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Transcript of interview: 2SM Sydney Mornings with John Laws: 26 July 2012: National Disability Insurance Scheme

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National Disability Insurance Scheme 26 July 2012 Interviewer: John Laws Program: 2SM Sydney Mornings

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JOHN LAWS: Minister, good morning.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good morning John.

JOHN LAWS: Gee, you’ve got a lot of work to do there don’t you? Families, community services, Indigenous affairs and Minister for Disability Reform. Must keep you very busy, Jenny?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, right at the minute, I think it’s very exciting to be part of building a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Although you’re right, we’ve still got some work to do.

To look on the bright side, for around 10,000 people the National Disability Insurance Scheme is now going to be real in South Australia, in Tassie and the Australian Capital Territory. Yes, we’ll need to keep negotiating with other states but it is very good news that we’ve started.

JOHN LAWS: Okay, what’s the problem in particularly New South Wales. Why is Barry O’Farrell digging his heels in?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well he won’t put his hands in his pocket. All the other states that I’ve just mentioned - South Australia, Tassie and the ACT - have made it clear that they’re prepared to fund their fair share and when Mr O’Farrell met with other Premiers a few months ago, they all said that they support a National Disability Insurance Scheme. They recognise it’s a shared responsibility between the Commonwealth and the states. But now we’re at the hard end, he won’t pay his fair share.

The Commonwealth is offering New South Wales 300 million dollars for the trial in the Hunter so that around 10,000 people with disabilities - profound disabilities - in the Hunter will get extra care and support.

JOHN LAWS: Okay, could I ask you this so that we can simplify it for the people who aren’t really too aware of what the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s all about? What do people receive?

JENNY MACKLIN: What it would mean - if we talk about the Hunter - what it would mean if we could get New South Wales to put their share eon the table which is around 70 million dollars, so for New South Wales, not a lot of money over three years- what it would mean for those individuals is that if they’re waiting at the moment too long for a wheelchair or some other equipment they wouldn’t have to wait as long.

If parents are wanting extra respite so that they could have a break they would get more of that available for them. If those older parents are so worried about what’s going to happen to their adult offspring who are now needing supported accommodation, they wouldn’t have to be so worried or waiting so long. These are the practical changes that it means for people with disabilities and their carers.

JOHN LAWS: I really don’t understand how anybody could argue with that…

JENNY MACKLIN: …exactly.

JOHN LAWS: I really do not understand.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think the problem is that it’s one thing for state Premiers to agree and say they want it but now that we’ve got some states that are willing to make a contribution I think it’s only fair and reasonable that New South Wales and Victoria pay their fair share as well.

JOHN LAWS: Yeah we’ve got the Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman…

JENNY MACKLIN: … well that’s another case altogether.

JOHN LAWS: I know, I mean he says that his state doesn’t have the money. Do you believe him?

JENNY MACKLIN: Oh no, I don’t believe him. Queensland’s in the middle of a mining boom and I saw Campbell Newman compare himself to Spain the other day which just shows how completely ridiculous he’s being. But I would have to say to Campbell Newman, get out and talk to people with disability in Queensland. They spend the least of every single state in the country already.

And of course the other states are saying to Queensland, ‘well, you’re not going to ride into this on the back of everybody else. You’re going to have to increase what you spend yourself on people with disability in Queensland.’

And the Commonwealth of course wants Queensland to be in the scheme. We’re happy to pay our fair share in Queensland but Queensland have to do their bit.

JOHN LAWS: Yeah, I can understand the concern of people with disabilities in Queensland too because of the vastness of the state. I mean, if you’re out at Long Reach or Muttaburra or Aramac and you suddenly need some attention because you have a disability, it’s a long way to Brissie.

JENNY MACKLIN: It is a very long way and it’s a very big state and that’s why we would’ve been very pleased to start the National Disability Insurance Scheme in one of the regional centres in Queensland.

Mr Newman had his Minister write to me, it was a two-page letter, it didn’t even mention anything about a place, and then Campbell Newman mentioned Gympie just in a press conference. I think that demonstrates he’s not serious about helping people with disability.

JOHN LAWS: Yeah well it’s a tragedy because I mean, as Australians, and we are a very compassionate race of people, well I believe we are, we should be looking after people who simply can’t look after themselves.

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s exactly right. I think if there’s one issue we feel we really have got to fix, it’s our disability care and support system. Everybody knows that it’s broken and it’s very fragmented. People don’t get… fancy having to wait two years for a wheelchair. Or have to wait or not get the level of respite that parents might need.

I had a mother in my office the other day crying because her 26 year old wants to be as independent as he can. He needs supported accommodation. She’s in the queue in Victoria and has no idea when he’s going to get a place.

JOHN LAWS: It’s pretty bad. I mean, this place is not Bangladesh, it’s Australia; one of the greatest countries - the greatest in my mind - in the world and yet we can’t look after people properly with disabilities. How does the Prime Minister feel about the lack of enthusiasm?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, she’s very frustrated as you can understand. Of course, she’s pleased that we do have some of the states agreeing to start this scheme up, and I think that is very exciting for people in South Australia and Tassie, and we’re going to transform the whole system in the ACT so that will be a very important part of the agreement. But we’ve got to get New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, WA- we’ve got to get them all to come to the party.

JOHN LAWS: There are many saying, ‘why shouldn’t the Federal Government’ - in other words all the tax payers of Australia - ‘fund the entire trial’. What’s your answer to that?

JENNY MACKLIN: Sure and we’re offering more than our share. We’re paying, in fact, 78 per cent of the start-up of the scheme so we’ve said that we’ve put more than what we might normally put into this new scheme because it’s so desperately needed.

But as I mentioned before each of the state Premiers agreed in principal that this is a shared responsibility. We now have three leaders - South Australia Tassie and the ACT - saying, ‘yes, we’ll put our fair share in.’ So it’s only fair now that Barry O’Farrell and Campbell Newman and Ted Baillieu do the same.

JOHN LAWS: Do you think that those who aren’t prepared to put the money where they should be putting it are letting the disabled community down?

JENNY MACKLIN: They are. I think they’ve turned their backs on people with disability. If I was a person with a profound disability in the Hunter I’d be pretty angry right now. The Commonwealth’s offering 300 million dollars to put into the Hunter right now and Mr O’Farrell could sign up today.

JOHN LAWS: Okay, just on another subject - one that you won’t want to talk about - what’s happening with leadership?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as you can imagine I am very focussed on - and I think you can hear that I’m very determined to get a National Disability Insurance Scheme. I am not going to talk about it. I think leadership in this case is about showing that you’re prepared to put your money into a National Disability Insurance Scheme and that’s what I’d say to Mr O’Farrell today.

JOHN LAWS: Well you put it very well. I’m not going to push you on the point because I know you won’t be pushed too far.

JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you John.

JOHN LAWS: It’s very nice to talk to you and thank you very much for your time.


JOHN LAWS: Good bye. Minister for Families, Community Services, Indigenous Affairs and the Minister for Disability Reform - a very pleasant Jenny Macklin.