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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1364

Mr PORTER (PearceMinister for Social Services) (15:35): I thank the Leader of the Opposition. At the heart of the motion that he has put in his contribution just now is an accusation against the government and a denial of the proposition of fact that the government has consistently put. The accusation is that somehow the coalition government is not committed to the NDIS. The denial of fact of the proposition is the proposition that the NDIS, designed by members opposite, was not fully funded.

I want to deal first with the notion of the commitment to the NDIS. The NDIS trials commenced, in effect, three years ago and, over several trial sites, there was the rollout and transition of Australians into the NDIS. As of 1 July last year, the full rollout, the full transition, of the NDIS occurred in Australia. There is nothing that speaks to the commitment of the coalition government to the NDIS as strongly as the fact that it is happening. It is being rolled out Australia wide. Aside from the ACT, where the process was interrupted by an election, the full population of Australia is now covered by bilateral agreements with each of the states. In fact, the only reason that there was a delay with respect to one of those states, significantly Queensland, was that the Labor government there refused to sign on to the same bilateral that they later signed on to. But, in any event, the bilaterals are signed.

As of 1 July, the rollout began in earnest. At the end of that first six months, the government met 85 per cent of what was a very ambitious estimate for the people who should have transitioned in the first six months. In fact that was much higher than the transition results in the trial stages, which were around 75 per cent. At the end of December, at the end of the first six months, there were 63,482 Australians transitioned into the NDIS. We transitioned in more people in six months than had been transitioned in the full three years of trials. There are now 5,000 service providers in this amazing enterprise recognised and registered; $1.7 billion has been paid to providers and participants; and the processing of payment claims is now running at a success rate of 95 per cent. We inherited a blueprint from members opposite, and in many respects the blueprint is a sound one and in some respects it is somewhat clunky. In any event, nothing speaks to the commitment of this government to the NDIS more than the fact that it is happening. The opposition are very good at making announcements; this government is very good at making things happen. The accusation that there is some lack of commitment is simply not borne out by the facts.

The second proposition that has been put by members opposite is that it was fully funded, that there is no funding gap. This transition that commenced on 1 July last year will find its fruition in the year 2020 when we will reach full scheme, based on estimates. At that point, it was estimated that 460,000 Australians would be participating in the NDIS Australia wide. A reform of this nature—the most massive reform in a generation—comes with an enormous administrative effort, great complexity and, of course, a massive expense. It is a worthy expense and an expense which of course everyone supports, but, like all reform expenses, it has to be paid for.

We accept several of the funding sources that were nominated—and were nominated in budget papers—by members opposite. In 2020 when the NDIS reaches its full scheme operation, the Commonwealth will be spending, along with the states, $21.4 billion. The Commonwealth will fund 52 per cent of that total expenditure, at $11.1 billion. We accept the legitimate and preserved form of funding left by members opposite was the existing Commonwealth funding for disability programs, which rolls into the scheme. That is $1.1 billion. We accept that there was an increase in the Medicare levy and that the Commonwealth's share of that is $4.1 billion. We accept that there is a return, by agreement, to the Commonwealth of fundings previously provided to the states, often in the form of grants, and that is $1.8 billion.

Those figures, adjusted for 2020, amount to $7 billion. The Commonwealth's expenditure, as estimated in the budget papers produced by members opposite, is $11.1 billion in the year 2020. That leaves a funding gap of $4.1 billion, which has never been satisfactorily explained. You would think that, for a reform as important, as long awaited and as extraordinarily large as the NDIS, a $4 billion funding gap in 2020 would have been sufficiently explained in the budget papers. When you hear both in the media and in this House members opposite claim that it was fully funded, you will hear the phrase again and again that that $4.1 billion was funded through 'other savings'—the mysterious 'other savings'. The notion that, for a reform enterprise as large and as expensive as the NDIS, it would be acceptable to present in parliament that it is good enough to suggest that $4.1 billion can be adequately described with the term 'other savings' is absolutely ridiculous—and members opposite have struggled time and time again.

When you go back to the history of this matter, you will find that the 2012-13 budget papers do not identify where that $4.1 billion is going to come from. They do not identify savings that were linked to the NDIS that, when projected out to 2020, filled that $4.1 billion funding gap. Anyone here can be invited to look through those 2012-13 budget papers. The answer simply is not there. Of course, this presented something of a problem at budget estimates in the relevant year. There was a budget glossy that was produced at the time—not the budget papers that form part of the parliamentary record, but a budget glossy—and that did contain a chart. The chart nominated private health insurance reforms, reforms to retirement incomes and the mysterious 'other' long-term savings.

I would briefly note with respect to those two broadly identified savings measures, private health insurance changes and reforms to retirement incomes, that, as noted in question time today, those private health insurance changes were spent three times over. The member for Lilley explicitly said that those savings would be taken to help return the budget to surplus. He later explicitly said that those savings would be redirected to partially offset the cost of dental health reform. And the claim now is that they are being applied to the NDIS. The golden rule of public finance is: if you make a savings, you can only spend it once. Many have tried to spend it twice, but few have tried to spend it three times. The same can be said of the reforms to retirement incomes. They were first announced as savings to return the budget to surplus. They were then announced, or claimed, to be allocated to the NDIS. I might just add that this budget, 2012-13, which is said to contain the mysterious answer to the other savings—which it does not—predicted, at one point, a budget surplus in 2012-13 of $1.5 billion which turned into a budget deficit of $18.8 billion. This is the document that we are supposed to search for the credible answer as to how this $4.1 billion funding gap in 2020 is going to be filled—a document that predicted $1.5 billion and delivered an $18.8 billion deficit. What a joke!

Then we end up at Senate estimates after this 2012-13 budget, and that glossy table—which I think the member for Jagajaga attempts repeatedly to table, which is pointless because the thing is utterly meaningless—becomes the subject of questioning in Senate estimates. Under 'other savings', that chart attempts to point to things that were in the 2012-13 budget—which, of course, in that budget were not linked at all to the NDIS, but it attempts to point to those things nonetheless. Senator Fifield, who was responsible at the time, of course asked the obvious question that anyone would ask: if you say that they were other savings and you even make an attempt to point to them, can you quantify them? Can you wrap numbers around these other savings that add up to $4.1 billion? Senator Fifield said:

I might just return to the helpful document you provided at the start of proceedings today and try my luck.

Try his luck he did!

This relates to chart 3, 'DisabilityCare Australia' on the last page of the document. There is a category 'Other long-term savings' … for 2013-14 to 2022-23. Are you able to further disaggregate that by each of the measures there over the time scale?

The Treasury representative answers this way: 'The short answer is no'. That is a very awkward position, isn't it?

They left a government a massive expenditure on an incredibly worthy reform. They failed to fully fund it. They claimed repeatedly, in the most vague, ridiculous and nonsensical ways, that it is fully funded through other savings, and they left this government with the hard work. Well, the work is being done.