Transcript of press conference, Canberra
FRI 27 JULY 2012
Subject(s): National Disability Insurance Scheme
E & O E – PROOF ONLY
PM: Today sees an important win for people with disabilities. We are now from today able to give people with disabilities around our nation more certainty and more support.
Earlier today I wrote to Premiers O’Farrell and Baillieu seeking to reach agreement on having National Disability Insurance Scheme trial sites in Victoria and in New South Wales.
I have received correspondence from Premier Baillieu. In that correspondence he agrees to the benchmark we had set for care and support coming from states for people with a disability.
That is Premier Baillieu agreed to the $20,779 per adult person that we have been seeking. That money goes into care and support and is topped up by Federal Government money.
Premier Baillieu, in that correspondence mentioned the contribution from Victorian and it looks like Premier Baillieu is agreeing to the $42 million extra the Federal Government has been seeking.
I’ve also received correspondence from Premier O’Farrell. Premier O’Farrell now also agrees to the $20,779 benchmark per place for care and support and whilst there is still some work to do Premier O’Farrell acknowledges that more money needs to be put on the table by New South Wales.
Having received these two letters I am now very optimistic that we will see National Disability Insurance Scheme launch sites in Victoria and in New South Wales. Specifically we will see a launch site in the Geelong and Barwon in Victoria and in the Hunter in New South Wales.
Now what does this mean, what has it all been about? Well it’s all been about our nation working towards giving people with disabilities a better future – more care, more support, more choice about how they run their lives, more options, more possibilities.
In order for our nation to secure a new system and helping people with disabilities we need to have a new national scheme – a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
This is a huge reform, easily as big as Medicare and it was always going to require being launched in parts of Australia so we could test the system, we could learn from it and we could take those lessons to the national rollout.
We now have launch sites agreed in Tasmania, South Australia and the ACT and with the movement today from Victoria and New South Wales I am very optimistic we will see launch sites in those two states as well.
This is a big win for people with disabilities; it’s a big win for their families and carers. It’s a big win for all of us who want to see people with disabilities getting a better deal in our nation. It’s a big win for those people in the Barwon region in Victoria and in the Hunter region who have spent a lot of this week distressed about the uncertainty are now very optimistic they will be participating in a National Disability Insurance Scheme launch site.
I’m very happy to take question.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you feel vindicated in the stand that you took and the pressure that you’ve put on the states? And on the money, for just Victoria, they seem to be saying, the $40 million you asked for, they’re saying that’s only $17 million and that they’re willing to throw in another $25 million for this transitional agency in Geelong. Could you explain that?
PM: Look, what this has always been about is people with disabilities, and this is a win for them. On the figures, yes there’s some details in the figure work. We’ve always said we needed Victoria to step up to around $40 million more and Victoria’s doing that. Of course Commonwealth officials and Victorian officials will work through the details but I’m very optimistic now we will see the NDIS launch in Victoria in the Barwon-Geelong region.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, is the $35 million as I understand it New South Wales is going to contribute, does that mean they’re going to fund a trial with fewer people or are they not going to pay as much per head.
PM: Look we’ve got some more work to do with New South Wales and once again we’ve had Federal officials and state officials meet to discuss the matter but the key steps forward we needed to see from New South Wales, we needed to see them acknowledge the full care per place amount. So, you know, each person with disabilities has special needs, the need for special support.
On average we worked that out to be around $35,000 per person per adult. That’s an average, some people will be more some people will be less, but that meant that the state contribution we were looking for is $20,779.
Premier O’Farrell has acknowledged that, he’s acknowledged the need to put some more money on the table. Yes there’s some work to do, there’s certainly some work to do with New South Wales. But I am now optimistic because we’ve seen this step forward that we’ll get there.
JOURNALIST: Just clarifying though, which would you prefer (inaudible).
PM: I want to see a robust launch site in the Hunter and I am optimistic we are going to see that.
JOURNALIST: Can you give us a general idea on how the Commonwealth thinks the full costs of the scheme should be shared between the Commonwealth and the states?
PM: We’ve still got work to do on that and in the run up to this COAG meeting this week various of our state counterparts specifically said that they did not want at this meeting to discuss the sharing of the long term costs. They did not want to talk about that yet.
Of course we will need to talk about it. Costs will need to be shared between the Federal Government and states and territories around the nation and we’ll keep working on that.
But the key thing we wanted to achieve from this COAG meeting is that there would be launch sites that we’d press the bottom to go one, that there would be a start and we will see that start now around the nation – Tassie, South Australia, the ACT and now I’m very optimistic about New South Wales and Victoria as well.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Colin Barnett put $135 million, which is far in excess of any other state, to have a launch site in WA, albeit at higher standards. Now his argument is that his higher standards were standards that would eventually be part of the NDIS. But wouldn’t it be good to have a launch site in WA which is at the standards that are going to be closer to the NDIS, notwithstanding the fact they’re higher standards that are going to be in the other states and territories?
PM: Look I’m not sure I’m going to accept your characterisation about the standards but I would say this about Western Australia. I acknowledge that Colin Barnett as Premier has made a step forward in disability services with his My Way package.
I believe there will be some things we can learn for the National Disability Insurance Scheme from the rollout of My Way in Western Australia.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, (inaudible) Queensland or is completely ruled out for a trial in the next couple of years?
