Transcript of interview with Matthew Abraham and David Bevan, ABC Adelaide
FRI 11 MAY 2012
Subject(s): Budget 2012-13; Schoolkids Bonus; Mothers’ Day; National Disability Insurance Scheme
HOST: Good morning Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
PM: Good morning.
HOST: Prime Minister Julia Gillard, you’re flying to Adelaide this afternoon?
PM: Yes I am.
HOST: You’re on the budget sell trail and we’ll be talking to you about budget matters in a moment, but also catching up with your mum?
PM: Well it is Mother’s Day on Sunday, so I am going to take the opportunity to catch up with my family whilst I’m in South Australia. So I’m really looking forward to that.
HOST: Are you staying over the weekend?
PM: I’ll be staying until Sunday.
HOST: That’s nice.
PM: Yes, I’m very much looking forward to it. I don’t get as much time with them as I would like.
HOST: We were discussing, as a team, as you do, when weighty matters are upon you, whether a Prime Minister gets time to do their own Mother’s Day shopping?
PM: My mum’s not that big into Mother’s Day, she’s big into Mother’s Day attention, so I’ll be lavishing a bit of that.
HOST: So when the Prime Minister comes, that’s enough attention.
PM: I hope she comes to that conclusion. I’ll let you know if I’ve completely misjudged it and she’s sitting there tapping her foot saying ‘where’s the glossy present?’
HOST: And, Prime Minister, I’m going to try that line on my mother on Sunday to see if it works. I’ll let you know.
PM: And if you get into dreadful trouble I’ll speak to your mum for you.
HOST: It’s a nice way, it’s a nice thing and a bit of a break too. Prime Minister, you have had a crack at Tony Abbott for not being in touch with the values of real Australians because he lives on the North Shore and it raises the question of whether you govern for all Australians, or just those who hold traditional Labor values.
PM: I don’t resile from those comments at all. Mr Abbott came into the Parliament this week and voted to stop working people, hardworking families, getting the benefits of the Schoolkids Bonus and voted against it not once, but time after time after time. They were playing all of these procedural tricks to stop the legislation going through and that means they were voting to stop families getting some money before the end of this financial year and then into the future getting $410 to help you with the costs of the primary school kids and $820 to help you with the costs of your high school children.
That’s to the disadvantage of 100,000 Australian families, so I think I was right to say Mr Abbott needs to explain the values that would drive you to say families that work hard and find it hard to make ends meet don’t deserve that money.
HOST: But would you agree he has a pretty good understanding of what it is to raise a family? He’s got three girls, he’s got a mortgage. On what do you base that criticism that he would be out of touch with family values?
PM: Well I think the way he’s exercised his vote in Parliament this week, demonstrates he’s out of touch. He’s basically said this week that families can’t be trusted with that money and shouldn’t have it.
And so when he was called upon to explain taking this amazing stance, that the Schoolkids Bonus should not be paid to people, he said well families can’t be trusted to spend it on the right things.
And then when he was challenged on, well, how does this compare to past Howard Government initiatives where money was paid to families, he just said oh, well, it’s just different, it just is.
No real explanation at all, so that is incredibly out of touch.
HOST: So you don’t consider yourself a Prime Minister for all of Australia, to come back to the original question, you don’t really consider yourself a Prime Minister for people who may live in Sydney’s North Shore, or northern beaches, or Adelaide’s leafier suburbs, that you’re not really there for them?
PM: I’m certainly a Prime Minister for all Australians, but when we’re putting the Government’s Budget together you’ve got to make some decisions and when you make those decisions you’re driven by your values as to who you’re seeking to benefit and how you think the Government should use the money it has at its disposal.
I made a deliberate choice that in this Budget we should be benefiting families who need our assistance with the costs of getting the kids to school. I made a decision we should be using some of the proceeds of the mining tax to pay through to families in the form of increased family payments.
Mr Abbott’s made the decision that people shouldn’t get the Schoolkids Bonus, because they can’t be trusted with the money and today on television he’s talking about taking the family payment increases away. Now, I think I’m entitled to say that someone who makes those decisions can’t understand how difficult it is for so many families to make ends meet.
HOST: The cheques that go out next financial year for the Schoolkids Bonus, will people who have been keeping receipts for this financial year still be able to use them and get a tax refund?
PM: Look, that’s a good question and it gives me the opportunity to just explain it. People, for this financial year, people will see the Schoolkids Bonus turn up in their bank accounts before 30 June.
HOST: So you can throw away the receipts you’ve been keeping? That promise, look, keep your receipts, you’ll be able to claim it on your tax, that’s – forget about all that. We’ve changed our mind; we’re going to do something different.
PM: That’s right and so people don’t have to worry about those receipts.
HOST: But they weren’t means tested, were they? So those families will miss out, who thought they were going to get that tax refund and they’ve kept their receipts in the shoe box, the classic shoe box, because-
HOST: But they might miss out on the bonus-
HOST: The bonus is means tested.
