Transcript of joint doorstop interview, Sydney
MON 30 APRIL 2012
PM: I’m joined today by Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Disability Reform and I thank Danni very much for joining us too, who is going to sign our press conference.
We’ve just had the opportunity to participate in the most wonderful event here in Sydney and it is joined by events right around the country, where people with disabilities, their families, their friends, their carers, are all coming together to make the point that every Australian counts and that we can do better by Australians with disabilities.
The current system we know is underfunded and it’s fragmented. Too many people don’t get the care they need and whether or not you get care depends on this really cruel lottery about how you acquired your disability.
We can, as a nation, do better than that and we will do better than that. In the tradition of great Labor reforms, like the old age pension and like Medicare, we are determined to build a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
We’ve got a great Productivity Commission report to help guide the way and today I announced that we will launch sites for the National Disability Insurance Scheme a year earlier than the Productivity Commission recommended.
That is, we will make a start from the middle of next year on building a National Disability Insurance Scheme. There will be sites around the country where people will be able to see the difference and having learnt the lessons of those launch sites, we will then be moving to develop the scheme right around the country.
So we’re getting on with this profound Labor reform more quickly than the Productivity Commission recommended, because people with disabilities have waited long enough and we will make appropriate provision for these launch sites, which will start operation from 1 July next year, we will make that provision in next week’s budget.
I’ll turn to Jenny Macklin for some comments and then we’ll be happy to take your questions.
MINISTER MACKLIN: Thanks very much PM. Well, every Australian does count. If you’ve got a disability, if you’re a carer, if you’re a family with a person who has a disability, today’s the day when it became clear that our Government is going to deliver a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
And I’d just like to say here today, a very, very big thank you to each and every person right around Australia who has been campaigning for this day for so long. Whether you’re a person with a disability, a carer, a member of a family, the way in which everybody has come together with one clear goal has led us to this day.
And I’d also like to say on behalf of all of those people, a very big thank you to our Prime Minister, who has made sure that this day became a reality. We know how important it is to deliver the additional care and support, but we also know that it’s critical that we build an insurance scheme, a lifetime insurance scheme, so that if you are born with a disability, or if you get a disability as a result of an accident or an illness, you know that you will be cared for, and that’s what we’re determined to build.
We’re going to start right away, start next July, with the first launch sites and build those launch sites over the next few years, so that we can make sure that we deliver to those people who need it most, people with disability, their carers and their families.
PM: Thank you very much, we’re happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: PM, can you tell us how much money will the Federal Government contribute to the scheme, and what are you going to do about the states if they decide not to contribute at this stage?
PM: Well, you’ll see the provision we’re making for the launch sites in the Budget next week. On working with the States and Territories, at the last Council of Australian Governments meeting we actually took some positive steps on working together. Here today people have had the opportunity to hear from Premier O’Farrell and at other meetings around the country people will hear from other State and Territory leaders.
So we will need cooperation with States and Territories to get this done. So far leaders have been working together and we demonstrated that at the last COAG meeting and we will be inviting States and Territories to be involved in these launch sites.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) make the announcement today though, can’t you tell us how much and does it mean that if States don’t come on board you won’t give the funding?
PM: Well, we are stepping up to our responsibilities here. I’m afraid I can’t tell you the figure, it will be in next week’s Budget and we will be working with States and Territories to get this done. And I do want to say so far this has been characterised by good cooperation.
JOURNALIST: PM, when this was flagged a couple of weeks ago that these trial sites may be happening, Tony Abbott said that he doesn’t believe that the scheme should be rushed and potentially that you’re using this simply ahead of the next election, something as a scheme to go to the next election with. What do you say to that?
PM: Firstly, if I can just, on the terminology. These are launch sites and we’re calling them launch sites deliberately. People are, I think, sceptical sometimes when they hear the word trial, because it means something is being looked at as to whether or not to do it. We are calling these launch sites because we are determined to create a National Disability Insurance Scheme. So this is the launch and these launch sites will help us learn how to get the big scheme done for right around the nation.
On Mr Abbott’s attitude I simply say this: people with disabilities have waited long enough. Under the government of which Mr Abbott was a leading member people with disabilities waited and waited and waited for change and it didn’t happen. Under this Government we’ve already engaged in substantial new investment, but we’re the first ones to say it’s not enough and now we’ve got to get on with the job of building a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
So I am not prepared to have people with disabilities wait.
