WEDNESDAY, 16 SEPTEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: NSW and Victoria signing agreement for full roll-out of National Disability Insurance Scheme; Syria airstrikes; Turnbull Government; Canning by-election
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. It's fantastic to be here today to talk about one of the issues that I personally think is most important in Australia and that is an equal deal for people with disabilities and their families and carers. Today is good news. The execution of the long awaited full agreements between the Commonwealth and Victoria and NSW for the full roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, it is just really good news.
Jenny and I – and we will hear from Jenny in a moment – couldn't be happier, that a lot of the work which started with Jenny Macklin's leadership and my own advocacy in terms of giving carers and parents a better deal with disability and people with disability themselves, it is fantastic in politics to see something get to a further stage of fruition.
There is a lot of debate in this country about three-year terms and how do you get reform to happen. Well this, I think, is a great example of an idea whose time had come. Real commitment from the Everybody Counts advocacy organisation, real commitment from hundreds of thousands of people with impairment, real commitment from parents and families and dare I say it, also from Labor in terms of getting the ball rolling and then joined, I must acknowledge, by many in the Liberal Party.
And today, hopefully even the most hardened cynics who say that there's no more reform that can be achieved, that all the big problems were solved a long time ago and that nothing can get done in politics, today is really good news.
It's a Labor State Government in Victoria; it's a Liberal State Government in NSW. It is a Liberal Government at the Commonwealth level following upon the work initiated by a Labor Government. The idea that ageing parents, up at midnight, experiencing the sleepless anxiety of who will love their adult children the same way that they love them when they no longer can, we are a step closer to Australia being able to make a promise to every person with profound and severe disability and the people who love them. This country is smart and rich and compassionate enough to give people with disability and the people who love them an equal go in Australia. It is really great news today. I'd like Jenny to talk now further about the issues.
JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES & PAYMENTS: Thanks very much Bill and I do want to just add my congratulations to everybody who has been involved in making today such a day of celebration for people with disability and their families in Victoria and in NSW. It is very, very important that we acknowledge that for people with disability in those two states, in Victoria and NSW, they have waited all their lives for this moment. They have waited and been faced with terrible levels of service, terrible levels of support over many, many years, and today, finally, people in NSW and in Victoria, who have a disability or families where they have a child or a son or daughter, an adult son or daughter with a disability, they now know that they can look forward to a life that is full of potential, meeting peoples' own dreams and goals which is all what the National Disability Insurance Scheme is about. So I want to add my congratulations to everybody who's really made today possible. Of course, it is absolutely critical that we don't stop here today. That people with disability in the rest of Australia also know that the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be rolled out in full and on time. And all of us, all of us together will of course do everything we possibly can to make sure that that is a reality. People with disability deserve no less.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, there's a multibillion dollar funding gap in the long term, how would Labor fill that? Do you foresee a boost in the Medicare Levy or just out of general revenue or is there some way you think the public will accept some additional revenue?
SHORTEN: Thanks for the question. When we were talking to parents before, we actually spoke about the very issue you're raising. Can Australia afford a National Disability Insurance Scheme? Well my answer is a resounding yes we can. See the issue about when we weigh up the cost of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is the question you ask is always on the assumption that this is all new money to spend and there is nothing being spent right now, that's the extra gap you refer to. What I want to put forward is a different view to Australians. Families, governments, taxpayers, are already footing the bill for the disability system in Australia. For me, the real issue is, the current way we expend our resources, as people, as taxpayers, as government, is it the most efficient way or is there a better way? So I say to families and Australians who say this National Disability Insurance Scheme, which is packages as support for families, can we afford it? I say we are already spending the money but it has currently been a crisis-driven system. For instance if you - and there are literally tens and tens of thousands of parents right now dealing with this scenario, if you have a child who's diagnosed with autism and some of their behaviour is quite - requires a lot of attention, what happens and what has happened and what happens in some jurisdictions is that you only get the support now if you can no longer look after your child. So in other words, what could be a tough situation but manageable has to become a crisis to get the funding.
