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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1178

Pensions and Benefits


Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital TerritoryManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (14:07): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. On Monday the Treasurer said:

The balance of the savings achieved through that bill will be provided and debited into the NDIS special account. The NDIS's account will be poorer for it, if this bill is not passed.

Did the Treasurer discuss his intention to tie savings from the omnibus bill to the NDIS with the Prime Minister or his office before that announcement was made?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:08): Thank you, Senator Gallagher. I refer you to the response of the Prime Minister yesterday when asked about this matter. This is what he said:

… the answer is no - but what the Treasurer is doing is again pointing out the critically important fact that this big program, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, this big program is currently short of money.

Labor left it unfunded. It was another Labor promise - which we all support, we all support the objective and the scheme - but we've got to find the money to pay for it. Now what we're seeking to do is to ensure, demonstrating, that as we make savings, we will be able to apply them to support that vitally important program.

The alternative … is just to pay for it with more debt. Everyone at least pays lip service to bringing the Budget back into balance. It is only my Government that is doing the hard yards, making the case to bring the Budget back into balance. Your commitment to the NDIS is not measured in words, it is measured in deeds. What we are doing is taking the steps, making the decisions, to ensure we've got the money to pay for it.

That is what the Prime Minister said yesterday and that is the answer to your question.


Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital TerritoryManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (14:09): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to Michelle Grattan's report, which said:

There had been some resistance from the Prime Minister's office to the timing of announcing it. The PMO urged caution but Morrison, for whatever reason, was insistent.

Can the minister confirm the Treasurer ignored warnings about his flawed strategy and proceeded nonetheless?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:10): I am familiar with Michelle Grattan's article in The Conversation and this is how I would respond to you. I refer to the Prime Minister's comments yesterday and I refer also to a press release on Monday by the Treasurer and the Minister for Social Services, which stated:

The Turnbull Government will commit $3 billion in funding to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), taking an important step towards fully and responsibly paying for the scheme, which will transform the lives of around 460,000 Australians living with disability, their families and carers.

Since coming to office, the Government has sought to bridge Labor’s $4.1 billion NDIS funding gap in 2019-20, growing to over $6 billion in future years, in order to provide certainty for Australians with disability, their families and carers. The $3 billion in funding will be directed to the NDIS Savings Fund Special Account …

(Time expired)


Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital TerritoryManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (14:11): Mr President, I ask a final supplementary question. Is the latest failure why the Treasurer's colleagues are now calling him the 'new Joe Hockey'?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:11): I have not heard that but it would be a great compliment to both men to be compared to one another because they are both fine Australians and both very successful Treasurers, certainly more successful as Treasurers than any the revolving door of Treasurers that occupied that portfolio during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. The fact is that what Mr Morrison is doing and what Mr Hockey embarked on doing during his years as Treasurer is to return the budget to balance. Might I remind you that when Mr Hockey became the Treasurer at the 2013 election, he inherited the worst set of public accounts that any incoming Treasurer in a new government has inherited in Australian history, the very worst. And first under Mr Hockey and now under Mr Morrison, the coalition government is determined to do what Labor failed to do.