Transcript of doorstop interview, Canberra
THU 26 JULY 2012
Prime Minister, ACT Chief Minister, Member for Fraser
Subject(s): National Disability Insurance Scheme; Greens policy costings; Caltex; Labor reforms
E & O E – PROOF ONLY
PM: I’m delighted this morning to be at Black Mountain School. I’m with the Chief Minister for the ACT, Katy Gallagher. I’m also with our local member, Andrew Fraser. Andrew Leigh! The member for Fraser.
LEIGH: You’ve been spending too much time in Queensland.
PM: That’s right. Andrew Leigh, the member for Fraser. It’s been a fantastic opportunity to walk around to talk to some of the staff here, but to meet with some of the students. The students who come to this school have severe disabilities.
And this school is about making sure that they get an opportunity in life, once they leave school. They do some amazing work and I’m very grateful to receive a scarf made by the students here, and we’re proudly wearing them.
Yesterday at the Council of Australian Governments meeting, we were focused on the future of kids like the kids in this school. We were focused on a better deal for people around our nation who have a disability.
At the moment, the kind of care you get depends on the circumstances in which you got your disability. So if you’re injured at work, you’ll get a different deal. If you’re injured in a transport accident, you’ll get a different deal.
But for too many Australians who are born with a disability, get it in an accident that’s outside the workplace or outside a car, or become disabled because of a profound illness; these Australians don’t get the care they need under the current system.
Care is rationed and for many people care is in short supply. We want to change that by introducing a National Disability Insurance Scheme. By making sure that the person with a disability gets options and choices and the care and support they need.
This is a huge reform, easily the size and scale of creating Medicare, which is why it’s appropriate that we launch this reform in a variety of places around the nation and then we take what we learn from those launch sites into the design of the bigger scheme.
I am delighted to be standing here with the Chief Minister of the ACT, who was prepared yesterday at the Council of Australian Governments meeting to say that her Government would work with the Federal Government to have a launch site for the whole of the ACT.
That she would find the new resources necessary within her budget to make that possible. And the Federal Government’s worked hard to make $1 billion available even though of course in current times, money is tight.
Yesterday we reached agreement with the ACT, with Tasmania, with South Australia to host launch sites. My door is still open to other premiers if they want to host a launch site in their state.
And as I said yesterday, I am very disappointed that Premier O’Farrell in New South Wales would not step forward and provide extra money for extra care for people in the Hunter region of New South Wales so that they could have a launch site.
I’m very disappointed that Premier Baillieu wouldn’t step forward with extra money for extra care for people in the Barwon region of Victoria.
The money that they were being asked for is a modest amount in their state budgets – a very modest amount indeed. And it’s money that would go into extra care for people with disabilities.
But my door is still open to those premiers and indeed to other premiers if they want to do what I believe is the right thing and host a launch site.
At the end of the day, a lot of words have been spoken about providing a better deal for people with disabilities in our society; making sure they get the care they need, making sure they feel embraced by and part of our community.
A lot of words have been spoken and there have been a lot of statements of support. But it’s time to move from the words to the deeds. I’ve been prepared to do that, the Chief Minister’s been prepared to do that, now it’s time for the premiers of New South Wales and Victoria to do that too.
I’ll turn to the Chief Minister for some comments and then we’ll be happy to take your questions.
CHIEF MINISTER GALLAGHER: Thank you Prime Minister. It’s great to be here. Yesterday the ACT signed up to a trial site for the NDIS because it’s the right thing to do. I’ve worked for many years in disability. I’ve sat with people by their bed spending time with them because they don’t have a support package to go out and spend time in the community.
I’ve spent time with parents worried about what happens to their kids when they finish a school like this. As a Government we’ve put in more resources into disability but it’s very much like the health system, it’s growing at about 9 per cent per year.
And it’s hard. It’s hard to do it on your own. The opportunity yesterday was to partner with the Commonwealth and to create a truly universal scheme for people. For kids, for older people and for the carers themselves who provide so much of their own investment into looking after people with a disability.
So the choice yesterday for the ACT was very simple; it was the right thing to do. It was about partnering and sharing the burden of the investment into disability. And I have no doubt that in time the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be looked back as a no-brainer and why didn’t it happen earlier.