See I think there is a smarter way, so the answer really well Australians already spend a lot of money. The Productivity Commission report which Labor commissioned which got the whole ball rolling about can we afford it, shows that over the longer term, the scheme of a National Disability Insurance measure which sees money allocated to families who will make scarce dollars go further is actually a more efficient way to deal with the current crisis we have in disability.
So I'm confident that be it the increase in the Medicare Levy which we championed, be it the existing the inefficient expenditure of resources, Labor has created a model which will see families - and that's what really counts here – families and their children being able to have greater control over their lives, just as we saw those very special parents and special children. This National Disability Insurance Scheme means that more mums and dads can work. It means more children get to grow up and participate in our society. It really is the best answer we could come up with and Australia is leading the way.
JOURNALIST: There is already a $3 billion sum of money being diverted from existing funds, so the money that the Commonwealth is putting towards from existing programs. The question mark remains over the $5 billion that is unfunded. Would Labor rule out increasing the Medicare Levy or introducing new levies altogether to plug that $5 billion gap?
SHORTEN: Well what I'll do is I will answer that question and I might ask Jenny to talk further about it, but when you talk again - and your question is not dissimilar to the previous question, people are already trying to make ends meet. When you've got a child with a profound and severe disability, or if you're the brother or sister of an adult who's involved in a catastrophic car crash or indeed if you're an older Australian, but when I say older, I mean in the 40s and 50s and you experience severe and profound impairment, the system already has to try and manage your needs and support you.
What the National Disability Insurance Scheme is, it is based on the assumption that you provide packages of support to individuals and their families, and I think we all understand, don't we, that if you give scarce resources to a family, because it is about the care of an adult or child who they love, they will make that scarce money go a lot further than the current inefficient way of states and local government and national government. I genuinely believe, genuinely believe that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is an efficient mechanism to allocate scarce resources so all Australians can experience an equal life. I would like Jenny to talk a bit further.
MACKLIN: Thanks very much, first of all, I'd say that the question is actually based on a false premise. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is fully funded. As the Minister himself said in the press conference that I assume many of you attended this morning, the funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme is in the Budget. The Commonwealth has just signed two major bilateral agreements with the Victorian and NSW Governments for the full roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The money is in the Budget to pay for that roll-out. So that's the first thing.
The second is that, as Bill Shorten has just indicated, when the Productivity Commission actually did the major inquiry into the feasibility of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, they made it clear that if we continued as a nation with the current broken system of disability care and support in Australia, it would have cost our country more. So it is just false to suggest that Australia cannot afford the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The NDIS will do it more effectively, more efficiently than the current broken scheme and I just reiterate that the money for the National Disability Insurance Scheme is both in the Federal Budget and in the contributions from the states.
JOURNALIST: By the time you've got the full roll out though, there will be a gap, what do you –
MACKLIN: That is just false. That's my whole point. The whole line of questioning is false. You cannot have the Commonwealth Government signing agreements for the full roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, signing them today, unless the money is in the Budget. It is in the Budget.
JOURNALIST: So not a dollar needs to be found anywhere in any future years?
MACKLIN: The money is in the Budget.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the latest ReachTel poll for Canning shows that the Liberals are now ahead of Labor 57-43 after preferences. Are you worried that Labor has no chance of winning Canning?
SHORTEN: I think the people in Canning will legitimately feel a bit cheated by the Liberal Government this week. See I have been to Canning a number of times and people there are telling me what concerns them are issues such as community safety and the scourge of ice. What also concerns them even more is jobs. People in Canning are no different to people in Western Australia and throughout the rest of Australia. What matters to families, what matters to individuals is can they get good, meaningful work? Labor has been rolling out policies which we're committed to in Canning to see more infrastructure being built, so a lot of the people who have lost jobs through the collapse in the mining boom can get back to work. What we also want to do is focus on the jobs of Australians. At the start of when I answered your question, I could say Australians could feel cheated by Mr Turnbull and the Liberals. What has happened this week in Canberra, they have all been worried about their own jobs in the Government and they have not worried about the jobs of Australians. We are going to keep putting the case to the voters of Canning right up to 6pm on Saturday. When Labor puts its mind to something, we want to provide a real choice based upon the best ideas and on community safety and on infrastructure and on jobs, Labor has the goods.
