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Tuesday, 3 May 2016
Page: 4246


Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (17:24): As I was saying earlier today, since this data on cost is only based on the first quarter of operations, it is too early to draw any definitive conclusions. Under the header 'Medicare Levy funding arrangements', the report says:

The cost of the NDIS is being met in part by an increase in the Medicare Levy from 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent. This increase takes effect from 1 July 2014. There will always be a risk that collections from the levy are less than forecast, which will require the funding shortfall to be made up from other funding sources.

There is a great deal to like about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which is why it is coalition policy. It is why we are here today debating legislation around this scheme.

The NDIS is designed to replace and to enhance existing disability support services provided by the Commonwealth and the states. Eligible participants will have a disability support plan developed for them by the National Disability Insurance Agency and intended to meet their current and future support needs. Packages under the NDIS arrangements are based on a concept of what is reasonable and necessary for any individual client. Participants' needs are assessed and tailored, and service packages developed and funded. The scheme is demand driven. The NDIS will provide long-term care and support but not income to recipients. The income needs of Australians with disabilities are being met through other means, including the Commonwealth income support system.

As forecast by the National Commission of Audit report, the cost of the scheme escalates rapidly from $1.1 billion this year to $4.3 billion next year and $19.2 billion for the 2018-19 financial year. It is budgeted to cost about $22 billion a year, or about one per cent of GDP, once it is fully operational from 2020. But the increase in the Medicare levy and the cuts to other disability programs are only expected to cover costs until the 2016-17 financial year. Despite this, those opposite claim the project was fully funded. What a joke. What an absolutely disgraceful joke by those members over there. This is a joke on the people of Australia, in particular people with disability. You set up a scheme which was not properly funded, you left it to the government to clean up the mess and then you shamelessly tried to take the high moral ground when it comes to caring for people with a disability. You lot over there really have no shame. We saw the member for Jagajaga in here earlier today scaremongering and doing what she normally does. We saw really shine when she was talking about $19 billion being a rounding error. Nineteen billion dollars as a rounding error! No wonder this scheme was not funded by those opposite!

I want to refer back to two very important paragraphs in the National Commission of Audit report. They state very clearly:

Analysis conducted by the Australian Government Actuary has confirmed that there are uncertainties around all cost elements of the NDIS, e.g. populations, severity distributions and average costs …

…      …   …

The NDIS is a new scheme with associated uncertainty associated around costs and participant numbers. Most of the financial risk associated with this uncertainty will be borne by the Commonwealth.

That is exactly right. Yet, we have the world's worst Treasurer assure us that it was fully funded. As I said, we know what their capability is. They think $19 billion is a rounding error. They are just outrageous. You cannot trust them with money.

Now, to the legislation at hand: the National Disability Insurance Scheme Savings Fund Special Account Bill 2016. This bill is fully committed to implementing the NDIS. This is a long-term commitment for people who need life-long support. The coalition has successfully managed the rollout of the NDIS to ensure that this is being delivered on time and on budget. The Commonwealth has now signed bilateral agreements for the transition to the full scheme with New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. In the ACT the agreed eligible population will be fully covered by September 2016. Which means that together, these agreements provide certainty for around 85 per cent of the 460,000 Australians expected to be eligible for the scheme. The comparative trial in Western Australia is also being extended and expanded until 30 June 2017 to give certainty to around 10,900 current and future participants of ongoing support from the NDIS. The Commonwealth and WA governments have agreed to finalise arrangements for the state-wide rollout of the NDIS by October 2016, with the full rollout in WA to continue from 1 July 2017. The Commonwealth is committed to finalising arrangements with the Northern Territory as soon as possible.

The NDIS is due to reach the full scheme 2019-20 financial year, by which time it will be injecting $22 billion each year into the Australian economy and improving the lives of around 460,000 Australians with disability. The Commonwealth will be responsible for funding more than half of the $22 billion. But because of the failure of the previous Labor government to fully and specifically set aside funding for the NDIS, this will leave a funding gap from the 2019-20 financial year—a gap which will grow to over $5 billion.

The Commonwealth's share of the increase in the Medicare levy will cover less than half of the Commonwealth's annual contributions to the NDIS at full rollout. Unlike the increased revenue from increasing the Medicare levy that was set aside in the Disability Care Australia Fund, other savings, which Labor supposedly made to help fund the NDIS, were put into consolidated revenue and were never set aside to fund the NDIS. That is an absolute shame; I cannot believe the Labor Party did that. Yes, I can, because you cannot trust them with money.

The government is fully committed to properly, adequately and sustainably funding the NDIS, and will fully meet the funding gap. The government will guarantee the final funding source for the NDIS by setting up the National Disability Insurance Scheme Savings Fund Special Account. Creating this new special account is a simple move, and it is smart policy. The savings fund will give a clear line of sight of the funding set aside by government for the NDIS to meet the funding gap.

We are not funding the NDIS gap from borrowings or by raising more taxes on hardworking Australians. That is the Labor Party's way. As I said, we are setting this up and making sure that it is funded. The account will allow us to pool underspends and savings from across government over future years, locking them in as major contributions to the NDIS. The fund will grow consistently over future budgets, charting a transparent and responsible path to meet our NDIS contribution as a full scheme.

I commend the bill to the House. Finally, I would like to put on record that I cannot believe that Labor thinks that $19 billion is a rounding error. It is typical of them, and it is why they did not do as they were supposed to, but we can be trusted to do the right thing.