JOURNALIST: But you are launching them ahead of schedule though, it’s a year ahead of schedule?
PM: We’re deliberately launching it a year ahead of schedule because people with disabilities have waited long enough to see real change.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Barry O’Farrell was saying that, he was talking about bipartisanship earlier. You’ve had no undertaking of bipartisanship from Tony Abbott on this issue?
PM: Well, Tony Abbott is effectively saying to people with disabilities ‘you should wait some more’. Initially he said they should wait into the future, he described the whole scheme as an aspiration and it seemed to be somewhere off into the long, long distance.
Now he said that they should wait for longer than Labor is prepared to and we want to get on with this job. People with disabilities have waited a long time for change, we can get on with this and we should get on with it. It is a great reform, a big reform in the order of Medicare, universal superannuation. A big thing that will change our nation for the better and make us a fairer country, make sure we aren’t leaving people behind.
In that sense it’s a great reform in the Labor tradition, so as Labor people we’re very anxious to get on with the job.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the reactions to your announcement on Craig Thomson seems to be almost completely negative. Has your credibility taken yet another hit on this issue?
PM: I announced yesterday what I determined to be right for the Australian Parliament and for the Australian nation. I spoke yesterday about a combination of circumstances that had led me to the view that there should be change in relation to Mr Slipper and Mr Thomson and I announced my judgement calls about them yesterday.
I did, through the, you know, the combination of these things, through the combined weight of facts, the combined weight of the two incidents, decide that Australians were looking at Parliament and they were questioning the respect that they should have for Parliament. I wanted to put that right and I acted to do so yesterday.
JOURNALIST: Does change of judgement imply incorrect judgements initially though?
PM: What I described yesterday is exactly what motivated me in this matter – that it was a combination of circumstances, you know, an accumulation here, which I thought was posing a real challenge for the views that Australians had of the Federal Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Do you concede that there is again leadership chatter in your caucus?
PM: Look, you know, people will engage in the talk of politics in the newspapers. I expect the newspaper commentators to do that and the like.
For us, we are here today dealing with a major reform for the nation – the National Disability Insurance Scheme and on questions of respect for the Parliament about which I was very concerned, I acted to address those yesterday.
JOURNALIST: The phrase ‘a line had been crossed’ seems to have created a bit of confusion. Can you explain what it was, how and when it was crossed, because the Craig Thomson issue has been going on for years?
PM: And I’ve just referred to my words yesterday, where I talked about a combination of circumstances. Clearly these two matters, whilst they are separate matters, viewed together I think created a weight of facts here, they created a, you know, cloud, is the terminology I used yesterday and I’m happy to use it again. They created a circumstance where I was concerned that the combination of the two was challenging people’s ability to look at the Parliament with respect and so I acted to address those issues.
JOURNALIST: Did anything change, or did you just change your mind?
PM: Look, something changed, obviously with both matters being on foot.
JOURNALIST: But what changed?
PM: I just described to you, something changed with both matters being on foot. That’s the combination that I refer to.
JOURNALIST: So, why can’t you tell us more about that, I mean for example-
PM: Well, I’ve just describe it to you.
JOURNALIST: As a cloud, that’s hardly specific Prime Minister.
PM: Well, I’ve talked about respect for the Parliament and that’s what the reference I made yesterday to a cloud being over the Parliament was about.
And, as I said very clearly yesterday, this isn’t a mathematical or chemical formula, it’s a judgement call and I made it.
JOURNALIST: Do you regret saying so many times that Craig Thomson has your full confidence?
PM: Look, I’m not going to canvass issues in the past. I made a decision yesterday, it’s the right decision. I made that decision because of my view about the, you know, weight here that was pressing on people’s respect for the Federal Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what’s your reaction to Clive Palmer’s announcement today that he intends to run (inaudible)?
PM: Well, I guess in many ways I’m not entirely surprised. What it says to me very clearly is that the Liberal Party is the party of billionaires and the Labor Party is the party of working people.
JOURNALIST: If Labor can’t improve its polling position, would you consider stepping aside from the party and allowing someone else to take on the role to the next election?
PM: I will be leading the Labor Party to the next election and I can tell you very clearly now what that election will be about. It will be about who you stand for; whether you stand for the privileged few, or whether you stand for working Australians and their families.
Thank you very much.
MINISTER MACKLIN: Thank you.