JOURNALIST: How panicked are you about your own job now that Malcolm Turnbull is Prime Minister?
SHORTEN: We have seen the tumultuous events of the last 24 hours and 48 hours. If we are talking about the issues is, what I welcome is a chance in this country to provide Australians at the next election with who has the best ideas for the future. Labor knows what it stands for. We stand for real action on climate change. We stand to make sure we reverse the dreadful hospital cuts and school cuts of the Government. We stand for creating jobs of the future by backing in with proper infrastructure, giving people the chance also, for our higher education and TAFE system, the best skills. That’s we stand for that and I look forward to an opportunity of a contest of ideas. What I also have to say if we are talking about jobs this week, has anyone got an update? Does Joe Hockey still have the job as Treasurer? We have seen the Immigration Minister and we're not sure if he is still in charge of our border security anymore and we saw Kevin Andrews, that unedifying spectacle on radio, on television where he is begging for his job from the new regime in charge of Liberal headquarters. This is not Government in Canberra. It is chaos and dysfunction and a very ugly contest between who gets to keep their jobs and who doesn't and the Liberal ministers need to do their day job.
JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull said he won’t be visiting Canning before the by-election. Is that wise and are you planning to go there?
SHORTEN: I can't speak for Mr Turnbull's movements. I would always say it’s a good idea to get out to listen and talk to people so I will be in Western Australia again because what I understand is that politics is not just done in Canberra. In fact, it's a very small part of what is happening every day. Millions of Australians got up and have gone to work this morning, they've got their kids ready for school, their making their plans for what they do in the future. Australian government and politics needs to focus on the needs of Australians not be out of touch in Canberra. I'll be in Canning win, lose or draw because that's what matters. Being out there with the voters.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Nationals got a really good deal out of the Coalition agreement yesterday or do you think they should have held out for a bit more?
SHORTEN: I think there's several questions to do with this deal done yesterday. What we see is that Mr Turnbull will say and do anything to achieve the job he's got, we saw that by the way that he launched the surprise attack on Mr Abbott on Monday night. Now we see that the National Party is unhappy because they know that they have a different set of views on a whole lot of matters from marriage equality to climate change, you name it, they have different views to Mr. Turnbull. So Mr Turnbull has had to rush out, throw billions of dollars at the Nationals to keep them happy so he can be in charge.
The only other question I have is did Mr Turnbull just construct a multibillion dollar deal, handing away key portfolios in the fight against climate change on the spur of a moment in the course of a couple of hours after he gained power, or has this deal been in the works for a number of weeks? What is clear that we are seeing that politics is being put ahead of sensible, rational policy making in this country.
JOURNALIST: Ms. Macklin, the other variable is the final cost, for example the autism spectrum, how many children will be covered. There could be a point in the future at which more money needs to be found, we don't know that yet perhaps but there is that other variable is there not?
MACKLIN: As the Minister himself said in his press conference today, in response to questions about future demand for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the National Disability Insurance Agency actuary and the experience in the launch sites or the trial sites so far is that the expectations of demand for the scheme and the cost of the scheme is running on Budget.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Shorten, you've written to the new Prime Minister about the free trade agreement and a hope to try and iron out some of your differences. First of all, have you had a response from Mr Turnbull as yet, and secondly, how hopeful are you that that move will actually bring about any sort of change to the agreement given how staunchly steadfast the Coalition has been up to now?
SHORTEN: I haven't yet had a response to the letter I wrote to the current Prime Minister but I expect a response, he's got a lot on his plate hasn't he sorting out his ministry, but this is an important issue. Labor firmly believes, and our voting record indicates it, in the value of free trade agreements. What surprised a lot of Australians is that the proposal around the China Free Trade Agreement seems to have been a bit slack, a lackadaisical, not enough attention paid to Australian jobs, Australian skills and not undercutting Australian wages.
