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Transcript of joint press conference: Melbourne: 1 August 2012: agreement with New South Wales on an NDIS launch site; negotiations with the Victorian Government; the record of the former Liberal Government on industrial relations; productivity



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Joint Press Conference with Acting Prime Minister, Treasurer Wayne Swan - Agreement with New South Wales on an NDIS launch site, negotiations with the Victorian Government, the record of the former Liberal Government on industrial relations, productivity 01 August 2012 Press Conference Location: Melbourne

TREASURER: The Prime Minister has been so intent on ensuring that we reach agreement with state leaders across the political divide to put in place the launch site for a National Disability Insurance Scheme. I’m pleased to say today that we have reached agreement with the New South Wales Government for the launch site in that state. So this is a significant step forward and it builds on the initiatives of the Prime Minister following COAG last week.

I think it also build on some other very substantial reforms which have been put in place. Aged care reform, mining tax reform, pricing carbon pollution, reforms like the NBN. This is a fundamental reform, which over time will deliver justice to Australians with a disability. With those few words I’ll throw it over to Jenny Macklin.

MACKLIN: Thanks very much. I’m very pleased to be here with the Acting Prime Minister to announce that we have now reached agreement with the New South Wales

Government that we will have a launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the Hunter region.

This is very, very good news, especially for people with disability in the Hunter. It will mean that for around 10,000 people with disabilities with significant and profound disabilities in the Hunter, for their carers and families that they can now be part of the launch of a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

This of course adds to the agreement that we already have with South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. We’re very optimistic that we will also get agreement here in Victoria. Discussions are continuing with the Victorians. Today I’m very pleased to announce that the Hunter region will be a launch site for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MACKLIN: What I can announce is that the launch site in the Hunter will be part of the first stage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. So it will start in the next financial year, so in the year 2013-14. We can also say that the Commonwealth will be putting $300 million in to make sure that not only do we have individual support packages for people who have a disability in the Hunter. But we’ll also see the funding of local area coordinators and the Commonwealth will take responsibility for the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the creation of the National Insurance Agency and other national infrastructure matters that need to be established.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MACKLIN: We just need to finalise those discussions so the people from the Commonwealth are here in Melbourne today, as I say I’m optimistic that we’ll get a result.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MACKLIN: There’s a range of issues as you know. Mr Baillieu’s put some additional funding on the table. But as with New South Wales, we just needed to go through the detail of how much New South Wales is already contributing to the cost of disability care and support in that state, and the same applies here in Victoria.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MACKLIN: That’s exactly what we’re working through. We’re going through all of those figures.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MACKLIN: Well we’re going through the figures right now.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MACKLIN: That’s why we’ve got officials going through all the details. JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

TREASURER: Workchoices. Enormous hits to the take home pay of many Australians across a wide variety of occupations, all of which are very well documented. The introduction of Workchoices which will be the policy of Mr Abbott and his party at the next election is a very big and grave threat to the living standard of working Australians.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

TREASURER: That’s entirely a matter for the union movement. But what we do know is that there are some people out there with very deep pockets who are backing the Liberal and National Party big time. That’s what Mr Palmer is doing in Queensland. He’s virtually purchased the LNP in Queensland holus-bolus and basically controls the show.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

TREASURER: I’m not going to comment on that report. I haven’t seen it myself.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

TREASURER: I’m going to take my time to study this report. I would like to make a couple of very important points. Productivity levels in Australia are high by international standards, we’re in the top countries in the world.

It is true that productivity growth has slowed in Australia over the past decade, what they call in the jargon a structural decline to productivity. This is taking place in circumstances where there has been a very big investment boom and you’d expect productivity to decline in those circumstances.

I don't contest for a minute that Australia does need, over time, to lift its productivity growth, but there is no switch out there which you can just turn on and productivity growth follows. The fact is that there are a range of important reforms that take some time to take effect which will lift our productivity growth levels on which the Government has been working from day one.

Investment for example in education in all its forms, in early childhood right through to occupational education and training, and through to tertiary education. What we’re doing for example is skills development, what we’re doing in terms of welfare reform, what we’re doing in terms of investment infrastructure through the NBN, what we’re doing in terms of regulatory reform - that’s a very broad productivity agenda and it’s one which the Government is working with. And if indeed you wanted to quote quarterly or yearly figures, productivity growth has actually lifted in Australia in recent times, but it is not accurate to pick a quarter, or half year, or year when you’re looking at trends.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

TREASURER: The Government’s got a very good record in terms of putting in place the reform policies that are required to lift our productivity growth given the record we inherited from the previous government, which in this area was not good. The failure to invest in education, failure to invest in skills, failure to invest in education.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MACKLIN: As you know in this year’s budget the Treasurer and the Prime Minister made the launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme a priority. In a very difficult budget we found $1 billion to launch the scheme. I think that is an indication of our good faith, a demonstration that we are serious about launching the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

We’ve delivered a number of other major social reforms through careful fiscal management, the major reforms to the pension, the introduction of Paid Parental Leave and other social reforms. I think that demonstrates that through good financial management we will be able to deliver a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MACKLIN: I want to assure first and foremost people with mental illness and psychiatric illnesses that of course if they, like other people with disabilities have significant or profound disabilities as a result of their psychiatric illness they will be part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Psychiatric disabilities are very serious.

This government of course in last year’s budget made a very significant statement to improve services for people with mental illness. I understand how important it is both to Professor Fels and his family, but also the thousands of other families who are caring for people with mental illness and I can certainly assure them that they are uppermost in my mind as we design the detail of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MACKLIN: It’s exactly the same arrangements that we have with the other states so we expected the states to come up to a contribution of just over $20,700 for each individual support package. The Commonwealth will then make up the difference to an average cost of $35,000.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MACKLIN: The totals are as I indicated before. The Commonwealth will continue to put in $300 million as we promised we would. Some of that will go to meet our share of those individual support packages, some of that money will go to meet the costs of local area coordinators and then on top of that of course the Commonwealth is paying for the national infrastructure.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MACKLIN: They’re putting in an additional $35 million. But they’re already contributing about $500 million. What we found when we sat down and went through the detail with them, they’re already contributing to the cost of local area coordinators so we were able to take some of that money and allocate it to the cost of individual packages.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MACKLIN: No it hasn’t.

(Ends)