But we’ve got the skeleton of the scheme, the ACT’s going to give it a really good shot. I think the feedback we’ve had from the ACT community has been very positive.
People are ready for this, they’ve been waiting for this, they wanted the leadership on it. And yesterday was an opportunity that we weren’t prepared to give up.
JOURNALIST: Given that this reform is so important, and it is a big reform, you’ve likened it to Medicare, if you can’t get New South Wales and Victoria (inaudible) is it a failure of your leadership to get that up?
PM: If Premier O’Farrell says to the people of the Hunter region and the people of New South Wales that they’re not worth an extra $70 million of investment over three years, then I think people will judge Premier O’Farrell by that.
If Premier Baillieu says to the people of the Barwon region that they’re not worth an extra $40 million over three years, then I think the people of Victoria will judge Premier Baillieu on that.
For me, we will get on with building this scheme – make no mistake. We hit the go button yesterday with the ACT, with Tasmania, and with South Australia.
I’m determined to get this done because I too have met with so many people who have a disability themselves or have a child with a disability.
One of the things we talked about as we wandered the corridors here and met with the people who work here and the students who come here, one of the things that Andrew and Katy and I were discussing as we moved around is that there’s a really anxious time in the lives of these kids and their families when they’re too old for school and they’ve got to find their way in an adult world.
That’s frequently raised with me, and it’s making sure that the children here have the supports they need to be productive members of our community in line with their capacities for the rest of their lives.
That’s what the National Disability Insurance Scheme is about.
JOURNALIST: Will you still move forward to a national scheme if Victoria and New South Wales don’t at least join the trial?
PM: We’ll keep building and we’ll keep building a national scheme. But to my state colleagues – Premier O’Farrell and Premier Baillieu – you can’t walk in front of a TV camera and put your hand on your heart and say “I support the National Disability Insurance Scheme”, and then when it comes to actually supporting it, actually turning your words into deeds, you say no.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, one of the sticking points is if too many of the people involved in the scheme cost more than $35,000 per person, you want the states to take 50 per cent of that risk, they want you to take 100 per cent. Are you prepared to budge on that?
PM: Well in no discussions that I had yesterday, Premier O’Farrell and Premier Baillieu didn’t raise that question with me. We didn’t even get there.
Because they weren’t prepared to do the first bit, they weren’t prepared to agree – like the Chief Minister here has, like the Premier of South Australia has, like the Premier of Tasmania has – that it was worth engaging in a very modest spend to be involved in having a launch site of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Weren’t prepared to.
JOURNALIST: If it’s a modest spend, why are you then putting a price tag of $100 million (inaudible) wedge the Coalition on this issue?
PM: I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about. What we have asked states to do – let’s be very clear – states and territories came to the Council of Australian Governments meeting in April, sat around a table and agreed that this would be a shared new piece of reform.
That it was incredibly valuable, that we wanted to get it done. And that the Federal Government would partner with states and territories to do it. Following that meeting, in what was a very tough federal budget, $35 billion of savings, we found the room to put $1 billion of new money on the table.
Then building on what was agreed at April COAG, we then said to our colleagues in states and territories, come forward with proposals for a launch site. And every jurisdiction that has said yes has been prepared to step up to putting $20,700 into the care package of an adult in the trial.
Premier O’Farrell and Premier Baillieu have not been prepared to do that.
Now just ask yourself the question. Tasmania’s a small place; the ACT’s not the biggest place in the world either. South Australia is a smaller state.
These jurisdictions are prepared to make the arrangement on their budgets to spend $20,700 on care for people in the trial sites who are adults. Why can’t Premier O’Farrell and Premier Baillieu in their big, strong states do that?
JOURNALIST: Over $25 million a year – that’s a small amount of money for them and it’s a small amount of money for you – why couldn’t you put it in?
PM: Because we’ve agreed this is shared business. We are building this scheme in partnership with the states and territories. Overwhelmingly at the moment, the states and territories fund disability services.
We have basically doubled the amount of money the Federal Government puts into disability services. We sat round the table at COAG in April and said, we will share this, that’s what we will do. Well we’re asking people, particularly New South Wales and Victoria for a very, very modest share and they’re saying no.
JOURNALIST: Have you or would you consider some sort of levy or an increase in the Medicare levy to fund it?
