Transcript - NDIS agreement

September 16, 2015
Transcripts

PRIME MINISTER:

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is wonderful, as one of my first official duties as Prime Minister to be here with the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria, Mike Baird and Dan Andrews, and the Federal Disabilities Minister, Senator Mitch Fifield, and the NSW Disabilities Minister, John Ajaka, for the signing of the agreements to roll out the National Disability Insurance Scheme in NSW and Victoria.

This marks a huge milestone towards the delivery of one of the largest social policy reforms in our nation's history. The agreements we are signing give certainty to around 140,000 people with disabilities in NSW and around 105,000 people with disabilities in Victoria.

The agreements also give certainty to their families who will receive help from the NDIS.

The roll-out will be carefully managed to ensure the delivery of an NDIS that stands the test of time. The agreements balance and improving services as quickly as possible with getting it right.

Ultimately, around 460,000 Australians and their families will benefit from the NDIS across Australia. I am proud our Governments are securing a sustainable NDIS that will be available to all who need it and I want to thank all of those who have worked so hard to get us here.

Signing these agreements confirms the Commonwealth Government's commitment to ensuring people with disabilities, their families and carers receive the support that they need. And I just want to acknowledge that the other Members and Senators that are here, including, of course, the Member for Corangamite, because as Dan knows, especially, the administrative centre of the NDIS will in fact be in Geelong.

PREMIER BAIRD:

Firstly, can I say it is an absolutely inspirational day for the country. The NDIS is work that has been in progress for many years. Many people had the dream that this could never happen. Well, the great news is today it is happening and, importantly, it is funded. We have worked long and hard and I want to pay particular tribute to my minister, the former minister, together with the Federal Minister, Mitch, altogether with the public service and many stakeholder groups [who] have put together an NDIS which will change peoples' lives.

We have been in a position where we made decisions as a Cabinet back in 2012.  We wanted to support the NDIS and the reason we did is we wanted more support into those families who needed it most.

Imagine the impact now; we have gone from over 90,000 to 140,000 who will be supported through NDIS. So, an additional 50,000 people that will absolutely have - it will make a difference to their lives on the back of the funding we are providing.

This is an incredibly exciting day. It is great to be here with the Prime Minister, as indeed one of his first actions to bring into effect the most significant social policy this country has done in a long, long time.

Very proud to be here supporting it and I should acknowledge the role of the former Prime Minister, who, in Opposition, said this should be above politics, absolutely should be above politics. He committed to it, has supported it and now Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, one of his first acts is to bring it to life.

Very proud to be here supporting it and I should acknowledge John Delabosca who is here and who has played a significant role. Proud to be here supporting this transformation for this great country and obviously for New South Wales.

PREMIER ANDREWS:

It is a great honour to be here today to be part of something that is going to be so significant for hundreds of thousands of people right across our nation in our home State of Victoria, 105,000 Victorians with a disability, their families and carers are going to get the dignity and the care and the empowerment, the control and certainty that they have been campaigning for such a long time.

There is a group of politicians sitting up here but it is not our day, this is a day for those who have campaigned for so long to deliver this sort of equity, this empowerment, this justice, if you like, for those who our community who have every right to expect the fair go and the support the National Disability Insurance Scheme will offer them.

There have been many Prime Ministers involved in this, many different politicians, Governments of all political persuasions and today I think, if I can say PM, this is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when we work together, when we spend less time bickering and more time focussing on the things that families and communities right across our nation need and I daresay exactly what they are fundamentally entitled to. Having said that though, can I pay tribute to my cabinet colleagues back in Melbourne, to my officials, and to Mitch Fifield who has done a fantastic job.

We are pleased to have worked not only at a political level but the officials from your department and other departments have done a great amount of work in an intense period of time. There is probably not much more to say. This is a very emotional and very proud day for so many. It is not a day for us, it is a day for those who have campaigned for a very long time for their loved ones and for the dignity and the opportunity that this scheme will give, not just for today, but forever.