The good news is that it is possible I believe, through cooperation between Mr Turnbull and myself, that we can fix up the concerns which are being raised by Australians about skills, job security and Australian wages. I believe a solution is within our capacity. Mr Turnbull says he wants to do politics differently. He has a good opportunity here to sit down and talk to people who are genuinely concerned and therefore provide certainty in the long term that we need. Mr Abbott and his team couldn't negotiate. You all know them, once they'd got themselves squared away in their corner, that was it, they would rather lose than concede on an issue. What I want to do with Mr Turnbull in the interests of Australia and the interests of improving trade with China, is let’s look at the real detail and concern. Let's work it through. There's a great and golden opportunity here to protect Australian jobs, to maintain Australian skills, to not undercut Australian wages and I think we can do it and that's what I’m going to be working on.
JOURNALIST: The first Australian air strike has been launched in Syria, have you been briefed by the Government on that and do you still support Australia's involvement in that conflict?
SHORTEN: No, I haven't been briefed on the latest ADF efforts in Iraq and Syria. Yes, we still do support the policy which we outlined last week.
JOURNALIST: We saw in a press conference earlier today, Joe Hockey seeming quite relaxed and jovial, some suggesting it may be a weight off his shoulders that he has been promised a place in Malcolm Turnbull's ministry. Do you think that Joe Hockey is fit to be a Minister of the Australian Government given the amount of pressure you've put on him over the past few years for his role as Treasurer?
SHORTEN: Labor has been critical of Mr Hockey's two Budgets, Australia's been going nowhere, we have been critical of the fact that under Joe Hockey's time as Treasurer unemployment's up, growth is down. We've seen confidence down and we've seen real wage increases at their lowest in 20 years and of course let us not forget that the deficit has more than doubled under Mr Hockey's time. Mr Hockey has a poor score sheet in terms of doing the job which I think people hoped he would do when they voted Liberal at the last election but I do think it is unfair that all of a sudden Mr Hockey is the whipping boy for everything that's gone wrong in the Government. Last time I looked, Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey were only two members of the Cabinet. In fact, when I look at the photos of the Abbott Cabinet meeting regularly over the last two year, Julie Bishop was a member of the Cabinet, she was the ‘loyal’ deputy to Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull was a Communications Minister, he was in the Cabinet, let us not re-write history. Mr Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison were all happy to be part of Mr Hockey's budget, they went out and said, "This is a great thing." I don't think it's fair for Joe to be the whipping boy and hung out to dry for all the things that went wrong in the last 2 years. It took a team effort to make the mistakes in the last few years.
Two more questions thank you.
JOURNALIST: The CFMEU is taking legal action against the AFP over the raid on their ACT offices last month. Do you agree with the union that that search was unlawful?
SHORTEN: I have haven't seen any of the matters to do with that but I will say that we have zero tolerance in Labor for any wrong doing, any corruption, doesn't matter if it's an employer, the big end of town, or a union rep. Zero tolerance. As for the rest of the matters I just haven't seen the detail of them.
JOURNALIST: Could Labor win against a Turnbull Government if it was to call a snap poll? Is Labor prepared for an election?
SHORTEN: Labor is prepared for an election whenever it is called. In terms of what the election will be fought on Labor believes that what this election should be fought on is who has the best vision for the future of this country. Labor believes that jobs will be a central issue, properly funding our healthcare system so it's your Medicare card not your credit card which determines the quality of healthcare, we believe that our schools should be funded according to need. We do not support $100,000 higher education or $100,000 university degrees and we certainly don't support the dismantling of TAFE.
Labor believes that fairness is one of the core issues at the heart of the next election. So it's jobs, it’s healthcare, it’s schools, it’s fairness. I also believe central to the future of Australia is a serious action, serious real action, action on climate change. What I say to Mr Turnbull is having the best intentions is not enough. The compromises which Mr Turnbull has clearly made on everything from junking long held positions on marriage equality and the conscience vote, right through to now backing in paying big polluters to be pay to pollute, Mr Turnbull has compromised his Government because he's got such a rump of very right-wing members of his Government that he's had to sell out his principles and the issues I articled are the issues which we are ready to fight the election on whenever it is called.
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