PM: We’ll find ways of funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme just in the same way that we found ways of funding other big reforms. I’m not having people start speculating and starting fear campaigns about how this will be funded.
We will find ways within the federal budget, just as we’ve done with the trial sites. We’ve put $1 billion on the table. But the issue today is not the long-term funding of the scheme. The issue today is whether Premier O’Farrell and Premier Baillieu can find it in their hearts to do the right thing by the people that they represent.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the taxpayer has paid to have a raft of Green policies costed by bureaucrats. Why can’t those costings be released publically?
PM: Well I’ve seen that criticism from the Opposition today and I must admit, it did bring a bit of a smile to my face, that the Opposition that refused to have anything properly costed at the last election and got themselves into a huge black hole, is refusing to have anything properly costed for the next election.
Because they know they’re already in a diabolical position where if they were ever the Government, they would have to cut back services to families by $70 billion.
As for the FOI decision, the FOI decisions are made by departments, this one was made by Treasury. They are made by responsible officials without any say from the Government.
JOURNALIST: Will you release the costings then?
PM: The FOI process has gone through and a decision has been made independent of Government.
PM: This is bad news this morning for around 700 working people. The Caltex refinery has announced that it will be closing. There are a variety of factors here that have led to Caltex making what is a very difficult decision.
This is a refinery with aged capital by the standards of the world it’s now quite a small refinery, so not at an efficient scale. Obviously the high dollar has played a role too.
So for the working people who are getting this news that over the next few years as the refinery moves to shut down, that there won’t be a job for them, this is a tough day indeed.
For those working people, Caltex has said that it’s in a position to fund all of their entitlements. Caltex has said that it will provide support for redeployment options for some.
We will certainly work alongside Caltex with our employment services to provide support to these people to get the next opportunity for them. So a tough day and these people would be thinking now, these hard working Australians, what’s my next job, what’s my next opportunity.
Caltex and the Australian Government will be working to support them.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned, week after week we see more job losses – this week we have Caltex, last week we had Ford – it’s becoming a growing problem. Are you concerned that’s going to be reflected in the next labour force figures?
PM: Let’s be very clear about what’s happening here. We have a strong economy. We have low inflation. Low unemployment. People would have seen the low inflation figure yesterday.
We have a strong economy, low inflation, low unemployment, low interest rates and no-one should be talking the strength of our economy down.
I know that the Opposition, because of its negativity, talks the strength of our economy down. But our economy is the envy of the world.
Now when we look overseas we see literally millions of working people who are out of jobs and out of hope because where they live is not going to offer them the ability to get a job. We are in a different position.
Now that doesn’t mean that there aren’t forces of change at work in our economy – there are. We’ve got a huge resources boom. We have a very high Australian dollar that’s putting pressure on manufacturing, that’s putting pressure on tourism.
And so as a Government we are working to share the benefits of that boom through the Minerals Resource Rent Tax. And we’re working to build the economy we will need tomorrow.
Part of my mission as Prime Minister is to make sure that in the 5, 10, 15, 20 years to come, people will still be saying, the Australian economy’s the envy of the world.
To achieve that we’ve got to do some tough things today like pricing carbon, getting the NBN rolled out there, investing in skills, so that our economy will still continue to be the envy of the world tomorrow.
And I’m determined to keep getting that work done and to lock it in for the future.
JOURNALIST: Just on your own job, and last night on 7.30 there was a steely resolve to get the reforms done. The big reforms that you just spoke of. Does the NDIS give you more determination to hang around and do the job?
PM: I am absolutely passionate about the big reforms that we’ve made as a Government and we’ve got more to do. We need to lock in the National Disability Insurance Scheme for the future. We need to get it started and then build it for the nation.
I am passionate too about continuing to improve school education and we’ve got more to do to make sure that our kids get a world-class education.
And we’ve got more to do and I personally have got more to do to make sure that kids who get that world-class education go out into an economy that can provide them with jobs and hope and a prospect in life.
That’s what drives me on, just as achieving the big reforms – even the ones that have caused a few bruises and cost us a bit of skin – even achieving those reforms I’m passionate about locking them in for the future.
Putting a price on carbon, rolling out the NBN, investing in skills, I’m not going to rest until these reforms are bedded in and ready for the long term future of our country.
And I’ll certainly be here doing it.
Thanks very much.