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States and territories say the Commonwealth offer of $2.8 billion for disability funding is insufficient.

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Friday 30 August 2002


States and territories say the Commonwealth offer of $2.8 billion for disability funding is insufficient.


LINDA MOTTRAM: Funding for disability ser vices around the country has stalled because of a deadlock between the Commonwealth on the one hand and the States and Territories on the other.


They're arguing over the details of a new financial agreement.


The States and Territories are maintaining a united front, rebuffing the Commonwealth's offer of 2.8 billion dollars for the next five years, an increase but still well short, they say, of what's needed.


The Federal Minister Amanda Vanstone says she's willing to discuss individual State offers if they can gaurantee their own committments.


Tanya Nolan reports.


TANYA NOLAN: Federal Community Services Minister Amanda Vanstone says it's time the States and Territories gave the same level of commitment the Commonwealth gives to the disability services sector.


AMANDA VANSTONE: We give certainties to the disability sector in that sense. We now expect the States to do the same and they have not been prepared to respond and to agree to outline their funding commitments over five years and their indexation commitments.


TANYA NOLAN: While putting a final offer on the table of an extra 125 million dollars over five years under the new funding agreement, Senator Vanstone has also opened the door to negotiate individually with her interstate colleagues on how to divide that money.


AMANDA VANSTONE: It's perfectly clear that if there's a State that is prepared to say we will give certainty to the disability sector and we want to make an agreement because we want the money, I think the Commonwealth would be doing the wrong thing by saying no, you have to wait for all the States that are slower.


TANYA NOLAN: And that's provoked a war of words, with Disability Services Minister for Western Australia, Sheila McHale accusing the Senator of changing the rules.


SHEILA MCHALE: That is a position that is totally contrary to the positions of the last twelve years. All ministers, State and Territory ministers, are quite clear that a multi-lateral agreement is what is required and are all quite firm in that regard.


TANYA NOLAN: Are you just being bloody minded about this? Why not engage in a bilateral agreement if it is going to mean more funding for disability services in your state?


SHEILA MCHALE: Because clearly this is a national issue.


TANYA NOLAN: And that's the sticking point for the States and Territories who are standing united in their refusal to concede to Senator Vanstone's demand for firm costings on how much they will give the sector this financial year.


ACT Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, says the Commonwealth's offer is less that half of what's needed and accuses the Senator of playing hardball.


JON STANHOPE: Senator Vanstone does indeed play the game very tough. She's written to agencies within the ACT and indeed within all the States and Territories in effect dobbing governments in, suggesting that we haven't responded, that we haven't passed monies on and it just isn't true. I'm concerned by that sort of behaviour.


TANYA NOLAN: And Mr. Stanhope is also concerned that New South Wales may be lured by the Commonwealth's willingness to strike a seperate funding deal, after this week announcing a further 100 million dollar wage increase to the State's community service workers, following an industrial relations court ruling granting them a wage rise.


But New South Wales Disability Services Minister Carmel Tebbutt is quick to allay those fears.


CARMEL TEBBUTT: At this stage we believe the best way to encourage the Commonwealth to provide more funding is to act in concert with the rest of the other States and Territories.


TANYA NOLAN: The States and Territories have requested an urgent meeting w ith the Commonwealth, something Senator Vanstone says she's more than happy to agree to when they have firm budget costings on disability spending to present to her.


LINDA MOTTRAM: Tanya Nolan with that report.