PM: The bonus is for people who are on family payments, that’s right, what’s called Family Tax Benefit A. The Education Refund also worked to benefit families in the same range. The difference with the system now and the reason it’s important to explain why we changed the system – 1.3 million families who could benefit from the Education Tax Refund, it’s 1.3 million families who will benefit from the Schoolkids Bonus.
HOST: Different families?
HOST: Should you at least honour the promise that-
PM: No, no, no, no, no, they’re the same families. The difference in the system is under the old system you needed to collect your receipts and put it in at tax time and what we saw, even though we tried to get the message through to people, keep your receipts, put it in with your tax return, when we looked at all of the evidence we found that a million of the 1.3 million eligible families weren’t getting the refund in whole, or in part, some of them weren’t getting any of it.
So for the same families, we’ve changed the system.
HOST: Alright, but don’t bother turning up to your tax agent with receipts, you just get it paid directly into your account for this financial year?
PM: For this financial year it will be directly into your account before 30 June and it will be one annual lump sum for this financial year.
For the future it will turn up in two instalments, one in January for the (inaudible) obviously helps when you’re preparing for back to school and one in July, which helps you with the cost of the second half of the school year.
HOST: Prime Minister, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, is also featured in the budget. Is that plan more press release than promise though? You don’t have an agreement from the states, much of the money sets up a bureaucracy and it’s only being trialled in four pilot programs.
PM: Absolutely not. This is us getting on with building the National Disability Insurance Scheme more quickly than the expert group, the Productivity Commission recommended. They recommended that this is such a big change, it really is as big as Medicare, in a system-wide change, a huge Labor reform, that it’s such a big change that we needed to launch it in some sites first, learn all of the lessons from the launch before we rolled the system out nationwide.
HOST: Is it correct that the amount though over four years that will actually go at the pointy end on services, is $320 million, not $1 billion?
PM: The billion has been allocated for launch sites. Yes there are some administrative costs, absolutely.
HOST: But how much of that billion goes on administrative costs?
PM: Look, I don’t have that figure in front of me, but the purpose of the billion is to do the launch in a number of sites. We can’t do this reform nationwide without learning the lessons of a launch in a limited number of places.
HOST: Why not, why couldn’t you have just tweaked the Medicare system so that you bring it in gradually? It is a huge thing, the Productivity Commission says $8 billion a year needs to be spent on this, about $80 million is expected to be spent per year under what you’ve announced. So a tiny, tiny fraction of what the Productivity Commission was recommending.
Why couldn’t you have just tweaked the Medicare system, so maybe put up the levy by a tiny fraction and then increased what people can claim in terms of disability services on Medicare?
PM: It’s different to Medicare. I’ve used the comparison with Medicare to give you a sense of the size and scale of it, but in operation it’s a very different system. So it wouldn’t be possible to tweak Medicare to get this job done.
What a National Disability Insurance Scheme will do is it will mean that for people with profound disabilities, however you got your disability, you will be able to get a package of care to meet your needs. At the moment people are in very different positions, depending on whether they were injured at work, in which case they’re in the workers’ compensation system. Injured in a transport accident, in which case in many states people get benefits through a compulsory insurance scheme.
HOST: And you haven’t got the states signed up to this, have you?
PM: If I could just explain – so who misses out, if you’re workers comp, transport accident. Who misses out, it’s the people who get born with a profound disability, acquire it through an illness, one of those very grim illnesses like Parkinson’s, or people who have an accident that’s not a transport or a work accident. So for example I met a man the other day in Melbourne, he’d been camping and a tree had fallen over during the night, struck him on the head, now has a very profound brain injury. He’s the sort of person who ends up trying to just cadge bits of care from here, there and everywhere and it’s for that kind of person that a National Disability Insurance Scheme will make a big difference for.
HOST: Just quickly, we know you’re going to run out of time and we do have to go to our spin cycle in a second, but Kelly Vincent, Dignity for Disability Member of South Australia’s Upper House has called and wants to put an issue directly to you.
Good morning, Kelly Vincent.
VINCENT: Good morning, (inaudible) my question to the Prime Minister this morning is why do we need a trial scheme? I wasn’t born when Medicare was rolled out, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t have a trial then and what exactly are the lessons that the Prime Minister is hoping to learn here. We already know that the situation is different from state to state, we already know that we have a postcode lottery and that we need a equitable scheme to fix this. So why do we need to again make it inequitable by having differences in the trial scheme from state to state?
HOST: Prime Minister?
PM: I absolutely agree with Kelly that we know the current system is nowhere near good enough and so many people are missing out the care they need. We’re taking the approach that the expert group, the Productivity Commission recommended, they said do launch sites, this is too big to try and do in one big bang right around the nation, you need to do launch sites to work out exactly how to do it.
That’s the approach we’ve taking, but we’re actually doing it a year earlier. So if we were following the recommendations of the expert group we wouldn’t see the sites launch on 1 July next year.
HOST: Prime Minister, thanks for talking to us.
PM: Thank you very much.