here and using your great skills as an advocate, as a political advocate, to get the support we need to ensure this great reform, fully funding the NDIS, is delivered. John, I’d ask you to say a few words?

JOHN DELLA BOSCA:

Thank you very much Prime Minister and thank you for coming this afternoon. Put simply, what we've been doing today, what we intend to do this afternoon and what we will be doing over the next days and weeks and even if it takes months, is to make sure that everybody in this Parliament understands, regardless of the party or faction they're in, that the NDIS, to be successful - and it is already a great success story in terms of the things that the Prime Minister canvassed. To be completely successful, it needs to be truly intergenerational. We need to lock in the funding for the NDIS into the future. We can't leave it to the whim of one Parliament or another, one budget or another. No disrespect intended - one Treasurer or another. It needs to be something that one government, this Government, has said they're prepared to. They've got in the budget to lock in the funding increase and keep it there so that no future government can change those priorities and harm the NDIA's mission.

It happens to be, by the way of course, that if you go back to the Productivity Commission's original numbers, this proposal matches very nearly exactly the kind of growth that is needed to fund the NDIA into the future. So it would be remiss of us as people who have been campaigning, as every Australian that counts has, for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, to be the best possible scheme it can be. For seven, eight, nine, some of us for ten years, if we didn't take this opportunity to advocate to every Member of Parliament here, senator, Member of Parliament here, that the Medicare levy adjustment, the increase to the Medicare levy must happen, in order to secure a consistent, sustainable funding stream for the NDIS. That's what we're telling everybody. That’s what we’ll keep telling everybody until we get a result.

Thank you.

TREASURER:

PM, can I will bring this around here, because this is important. This is something that John sent to me not long after I became Treasurer. The answer of the Turnbull Government is yes, this is exactly what we're going to do, John. We are going to fully fund the NDIS. To do that, you need to understand two things. First, you’ve got to understand that there is a funding gap in the NDIS. Minister Porter has been making that point I think, very well. There is a funding gap. It does have to be filled. If it's not filled families who deal with disabilities will not have the certainty they need.

You have got to have a fair way of filling that gap which is what we've done with the Medicare levy. That's the fair way to do it. Because as Julia Gillard said, everybody puts in because everybody takes out. That is a real fundamental principle of how the Medicare levy works. That's how it should continue to work for the NDIS.

So, we're not playing games with this. It was a pretty simple ask from John; fund the NDIS. That's what we're doing. That’s what the budget has achieved and I'm pleased we've been able to answer your question, John, in this way.

We ask the Parliament to say yes, as well, rather than say no.

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES:

I won't add too much more. It was lovely meeting the delegation here. Young Nathan's mum commented that his chances to have a productive life as an Australian citizen, where life is made meaningful through community engagement and through work, will depend on the NDIS and the intergenerational way in which the NDIS can improve individual lives through the packages focusing on engagement with the community and empowering individuals.

John, thanks for being here today. One thing I would say is that when we came to look at this 0.5 per cent increase in the Medicare levy, understanding what the gap was and where it started in the year 2020, just over $4 billion and how it grew to a cumulative $55 billion. The fit between a 0.5% increase in the Medicare levy and the gap was so near to being exact, it was almost like it was meant to happen. John, I don't know whether you know, but my suspicion is that when the original 0.5% Medicare levy was policy of the Labor Party, they'd always meant to go to 1%. The sense I have got is that they'd always meant to go to 1% but at the last minute they balked because they misunderstood the generosity of the Australian people and misunderstood how the Australian people understand that this is a scheme which if everyone can put in according to their ability to put in, everyone benefits for generations to come in Australia. I don't know, maybe John knows, but that's my suspicion.

ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES AND DISABILITY SERVICES:

Thank you, Prime Minister. Look, we've been talking about Nicholas and Nathan and the future generations that are going to benefit, but we also met today the mothers who have children in their 30s and 40s, who are now going to be out-living them. Changes have come with medical advances. Those parents – and there's a large cohort out there - are really anxious about what is going to happen to their children, when they die. So the NDIS is life-changing for them and gives them so much comfort in their older age that their children will be looked after if we can properly fund NDIS.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you Jane.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, what talks have you held with Mr Shorten on the NDIS? Do you plan to hold any further talks in coming weeks to get this across the line?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have certainly sought, as you know, we sought the support of the Labor Party to this.

What’s so disappointing is that all of the logic that stood behind Bill Shorten's advocacy for a 0.5 per cent increase in the NDIS back in 2012, stands today. I mean, it is utterly consistent and I think the point that Christian made about the perfect fit that the extra 0.5 per cent makes to fill the gap, is very well made.

This is very, very clear. The logic that Julia Gillard and Bill Shorten applied those years ago, they should apply today. We know that a majority of his shadow cabinet support it. He should, too.

I think that the case that’s being made by John Della Bosca and Ara and Katherine and Kirsten and the other advocates here today is a very powerful one.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister given the tax increase isn’t scheduled to start until July 1, 2019, are you quite happy to take this to the next election? Fight this tax increase at the next election?

PRIME MINISTER:

We're focused on getting it approved by the Parliament now. That's our commitment. We're seeking support for it right now. We are very committed to this. We are committed to fully fund the NDIS.

This is the fair response. It is absolutely consistent with what the Labor Party did in 2012. There is no rational or logical basis for opposing this.

TREASURER:

It is cruel to let this linger. The reason we put it in the budget is because we need the certainty now. Those parents, particularly those older parents, they need the certainty now. They need to know that the levy will be there in 19/20. It's all accounted for, the funds established and they can have that certainty.

So what we want to legislate for now, is certainty. The funds will follow when the bills turn up. It means that we can now focus, Christian and everyone can focus, on delivering the NDIS. That's what we should be focusing on and settling the funding question.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, if you were to take up the Labor Party’s proposal and only allow the tax increase to hit when you are earning over $87,000 a year, how much of the $8 billion in revenue would you lose?

TREASURER:

Well there's two points here Sam. One is that they are not increasing the Medicare levy to fund the NDIS. Chris Bowen has made that crystal clear. He has no intention of sending one cent of their increase in the Medicare levy to fund the NDIS. So the answer to your question is, is there's a $55.7 billion hole because they're not even interested in acknowledging there is a funding hole.

JOURNALIST:

But what would be revenue impact?

TREASURER:

It doesn't cover it. It misses it by the tens of billions of dollars.

JOURNALIST:

Do you know how much it would be?

TREASURER:

I do - it's $15 billion over ten years, they're out. It doesn't cover it. But what is more important is, they are not going to send a cent of the increase in the Medicare levy to fund the NDIS. Not one cent.

It's not going to go to the special account. It's not going to go to support one disabled Australian. It's just a tax increase.

JOURNALIST:

The Productivity Commission has a report out on the NDIS. It said that there is a higher than expected number of children in the scheme, in particular with autism. What will you do to manage that?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Productivity Commission has noted the extraordinary commitment that has been put into the scheme. They've noted the importance of it as this great, great national enterprise, as I said. But I’ll ask the Minister to say more about the PC report, or paper I should say.

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES:

The first several recommendations deal with the global issue, is it on track? The Productivity Commission say two things. Essentially, it is on track and it is on budget. They note that inside the budget that there are upward pressures. One of those is more children than expected are presenting as applicants for the NDIS. They also note that there are a range of downward pressures at the same time. But at the moment we are tracking on budget.

The way in which we've being dealing with the greater than expected number of children presenting is through the early childhood gateway and essentially that is an assessment prior to the age of 6, and the delivery of supports outside but allied and parallel to the NDIS, to try and make sure that as much improvement in every individual child presenting is made, so that the numbers that actually enter at the point at which entry occurs, is lower and more in line with expectations.

But we will find throughout this process, that some actuals will be above and some will be below estimates. 

