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Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Page: 10219

Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (16:58): In a statement lasting 13½ minutes, the minister failed to address the one issue, the one question on the lips of everybody in this country concerned about a National Disability Insurance Scheme. That question is simply this: where is the money coming from? That is the question which disability groups around this country and people with disabilities are concerned about. They want to know that beyond the rhetoric, beyond all the plans that the minister is talking about, beyond all the talk, the bottom line is: where is the money coming from?

Dr Emerson: A fancy way of saying no.

Mr ANDREWS: A fancy way of saying no? Is that what the minister at the table is suggesting? Is that what the government is suggesting?

Dr Emerson: I'm suggesting that you're saying no.

Mr ANDREWS: No, we are not. This actually nails the position of the government on this issue. The minister at the table interjects and says that this is just a fancy way of the opposition saying no. 'We put a billion dollars on the table,' and how much did the Productivity Commission suggest? A billion dollars on the table, and what did the Productivity Commission suggest? How much? That is $2.9 billion less than what was suggested.

Yet here we get this verballing by the minister at the table, saying that somehow the opposition is saying no. Nobody is saying no to the NDIS. The coalition supports the NDIS. I have said that on numerous occasions, and I will not be verballed by the minister suggesting anything else. The reality is that, when faced with the question of where the money is coming from, all we ever get is interjections from the other side of the chamber.

This is coming from ministers overseeing a $120 billion black hole in their budget; this is coming from a government that says they have plans to spend billions of dollars on the Gonski education changes and want to spend billions of dollars on dental health and have blown out by a couple of billion dollars what they are spending on border protection. This proposal is coming down to another $7 billion, and most reputable health economists say it will be in the order of $10 billion. The question that people rightly ask is where is the money coming from, and we get absolutely no answer—there is no answer to that central question. So we had a 13½-minute statement of nice, fine-sounding rhetoric about a National Disability Insurance Scheme, which we support, but we want an answer to the question: where is the money coming from?

The reality is that every government and every opposition right around Australia—Liberal and Labor; federal, state and territory—supports the National Disability Insurance Scheme. There have been considerable developments since the release of the Productivity Commission's final report—developments which on every occasion the coalition has supported. Of course the coalition supports the billion-dollar appropriation over the forward estimates. The coalition supports the launch sites that have been announced. The coalition supports the appointment of a chief executive for the transition agency. The reality is that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a landmark reform. That is why we support it. We have approached the NDIS in a non-partisan way.

Labor, as the Minister for Trade and Competitiveness, who has now left the chamber, just highlighted, treats the NDIS as a political football. They want it to be a partisan issue—probably because there are tough questions that Labor has yet to answer and some facts that they have yet to face up to. For example, we do not have an answer for how the first phase of the NDIS can be completed when Labor has allocated $2.9 billion less than the Productivity Commission said was necessary. We do not have an answer for whether the government is committed to the Productivity Commission's target completion date of 2018-19. We do not have an answer for how the government would fund a full national rollout of the NDIS. As I said, this is a government which has made announcements saying it is going to spend billions of dollars on education and billions of dollars on a dental scheme; it has blown out by billions of dollars the cost of border protection in this country. We know they have a $120 billion black hole, and, according to what most reputable health economists say it would actually cost, there is another $10 billion in the scheme if it is rolled out. The question of where the money is coming from is a realistic question. It is a question which, as I go around the country, is on the lips of every person concerned with disability. They all want to know how the scheme is going to be funded. It would be a cruel hoax if, after all this rhetoric, it was not properly funded. We do not have answers to even the most general questions about eligibility issues, which at the moment are of particularly concern to people with sensory impairment.

The government's response to these important questions is to attack us and to say we do not support the NDIS. When I started my contribution to this discussion we heard exactly those words from the minister, who has now left the chamber. The truth is that Labor do not know how to fund the NDIS. If they had a plan, they would have released it. But they do not have a plan—they are simply making it up as they go along. Instead of working with us on the NDIS, Labor is playing politics. Let me give an example. The Leader of the Opposition has written to the Prime Minister on five occasions seeking to establish a joint parliamentary committee, to be chaired by both sides of politics, to oversee the implementation of the NDIS. The Prime Minister has rejected our approach. On five occasions the invitation has gone out from the Leader of the Opposition to treat this scheme in a completely bipartisan way, above all politics, and each time that invitation has be rejected by the Prime Minister. This would provide a mechanism to elevate the NDIS beyond partisanship, but the committee would also serve as a forum where questions about the timetable, funding, eligibility and design could be raised and properly worked through. My portfolio colleague and representative in the other place, Senator Fifield, the shadow minister for disabilities, recently put a motion to establish this committee to a vote on the floor of the Senate. Unfortunately Labor and their alliance friends, the Greens, combined to defeat it.

It appears when you stand back and look at this that Labor wants the credit for the NDIS. But the NDIS should not be about credit; it should not be about political point scoring. It should be about delivering landmark reform for all of those who need our help. My friend the member for Dawson has moved in this place the same motion to establish a committee, and I hope when it comes to a vote that Labor, contrary to the decision taken elsewhere, reconsiders its position.

I repeat quite clearly for the minister who has walked out, if he happens to be watching on his monitor, that we support the NDIS. The states support the NDIS. It is time Labor told us how they are going to fund the NDIS. It is time Labor stopped playing politics and time they started delivering. This is just too important for the petty games Labor want to play. We get the impression again today in the minister's statement that, like in so many other areas, they are simply making it up as they go along.