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Transcript of interview: ABC Canberra Mornings with Alex Sloan: 26 July 2012: National Disability Insurance Scheme

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National Disability Insurance Scheme 26 July 2012 Interviewer: Alex Sloan Program: ABC Canberra Mornings

ALEX SLOAN: Joining me this morning, for her perspective is the Federal Minister for Disability Reform and that’s Jenny Macklin. Minister, nice to talk to you, good morning.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good morning Alex.

ALEX SLOAN: Will the ACT signing up to this improve people’s lives?

JENNY MACKLIN: It certainly will for around 6,000 people with significant and profound disabilities in the ACT. If I could just say that the decision of the ACT Government to be willing to transform their whole system is a very, very big decision and one that I think people with disability in the ACT will really welcome.

It does mean that in the ACT the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be real from the middle of next year and of course we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then.

ALEX SLOAN: Is it a political decision? This is a Labor Government, a Labor Chief Minister with a background in this area.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think it demonstrates her personal commitment and I think it also demonstrates the ACT Government’s commitment to be part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. They’ve been prepared here in the ACT to put extra money in.

Of course, the Commonwealth is also putting in a very significant contribution into the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, not just in the ACT but nationally and we are very, very pleased that we can get on with it.

ALEX SLOAN: Can you tell us… can you crunch the numbers for us. How much is it going to cost the ACT?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the ACT will contribute around 8 million dollars over the three years and the Commonwealth will be contributing around 19 million dollars. That’s just for the individual support packages; so the actual care and support that people will get.

But of course the Commonwealth is also paying for all the start-up costs of the scheme, so 100 per cent of the administrative or infrastructure costs, if you like, will be met by the Commonwealth. So in total, the Commonwealth is putting in a billion dollars from our budget because we know that if we’re going to establish a national scheme, we do have a big responsibility.

ALEX SLOAN: Just in terms of that share, is that fair on the ACT- a small jurisdiction?

JENNY MACKLIN: All the numbers are the same for each of the jurisdictions, so the amounts have been worked out across the whole country…

ALEX SLOAN: … and this has been the sticking point for the big states, hasn’t it? That share?

JENNY MACKLIN: We now have South Australia, the ACT and Tasmania all acknowledging that they should make a contribution. We’ve had an in-principal agreement from all the Premiers that this is a shared responsibility, but yesterday the two big states - New South Wales and Victoria - even though they say they want to be part of the scheme they would not put money on the table.

Just to give you an idea of what that means in New South Wales, the Commonwealth is offering New South Wales 300 million dollars 10,000 for people in the Hunter region around Newcastle. New South Wales is expected to put in 70 million dollars.

Now, for the New South Wales Budget, that is a very reasonable contribution and one that we now think is only fair if you think that the ACT is contributing, South Australia is contributing, Tasmania’s contributing, I think people in the ACT would say, ‘well it’s only fair the New South Wales and Victoria pull their weight.’

ALEX SLOAN: Alright but these Premiers have been elected, in part, off the back of doing something very responsibly with their budgets.

JENNY MACKLIN: Sure, as we all have. The Commonwealth had a very difficult Budget in May. We had to find a lot of savings, but budgets are about priorities and choices and we made our choice and put a billion dollars extra - extra - into building a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

ALEX SLOAN: Jenny Macklin, will these three launch sites make a difference or do you need all the governments to under-write this scheme?

JENNY MACKLIN: It will make a difference to have these three launch sites and particularly in the ACT because we’re working with the ACT Government to transform the whole system but also in South Australia and Tasmania we’ll be able to test what it means for children and for adolescents and that will be very, very helpful. But of course we want the whole country. We’re about building a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

ALEX SLOAN: You’re on triple six this morning and the Federal Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin, is with me this morning and talking about the decision by the ACT Government to come on board in terms of this trial, to be one of the three launch sites.

Happy to hear from you and I do have some callers, Jenny Macklin. I know you’ve become quite adept to talk-back here on triple six; are you happy to take some calls this morning?


ALEX SLOAN: Okay well Edward’s on the line, good morning.

CALLER: Good morning. My name is Ed. I work in a very minor way as a volunteer in the disability field. And one of the aspects of the whole scenery - it’s immensely complex - but one of the aspects is I never hear mention often enough and strongly enough the fact that it is marvellous to give people money and means of buying services, but unless you’ve got this skilled workforce available, and available on a steady, regular basis, and valued, it doesn’t help very much. And I think you need to take on training more and more carers to work in the field and pay them properly.

JENNY MACKLIN: I couldn’t agree more, Ed. A very, very important part of building the National Disability Insurance Scheme is also increasing the skills of the workforce. So that’s a very important part of the job and some of the Commonwealth money that we’ve put aside, part of the one billion dollars, is to spend on increasing the skills and availability of the workforce.

If I can also say to Ed and your listeners that of course the Commonwealth has recently announced our support for the wage rises for staff in the community sector and that of course includes disability care workers, so we agree they do need to be paid more. That equal pay case has now gone through, the Commonwealth has stumped up the money to pay our fair share of the increased wages and that’ll start flowing I think from the end of this year.

ALEX SLOAN: Ed, thanks for your call. And it’s eight degrees in town, a quarter past nine now. Federal Minister Jenny Macklin is with me this morning. Mary-Anne’s on the line. Mary-Anne, good morning.

