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Tuesday, 3 May 2016
Page: 4178

Mrs PRENTICE (RyanAssistant Minister for Disability Services) (12:46): The National Disability Insurance Scheme Savings Fund Special Account Bill 2016 is the second of two bills designed to improve the governance and funding arrangements for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. If ever there were an example of why we need this bill, of why we need to quarantine funds for the NDIS, it would be the words of the previous speaker, the member for Jagajaga. It was the party opposite and the member for Jagajaga this morning who said that $19 billion was a rounding error. These are the people who do not think that to quarantine money for the NDIS is sound fiscal management.

I can assure the member for Jagajaga that I have been consulting with the sector. I have been meeting stakeholders and mentioning this bill, and I can assure her that they are delighted that the coalition government is not only determined to quarantine this money but determined to ensure the success and future financial viability of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. That is how we are doing it. Through this legislation, we can quarantine the money set aside and any additional savings so that future governments know that that money is there, that the people in the scheme, the most vulnerable in our community, know that they are protected into the future from potentially incompetent Labor managers and that that money is set aside to secure their future.

This bill is further acknowledgement of the importance that the government places on the success of the NDIS and in recognition of the fact that its financial stability is crucial to its future success. The government takes its financial responsibilities for the NDIS very seriously. This bill is testament to the government's determination and commitment to establishing a sound basis for funding of the NDIS. We do not need a Senate inquiry to tell us that. Those with disability, their carers and the individuals and organisations involved in the provision of services within the disability sector depend on adequate funding for the NDIS. Indeed, one of the key questions that is regularly raised with me—as I said, I have been moving around Australia, talking to stakeholder groups—relates to funding arrangements for the NDIS and whether those arrangements will meet the needs of those with disability, particularly as demands on the scheme increase. It is obvious that no scheme, however worthy its objectives, will succeed unless it is adequately funded and those funds are secure.

Accordingly, the government is acutely aware of the need to establish a sound basis upon which the NDIS can be financed. As commitments under the scheme increase, there must be a concurrent increase in the funds available to finance the scheme. At the same time, with the possible exception of the federal opposition, few people remain followers of the magic pudding theory of economic management—that is, the more you spend the more you have left over to keep spending. The economic principles are fairly simple, and I remain puzzled that those opposite still seem unable to come to grips with the simplest of concepts. Money can only come from three places: increased taxes, increased borrowings or savings. Recognition of this and of the critical importance of adequately funding the NDIS is central to the objectives of this bill.

This bill will establish a new ongoing special account, known as the Disability Insurance Scheme Savings Fund Special Account. Over the next 10 years, the fund will be able to receive credits which will be available to fund the continuing operations of the NDIS. This vehicle will allow for money to be quarantined so that the Commonwealth government will have an additional secure source of funds to be directed towards the NDIS. It is not a revolutionary concept, because the Howard government established the Future Fund with the initial objective of financing the superannuation obligations of Commonwealth public servants. What is critical is that it provides a secure mechanism by which funds can be preserved for the benefit of the NDIS.

What continues to appal me, however, is the economic vandalism that drives the opposition. Their single-minded determination to make a political point irrespective of the facts never ceases to amaze me. On 19 April this year, the Leader of the Opposition claimed and, indeed, the member for Jagajaga said it previously:

… the NDIS, the National Disability Insurance Scheme was properly funded when Labor left office and what we did is we increased the Medicare levy.

The truth is that the NDIS was not properly funded when Labor left office in 2013. Any savings Labor claims were to be directed to the NDIS were simply returned to consolidated revenue. They were not set aside to fund the NDIS, which is what we propose to do. Labor did not put those funds aside. Indeed, they re-spent them several times. It is for this reason that the coalition government is required to find an additional $5 billion. We think that is a lot of money. Clearly, those opposite think that $19 billion is a small rounding error. We believe that $5 billion is a significant amount of money that we need to find and quarantine for the successful future of NDIS. Whatever Labor might choose to believe, whatever smoke and mirrors they use, you cannot spend the same dollar twice. You cannot direct the same dollar towards disability funding if it has already been used to help build a surplus.

As I have indicated, the growth of the NDIS and the growth in demands on its resources over time will be the greatest challenge the scheme faces. The level of certainty that a fund of this nature provides will be crucial in maintaining public faith in the capacity of the scheme to fulfil the expectations of those who will be its beneficiaries. At the same time, this government would be derelict in its duty if it failed to maximise the possible sources of revenue for the scheme. We acknowledge the significant financial commitment required for the scheme to reach its maximum potential.

I am delighted to support this bill. It is a significant move towards establishing a stable financial base for the NDIS, which, as I have indicated, is one of the most important social reforms that Australia has seen for many years. I am particularly pleased that the fund will draw from underspends from the NDIS and other portfolio savings. This will mean that money originally intended to be spent on the sector will remain within it and not be lost to some unrelated endeavour. I believe that this is an effective way of rewarding the efforts that are made to find savings in the first place. This bill deserves the support of the House, and I look forward to its passing so that the foundations for a sound financial future of the National Disability Insurance Scheme can be laid.