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Tuesday, 3 May 2016
Page: 4176


Ms MACKLIN (Jagajaga) (12:33): I am speaking today on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Savings Fund Special Account Bill 2016. This bill establishes a new savings fund sitting within consolidated revenue, which the government claims is needed to help the Commonwealth meet its funding obligations for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

There are a number of concerns and unanswered questions with regard to this legislation, which is why Labor will seek to refer the bill to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee for further scrutiny. Labor will not oppose this legislation in the House, in order to promptly facilitate a Senate inquiry. Let us immediately dispense with the delusion that this legislation is about the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is not about the NDIS. It is all about politics. It is not about funding the NDIS, because Labor has already funded it.

I am sorry to say that this legislation has a much more cynical purpose. This is a smokescreen, an alibi for the cruel cuts that this government has planned in tonight's budget and beyond. The entire case for this legislation rests on the assumption that the Commonwealth has not made the necessary budget decisions to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This is a fib, a falsehood, a fallacy. It is a tired piece of propaganda repeated time and again by those opposite, particularly by the Minister for Social Services and the Treasurer. I intend to go through what is, in fact, the truth.

The former Labor government's 2013 budget set out a 10-year funding plan for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This included but was not limited to an increase in the Medicare levy. A number of other budget measures were proposed and legislated, and these funds currently sit in consolidated revenue. Together, these measures show that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is funded. Despite their serial dishonesty, deep down, those opposite must know that the NDIS is funded. How could that be?

It is because each and every one of them voted for these budget measures. That is right. The members of the coalition—National and Liberal—sat side-by-side with Labor MPs to legislate all but one of these savings measures. The coalition supported all but one measure proposed by Labor—in fact, some of the legislation giving effect to these measures passed the parliament after the last election, once the coalition had formed government. In opposition, as in government, the coalition supported budget measures specifically intended to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The figures underpinning these budget measures were, of course, developed by the Treasury—led at the time by the widely respected Martin Parkinson, now the secretary of the Prime Minister's department—and yet the government now claims the scheme is unfunded. If coalition members really did not support the legislative measures identified in the 2013 budget to fund the scheme, why did they vote for them? If the funding from these measures is no longer directed towards funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme, where is it being directed? If the government truly believes the NDIS is unfunded, why has it signed bilateral agreements with state governments committing to the full rollout and the full funding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme?

I am very sorry to say that the answer to these questions is: politics, pure and simple. This government, which proclaims bipartisan support for the NDIS, is more than happy to use the scheme as a pretext for more budget cuts. In his speech introducing this bill, and in a crass attempt to rewrite history, the Minister for Social Services claimed that these measures were 'effectively lost for the purposes of the NDIS'. I have never heard such a pathetic excuse. Seriously, minister, you have lost the money! That is your excuse. This is not a set of car keys; this is billions of dollars specifically intended for people with disability. You cannot just lose it.

Then again, this is the minister who, as state Treasurer, was responsible for a fiscal drive-by on the people of Western Australia. He was the Treasurer of Western Australia during the height of the mining boom, but he left that state with a budget that is now more than $3 billion in deficit, so maybe it is the case that he is actually incompetent. If anyone could misplace billions of dollars, it seems it is the former Treasurer of Western Australia, who is now the Minister for Social Services here. But, of course, the truth is: this government did not lose it. This is not incompetence; it actually is thievery. They did not lose it; they are stealing it. This money is in consolidated revenue. It is there to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme, as intended, but the government is choosing not to. It is an effective theft of funds that are meant for people with disability.

Another ridiculous argument put forward by the minister is this idea that if savings measures are not locked away in a special account they are 'washed away'. Where on earth they would be washed away to is impossible to know. We are only now just beginning to understand how this minister could possibly have stuffed up the Western Australian economy so badly. He seems to have no idea how budgets work. Has the minister, in fact, set up a special account for his family tax benefit cuts which are supposedly meant to fund the government's phantom childcare package? Of course he has not. He seems to just be making it up as he goes along.

I have recently written to the minister asking him to explain this legislation and its myriad inconsistencies. I have asked him to explain what the government has done with the funding from the legislated budget measures, which were supported by coalition members of parliament. I have asked him to explain why there is a need for another special account specifically for the NDIS when one already exists. There already is the DisabilityCare Australia Fund, which the Medicare levy increase funding has been put into. I have asked the minister to clarify if this legislation allows the minister to arbitrarily take funding out of the special account to spend on purposes other than the NDIS. Unsurprisingly, I am still to get a response.

The minister either cannot or will not provide these answers. Therefore, Labor will seek to refer this legislation to a Senate inquiry, because we are determined to get the answers that this minister so far refuses to give. Of course, the government has not bothered to speak to people with disability about this legislation. I have not heard of a single organisation that has been consulted on the bill. They, too, have valid concerns—concerns that this minister has not listened to, because he has not even bothered to ask. An inquiry will allow for proper scrutiny of this bill and will give people with disability and their advocates the opportunity to provide feedback. As I said, Labor will not oppose the bill in this chamber. We do want to see a Senate inquiry conducted as soon as possible. We want answers to all these questions, and it is only in a Senate inquiry that we might have some chance to get them.

But make no mistake whatsoever: the premise for this legislation—that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is unfunded—is wrong. This legislation is just the opening salvo in the coalition's latest attack on the NDIS. The next barrage that we can expect to see will come tonight. No doubt it will be another budget full of broken promises, skewed priorities and cruel cuts. This is the most shameful aspect of the government's approach to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. They are prepared to hold the NDIS to ransom in order to secure more cuts in other areas. That is what they are going to try to do tonight. They will tell another group of Australians that they have to be hurt in order to provide support to people with disability, and they will tell people with disability that they can only be supported if other Australians are hurting, pitting one group of people against another. It is unforgiveable. We saw it in the last budget and we expect to see it again tonight.

I said at the beginning of these remarks that this legislation is not about the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is not; it really is about fear. I am very sorry to say that this government wants to frighten people with disability and their families and carers by telling them that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is not funded. This coalition government seems to want to say to people with disability that they should fear the future. This government is deliberately and maliciously shrouding the NDIS in uncertainty—and that is disgraceful. It is the lowest use of high office that I can recall. It is a disgraceful way to treat people with disability, who have waited all their lives for this transformational scheme.

The Liberals like to say that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is above politics—and it should be. But why do they insist on constantly trying to tear it down? Are their minds too narrow or their hearts too small to see the fundamental good in this reform? Are they so willing to tear it down just because they did not build it? I say to the minister and to the government: no matter what you throw up tonight, no matter what other attacks you have planned for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, people with disability know that Labor will always stand with them. We built the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and we will never, ever let you destroy it.