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, given the feedback you were getting yesterday from the Party Room, can you save the Finkel plan?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we had a very good discussion in the Party Room yesterday. The Finkel plan, the Chief Scientist's independent report, which was commissioned by the Council of Australian Governments is a report. Not a report by government, it’s a report to governments. In fact it's a report to every government, state, territory and federal. We received it on Friday. We are in a process of considering it.

A very good exposition of it was given to the Party Room by Josh Frydenberg, the Energy Minister. Then we had a question and answer session later in the day, in a very valuable discussion. I can say that there is absolutely broad agreement and consensus that business as usual is not an option.

Of course, we have demonstrated that. We are already taking action. I mean lets not mince words here, we are taking the most decisive action in the gas market by any government. We are literally taking steps to limit exports to ensure that there will be sufficient gas in the domestic market.

Now, it gave me no pleasure to do that, but the alternative was seeing gas prices continue to rise which put pressure, not just on electricity prices, but on households and on industry, and putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk. We are taking steps to ensure that we have a massive increase in hydro generation baseload power, storage power, with Snowy Hydro 2.0, which will add at least 2,000 megawatts to the national grid.

So these are very important steps we're taking so far and we are in the process as, indeed, are the other eight governments involved, we are considering the Chief Scientist's report.

JOURNALIST:

What’s your time frame for landing a policy and landing legislation? What are we looking at?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we will be giving it due consideration. We will obviously be working as quickly as we can, but I just want to -

JOURNALIST:

But what about the timeframe? Don't industry and investors really want some certainty in what it’s all about?

PRIME MINISTER:

The answer is yes, industry does need certainty. There's been too much politics, too much ideology, not enough economics, not enough engineering.

Our energy policy and my commitment is to ensure that Australians have affordable, reliable energy, and that we meet our commitments, our international commitments to cut our emissions.

It is a very complex area and it involves every other government. So it has to go through COAG.

JOURNALIST:

But surely you have an aim and a timetable?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the aim is to get it right. The aim is to get it right. Let me tell you, glib answers and one-liners have been of no assistance in keeping Australian’s energy secure and affordable.

What Australians need is wise leadership, not glib leadership. What Australians need is economics and engineering, not ideology and politics. They’ve had too much of that. All that has done is drive electricity prices up and put reliability at risk.

You know, you heard it before but the example of South Australia is probably the worst, where you have a massive commitment to renewable energy, wind power, with not a thought in the world to how it would be backed-up. Not a thought in the world, to how you would have storage. Nobody was thinking about that. I don't think they were thinking at all. They were thinking about headlines and ideology. Enough is enough.

We need a clear, national plan founded on economics and engineering and we're doing the work to deliver it.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister can you describe for us what might happen this time if you miss the opportunity again, because either on the left or on the right, no compromise is possible. What will happen to the energy system, the electricity system? What will happen to the economy?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look, Chris, I'm not interested in speculating about lack of success. Our job as a government is to deliver and to lead.

I have provided decisive leadership on energy. I refer you to the speech I gave at the Press Club at the beginning of the year when I talked about the importance of providing storage. I talked about the importance of maintaining coal in the system. I talked about the importance of high efficiency, low-emission coal. I talked about the importance of having an energy solution that is all of the above, that is technology agnostic, that delivers affordable power, secure power and meets our emission reduction commitments.

Now this is complex work, it is a work that needs to be driven and informed by economics and engineering. But Australian families and Australian businesses will know when we have succeeded because they will see downward pressure on electricity and gas prices.

We are already seeing downward pressure on gas prices, thanks to my Government's intervention. And they will see reliable, secure electricity so they won't be seeing the blackouts. It has taken quite a while of politics and ideology from the Labor side of politics, I regret to say, in a partisan note, but it's an objective one. We’ve seen its taken quite a while to get us to this point where energy is less affordable and less secure than it should be.

We will deal with it, we are dealing with it and we're giving it the due consideration it deserves. As I said, this is a complex task, it's a hard task.

Glibness is not going to keep the lights on. Glibness is not going to pay the electricity bills.

Thank you all very much.

[ENDS]