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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17055

Mr NEVILLE (3:06 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Would the minister update the House on the progress of negotiation with the states for a third Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement?

Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Children and Youth Affairs) —I thank the member for Hinkler for his question. He has always been a very hardworking member, as the Prime Minister articulates, and has a very keen interest in ensuring that people in his constituency who may have disabilities are given the best possible opportunities. In line with the comments made by the Minister for Ageing, the government has been trying to negotiate a Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement. Those negotiations began almost 11 months ago between Senator Amanda Vanstone and her relevant state counterparts. It has only been in the last week that we have finally achieved a breakthrough with some of the states, who are prepared to increase the level of funding, which they have been rather reluctant about—indeed, recalcitrant—to date.

We are putting $2.8 billion of Commonwealth money into the new Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement. That is a $900 million increase by the Commonwealth over the next five years. Until recently the states have been doing very little. The amount that we are putting in represents a 7.3 per cent increase per annum in new Commonwealth money going into the CSDA. I am pleased that, at long last, Victoria and Western Australia have finally signed up to that agreement. We are expecting the Northern Territory, the ACT and South Australia to finally sign up to that agreement. I am led to believe by Senator Amanda Vanstone that Queensland and Tasmania have made some funding offers, and hopefully those will be negotiated shortly.

Again, the one state that has not come to the party at all is New South Wales. It is quite a disgrace. Less than a year ago the Premier of New South Wales was beating his chest about the lack of funding put in by the Commonwealth, yet his own record is appalling. Indeed, when the offer was made initially last year of a 7.3 per cent increase by the Commonwealth, they were putting in a paltry 1.5 per cent increase. I gather that the latest offer is up to four per cent, but that is still quite outrageous considering the actual numbers involved and the amount of money going to support people with disabilities—particularly through accommodation, which is a responsibility of the states. Victoria has one-third less population than New South Wales. In New South Wales, 6,111 people are provided with accommodation; in Victoria, that figure is 7,068 people. That is 15 per cent more than New South Wales, even though New South Wales has one-third more population. It is absolutely outrageous.

In Victoria they spend $4,233 per capita, compared to New South Wales, where they spend $3,000. In other words, the Victorian Labor government spend 40 per cent more than New South Wales when it comes to helping people through the Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement. What is even more outrageous is that last year the New South Wales government were complaining about one of the awards of $40 million but they still have not been able to account for how they spent it. The threshold question we have to ask ourselves is how genuine and serious the New South Wales government are in signing up to the next five-year Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement. All we are asking of them is to have at least a significant contribution, similar to that of the Commonwealth, to have transparency and openness and to guarantee that they will continue to fund that agreement for the next five years—which they have failed to do. We look forward to New South Wales eventually signing up to that agreement, which is now 11 months overdue.