MINISTER FIFIELD:

Today is a great day for Australians with disability, their families, for carers, Australians with disability over many, many years have not received the support to which they are entitled.

What we are doing today seeks to fundamentally address that. What we are doing today is an important step on the road to giving Australians with disability the better deal that they deserve.

I also think today represents the Australian Parliament and the State Parliaments at their best. It is people working together across the aisle for a common purpose and saying that there are just some things that are too important to be mired in day-to-day partisanship. Today is a day just to pause for a moment to reflect that we can do good things as Governments and politicians together.

I am looking forward very much to continuing to work with my State counterparts on rolling the NDIS out in full. The NDIS represents what is the core business of Governments and that is providing support to people who face extra challenges for reasons beyond their control.

Can I thank my State counterparts for the extremely positive and good working relationship that we have for the goodwill that is there. If I can thank, in particular, John Ajaka, the NSW Minister, and also, Martin Foley, the Victorian Minister.

This is not the end point. We have a lot more work to do. We are in the process of negotiating with other jurisdictions, but rest assured all Australian Governments, collectively, are absolutely 100% committed to delivering the NDIS in full.

PRIME MINISTER:

John, did you want to add anything?

MINISTER AJAKA:

Thank you, Prime Minister.

All I wanted to say is that I am thrilled to be part of a Government that is now delivering choice and control to people with disability, their families and carers. This is what they fought for. This is what they are entitled to and again, to be part of a Government that is

now delivering this is something that is exciting and, at the same time, puts people with disability at the forefront to live their life their way, which is their right.

[Inaudible; the Prime Minister and Premiers start signing the agreements].

PRIME MINISTER:

Perhaps Mitch, you can add further to that.

MINISTER FIFIELD:

At full scheme, the NDIS will be a $22 billion a year operation. Of that $22 billion, about $10 billion comes from the States, money which they would have been investing in disability in the absence of the NDIS.

There is another $3 billion which is money that the Commonwealth would have been investing in a range of disability programs. That leaves $9 billion which will be the Commonwealth's additional contribution and, of that $9 billion, about 40% is covered by the half a percent increase in the Medicare Levy.

That leaves a bit over $5 billion in the first full year which is not covered by an existing or newly identified funding source.

Rest assured we are fully committed to funding the NDIS and one of the reasons why we as a Government are pursuing Budget repair is to make sure that we have money for the things that are the core business of Government, things like the NDIS. We are going to fund it in full and we are going to deliver it in full.

JOURNALIST:

Would you rule out another type of levy or charge or some other form of revenue raising to fill that gap, given how necessary it is?

MINISTER FIFIELD:

Well, the funding profile for the NDIS is laid out over the forward estimates. Other than the half a percent increase in the Medicare Levy, which goes into a dedicated NDIS fund, overseen by the Future Fund that is the only money which is hypothecated from the Commonwealth Budget for the NDIS.

The revenue sources therefore for the Budget as a whole, remain matters for the Treasurer.

JOURNALIST:

As you aware, a lot of the NDIS model is taken in flavour from the WA model. Now WA is saying that it doesn't want to give up control of its own system, it wants a federated system and that while you have the NDIS being run happily now for NSW and Victoria out of Geelong by the NDIA, WA doesn't want that [but] it wants that federated model. What are you going to do to convince Helen Morton and WA to come on board, or are you going to simply accept a federated model?

MINISTER FIFIELD:

I think the first and most important point is that WA, Helen Morton and Colin Barnett, absolutely committed to the concept of the NDIS. They are absolutely committed to the concept of portability, that no matter where you live in Australia, you can take your NDIS entitlement with you. They are committed to that. They are committed to putting the money in for the scheme. They are committed to the design elements, they are committed to the eligibility criteria of the scheme.

Western Australia has some views in relation to how they might bolt onto the scheme. I don't ever want to let design elegance get in the way of practical outcomes for people with disability. I am just going to talk to Helen until we reach an agreement. There is immense goodwill. I am talking to Helen all the time. I have got no doubt that we will secure an arrangement that works for the Commonwealth and that works for WA.