CALLER: Good morning. I was just wondering, Ms Macklin, could you explain to me… my understanding is that with this scheme as it is set-up, not the trial, we will still have to go through solicitors and stuff and claim disability rights, claim against insurers and that sort of stuff.

Now, my understanding was that a good disability program just basically said, ‘you are disabled, therefore you need assistance and we provide it.’ And that cuts all that part of it out, which reduces in fact the overheads. Now my understanding is that this doesn’t do that. Is that so?

ALEX SLOAN: And that was something that was sighted by the reluctant Premiers today.

JENNY MACKLIN: That is a very good question Mary-Anne, and a very important part of the discussion that we’re having with the states and territories. We do expect that each of the states and territories will have a national injury scheme.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is to make sure that, for those people who aren’t covered by worker’s compensation or who aren’t covered by a motor vehicle accident insurance scheme - so say you get your disability as a result of a terrible illness, maybe as the result of a stroke - we don’t want people to fall through the cracks of any of the injury compensation schemes that some states already have.

The point is to look at people with a disability, look at their abilities, and to then work through, with them, the care and support that they need. But these are very important parts of the discussions that we’re having with the states. Some states of course do have injury compensation schemes for transport accidents. All of them have different workforce or worker’s compensation schemes. But we do want each of the states and territories to develop national injury compensation schemes as well.

ALEX SLOAN: But Minister, will a lot of the money get gobbled up by bureaucracy?

JENNY MACKLIN: I don’t think so. The whole point is to have a national scheme and to be able to get some savings, but come from not having different arrangements in each of the states and territories. And one of the good things about the ACT is that they’ve decided to transform their whole system.

ALEX SLOAN: Mary-Anne, thanks for the call.

CALLER: Great, thank you very much.

ALEX SLOAN: Nice to hear from you. Now Noel’s on the line. Noel, good morning.

CALLER: Good morning, how are you both? I’ve got a question. I’ve got actually two questions. One is, why not just go have a referendum and go take over the whole system yourselves; the disability and the health sector? Because I see a lot of waste. That’s my first question.

And my second question is, we talk about trying to attract people to the sector but under the new modern award rates the Labor Party brought in, we’ve lost a lot of work in this sector. We’ve lost a lot of overtime rates, our weekend work. I know a lot of people are thinking about leaving. So I’m just wondering if the Government’s going to try and sort that out?

JENNY MACKLIN: On the issue of a referendum, I think Noel it would be safe for me to say that there’s very, very widespread support for a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Even the conservative states say that they support it, they’re just at this point not prepared to put their money in. So we’ll keep pressing them to make a fair contribution.

On the point of the workforce, as I said before to Ed, the Federal Government has supported the equal pay case that’s now been finalised in front of Fair Work Australia. We’ve put additional money in our budget to pay the increase in wages and that will start to flow, as I say, I think it’s from the end of this year.

ALEX SLOAN: Noel, thanks for the call.

CALLER: She didn’t answer my question, but thanks. I want to know, in the sector, we used to get time and a half and double time for Sundays. That’s gone under the new award. I was wondering if the Government will revisit that and fix it.

JENNY MACKLIN: I’d have to check, Alex, with obviously the ACT Government is the responsible employer so I’d have to check the award arrangements with them.

ALEX SLOAN: Alright, in fact we’ve got Chief Minister talk-back tomorrow, Noel so you might want to call in with Katy Gallagher tomorrow on Chief Minister talk-back. Jenny Macklin, the Federal Minister is with me this morning.

I’ve got a text from Ian saying, ‘I assume that people from New South Wales will not be part of the trial in the ACT and this will be a shame thanks to petty party politics. Is the Liberal party in the ACT supporting the scheme?’ I’m going to be talking to Zed Seselja later in this hour so I’ll put that to him.

But Jenny Macklin, in terms of that, will we see people move to the ACT to take advantage of the trial?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course people move all the time so we can’t exclude people who are in the ACT. I hope that New South Wales will come forward and put their fair share on the table. In the first instance, that would mean that we’ll have a launch site in the Hunter and of course that’s where we hope we’ll get started in New South Wales.

ALEX SLOAN: So in the first instance this will involve 5,000 people with disabilities?

JENNY MACKLIN: Around 6,000 people in the ACT, we expect.

ALEX SLOAN: And you’re saying this is going to change people’s lives?

JENNY MACKLIN: It will make such a difference. First and foremost of course it is going to add to the amount of money and services that are available for people. So whether that’s improved equipment that people have been waiting for; whether it’s better supported accommodation so older parents who are waiting for their younger offspring to get an independent place to live; whether it’s getting better respite.

You can think of all the different things that people need. But it’s also about saying, ‘let’s look at a person’s needs over their expected lifetime. Let’s give them a lot more choice and control over what they’re going to be able to get as a person with a disability.’ It’s good news for those people and it’s also I think very good news for carers in the ACT.

ALEX SLOAN: And just finally, Andrew’s texted saying, ‘until a proper wage is paid, the disability scheme will fail, guaranteed and under Labor, it will also be guaranteed to fail.’

JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s why I’ve said a couple of times to your callers that we supported the equal pay case and we’ve put a lot of extra money into start paying those increased wages.

ALEX SLOAN: Jenny Macklin, thanks for joining me this morning.