PM: Well unfortunately Premier Newman has decided that he is not prepared to put any extra money into people with disabilities. I think this is to be deeply regretted particularly the circumstances where Premier Newman presides over a state that spends the least per person in that state on disabilities of any state in the nation.
Unfortunately, you’ve heard Premier Newman talk so you will need to raise these questions with him. He’s made crystal clear he’s not putting any more money into disabilities. He doesn’t seem to be concerned about the fact that they are the lowest benchmark for a state.
I presume if he was concerned he’d be looking to arrange his budget to put more money in and indeed in recent days there’s been the problem of Premier Newman engaging in some cut backs, including a cut back of a $6.50 incentive going to cab drivers to encourage them to pick people with disabilities up and give them a ride. So it’s, you know, disappointing but I have to say these signs from Premier Newman are pretty grim about what he’s prepared to do.
JOURNALIST: Can I just clarify please that this is starting in 2013 not 2014?
PM: There are various dates for the trials of 2013 and 2014.
JOURNALIST: Just going back to New South Wales’ situation. If it’s agreed to 20,000 but not agreed to the 70 million then by definition surely there must be fewer people. Is that right?
PM: There are things to be worked on, Michelle. You’re absolutely right. But where has the politics been from New South Wales over recent days?
The politics has been New South Wales saying it won’t put any new money in and it had not acknowledged the Commonwealth’s benchmarks of care for people with disabilities.
From today, now that I have received Premier O’Farrell’s letter we are able to say that they are acknowledging their contribution to the care we want for people with disabilities and the need to put in new money.
Because we’ve seen that movement, I’m optimistic that we will be able to work to get an arrangement here.
As I have described it, I think it is a big win for people with disabilities. I think it’s a big win for people with disabilities because we are seeing the politics swept aside. We will now be able to get on and work to get this done. I’m very optimistic we will be able to work to get it done.
You’re point is, there’s more work to do – you’re right but now we’ll get on and do it having seen the movement that has come from Premier O’Farrell and Premier Baillieu.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just to clarify Michelle’s point, you’re happy with the $35 million which is New South Wales’ final offer as we understand it?
PM: Well I don’t think you should be putting words in Premier Baillieu’s mouth-
JOURNALIST: Andrew Constance has said that at this his press conference.
PM: Well, let’s look the correspondence; let’s look at what Premier O’Farrell has actually said. There is work to do but I’m optimistic and this is the important thing here, that we will see a launch site in the Hunter region.
JOURNALIST: So you believe you can work with that $35 million to make something happen, you’re not expecting anymore from New South Wales?
PM: What I’ve said to you today is what I mean. Officials will have to keep working on this to get all of the details of the agreements but we’ve seen movement, we’ve seen change and I’m very pleased to see that because it matters to people with disabilities.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you see this as a back down by New South Wales and Victoria?
PM: You’d have to put those questions to the two Premiers involved.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that moving towards 2018, a state like Queensland that has not stepped up to the plate at all, do you think people with a disability in that state will be left behind?
PM: People in the great state of Queensland are already behind, people with disabilities. Queensland spends less per head than any other state in Australia. That means that people in Queensland are getting less care. That’s what’s happening in Queensland today.
I think that’s pretty disappointing for the people in Queensland and particularly those with disabilities and their families and those who care about them. So that needs change, it absolutely needs change.
When you think of the kinds of things that people say about the care that they receive today, it’s rationed, not everybody gets care, many people don’t get enough care and those problems are, by definition worse in Queensland.
So I want to see a National Disability Insurance Scheme make a different to people with disabilities right around our nation, in every state, in every territory, in every suburb, in every town. To do that, I need every state leader to work with me to get it done.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you ruled out a levy or a tax to pay for this but it’s, the Productivity Commission says it’s going to cost $6.5 billion extra. That’s about 2 per cent of current spending from the budget. How are you going to find such an enormous amount of money per year?
PM: I’m very happy for the Government to be judged on its track record of working hard to fund huge reform priorities that are in the nation’s interest. Look at what we did in health - $20 billion more money to the end of this decade, us stepping up to being equal partners in growth.
Before I signed that deal at the Council of Australian Governments’ meeting, you know, COAG meeting after COAG meeting, year in year out, Premiers and Chief Ministers had come to Canberra and complained and there wasn’t a new arrangement in place.
We worked hard to make the budget space so those new arrangement could be in place. So if you look at our record of the big reforms, we worked to do them on Federal Budget and we will bring that same determination to this task.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you think a peoples’ revolt helped your cause today? There was a huge public backlash against particularly Victorian and New South Wales Premiers over the last two days – talk back radio, newspaper front pages, they were under immense political pressure. Was it a peoples’ revolt do you think?
PM: I think right around our country there are people who care passionately about what happens for those with disabilities and this in modern Australia isn’t someone else’s problem, it’s everybody’s problem.
Everyone knows someone who struggles with a disability; everybody knows, you know, a friend who has a child with cerebral palsy or someone, you know, my age who’s got an elderly parent now struggling with a serve disability. Everybody knows someone, so everybody cares.
So I’m not surprised, given everybody cares, that when people saw the results of the meeting this week and they worried that people in Victoria and people in New South Wales weren’t going to be, that they stood not to have their say, I think that, you know, in truth a really optimistic thing. It’s saying to all of us very loudly how much people care about the fortunes and futures of those with disability in our community today. That’s a great thing.