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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 8795

National Disability Insurance Scheme


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (14:11): My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Wong. Does the minister agree with the statement by the Secretary of the Department of Finance and Deregulation, Mr David Tune, in Senate estimates on 16 October, that, while there has been a decision by government to fund the Parramatta to Epping rail link beyond the forward estimates, in contrast there has been no decision and no commitment by government to fund the NDIS beyond the forward estimates? Can the minister confirm this?


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:11): I was present at those estimates and I do not think the answer was quite as simple as has been put in that question. We made very clear that obviously in the context of the NDIS there were ongoing discussions underway currently with the states and that final decisions on funding, including the source of funding, was something that obviously needed to await the finalisation of those discussions.

I would make the point also that, if you want to make political mischief with this issue, I think that is disappointing. Mr Hockey is on the record—

Senator Fifield: I have a point of order on relevance, Mr President. The question was very specific as to the status of funding of the NDIS—whether there had been a commitment to fund the NDIS beyond the forward estimates. I might ask the minister to reflect on her answer. Australians with disability do not appreciate petty partisan point-scoring in relation to the issue of funding; they just want an answer.

The PRESIDENT: That is debating the issue. There is no point of order. The minister is answering the question.

Senator WONG: You can make petty political points; we are doing it. I would refer you to Ms Macklin's speech to the Press Club yesterday, where she gave a speech about the legislation and the parameters of the scheme.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator WONG: I will take the interjection, I think from Senator Payne, about 'show us the money'.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, resume your seat. Order!

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! When the debate ceases across the chamber, we will proceed.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: On both sides! When there is silence on both sides we will proceed.

Senator WONG: I would welcome a bipartisan approach on this issue, but, regrettably, I do not think the opposition are capable of delivering it. I will give Senator Fifield this: I think he is one of the people on that side who are committed to this issue. But regrettably his shadow Treasurer has made very clear that his commitment is lukewarm at best. On this side, as the Treasurer said in the context of the MYEFO, we expect to be able to say more on NDIS by the next budget. I look forward to you doing the same and matching the government's commitment to a National Disability Insurance Scheme.










Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (14:15): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. If a rail project needs certainty of funding so that there is no chance of it being suspended in the middle of laying sleepers, isn't it at least as important for funding certainty to be provided to the NDIS so that there is a guarantee the scheme will continue beyond the five launch sites?


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:15): That question was from the opposition, under whom disability funding went backwards. When you were in government disability funding grew at less than inflation, so do not come in here trying to play politics with an issue that you never showed any commitment on in all the years you were in government. We are committed to a National Disability Insurance Scheme. We will work through this properly with the states, the stakeholders and the community, as it should be.

Senator Fifield: Mr President, I rise on a point of order, regrettably, on relevance. The question was in relation to certainty of funding for the NDIS beyond the launch sites. We are not going to progress very far in relation to this issue if simple questions of fact cannot be asked without receiving a partisan rant in return. That will not impress Australians with disabilities or their families.

Senator Jacinta Collins: Mr President, on the point of order: I did not respond to the previous point of order but on this occasion the point does need to be made. Senator Fifield is making very cheap and disrespectful comparisons with rail projects that anyone who has any detailed understanding of disability policy would not seek to progress. He is making a fool of himself.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: When the debate across the chamber ceases, we will proceed.

Senator Ian Macdonald: There has never been a President as biased as this one.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: When there is silence on both sides, we will proceed.

Senator Jacinta Collins: Mr President, Senator Macdonald made a very clear imputation against the chair and I think he should be asked to withdraw.

The PRESIDENT: It does not help with senators on both sides calling across the chamber. I did not hear any comment that Senator Macdonald made.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order at this stage. I am listening closely to the minister's answer. The minister has 31 seconds remaining to address the question.

Senator WONG: I note that, for example, in the federal seat of Hindmarsh pamphlets are being handed out saying that the Liberals are committed to a NDIS, so I assume therefore you are going to stand up shortly and tell us how you are going to fund it because, without that funding commitment, according to your logic there is no commitment. We have said we are committed. We are doing the work with the states and the minister has outlined the presentation of the legislation—the real work to make this scheme real. On your side all we have had is petty partisanship. (Time expired)











Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (14:20): Mr President, I ask a second supplementary question. When the NDIS transition agency legislation is introduced into the parliament in the week commencing 26 November, as outlined by Minister Macklin yesterday, will the government then announce full funding for the NDIS, something it failed to do in the budget and something it failed to do in the MYEFO minibudget? When will Australians with disability have funding certainty for the NDIS?


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:20): As the minister has made clear and as the Treasurer has made clear, we will have more to say about the NDIS in the next budget. I look forward when we do to those opposite coming in and supporting the government's position because I think it is utterly regrettable for people with a disability and their families that we see in this chamber the sort of partisanship that has been on display today. We are doing the work to make this scheme real. Your problem, Senator Fifield, is that you are not as yet able to get fulsome support for this across your party room. It stands in stark contrast to the people on this side of the chamber. The party that built Medicare twice, because those opposite and their predecessors tore it down, will build an NDIS.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: When there is silence, we will proceed.