JOURNALIST:

Some of the other States have called for the funding to be brought forward, for them to get early access to the levy money. I was wondering whether discussions were about that and whether NSW and Victoria have a view about the elegance of that arrangement?

MINISTER FIFIELD:

I might say something first before passing to my colleagues. Just background for those who might not be aware, that of the proceeds, of the half a percent increase in the Medicare levy, 25% of those will go to the States, to help support some of their expenses in relation to the scheme.

There was a schedule which was laid out by the previous Federal Government as to what the phasing of those payments would be. Essentially, the payments would be, once particular benchmarks had been passed, in terms of coverage of people in that particular jurisdiction, The former Prime Minister indicated that he was open to that, to COAG having discussions about that phase in and our officials are having a good discussion on how that might work.

PREMIER ANDREWS:

I think the best way to answer that question is to say those things are ongoing. We share a commitment to get the best support and certainty and greatest choice for people with a disability as soon as we can and hopefully those productive discussions will be reflected in that outcome and have a funding profile that does what this Scheme can do and that is to empower so many people.

We’ve been talking and we’ll continue to be talking.

PREMIER BAIRD:

Obviously, we are happy to be participants in those discussions. What we want to do is to get the NDIS out as soon as possible and we didn't want to hold back in relation to wait for those discussions to be resolved. We obviously have a funding envelope that has a capacity to meet what we need and we want to get on with it and really that is going to drive it.

JOURNALIST:

Senator Fifield, given the trial so far, what is the risk that $22 billion will not be enough?

MINISTER FIFIELD:

The work that has been done by the NDIS scheme actuary to date demonstrates that the model that the Productivity Commission developed is fairly accurate. The experience we have had in the trial sites to date is that they are operating within budget. We are pretty much on track in terms of the numbers of people who should be in the scheme at this stage.

In terms of the budget of the scheme, it is tracking well, the actuarial work shows that the funding envelope that has been laid out and agreed between Governments should be appropriate for what is required.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Turnbull, can I ask you about your arrangement with the National Party? What is your view on the effects test? Is it your intention to have cabinet adopt the proposal by Bruce Billson or to debate one?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, the Cabinet will consider and discuss and examine Minister Bilson's proposal which deals with this amendments to s 46 and Cabinet will make a decision, which will then go to the Coalition party room in the usual way.

JOURNALIST:

We had a press conference with the Treasurer before and he indicated that he had a conversation with you in recent days, and maybe recent hours. Have you given him an indication as to whether he will remain Treasurer or not under your Government?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is kind of you to ask but I will be making announcements about future ministerial arrangements later. I expect the new ministry, with some changes, to be sworn in on Monday. That is the current expectation.

JOURNALIST:

Do you plan on removing a lot of the dead wood in your cabinet?

JOURNALIST:

On the NDIS. I just wanted to say, particularly in relation to Geelong, this is fantastic for Geelong and for the Corangamite electorate, but could you explain what this means for my region for Victoria and the economic prosperity this is going bring as a result of this investment?

PRIME MINISTER:

Mitch may wish to say - Sarah Henderson is the member for Corangamite and former journalist and she is going back. Yes, there is a few former journalists. It is very important for Geelong.

Geelong, the region, as the Victorians know and Sarah knows better than anyone has had some economic challenges. There is a real commitment on the part of our Government to ensure that there is stronger economic growth in the region, a greater commitment to innovation, a greater commitment to services and the administration centre there will be very significant. I think there are about 300 jobs involved. That is very important in regional Victoria.

Mitch, do you, or Premier want to add to that?

PREMIER ANDREWS:

I am conscious the member for Bendigo might ask the next question.

It is great news for Geelong and, as the PM rightly says, Geelong has had some difficulties in recent times and if you think about it the economic transformation of that proud city, which is a work in progress, but it is in many respects an insurance city now.

You’ve got the Transport Accident Commission which we moved to Geelong, the WorkCover authority is moving down there as well. The NDIA, together with the work of Deakin University, this actuarial rehabilitation support services sector is growing fast and that is a great thing for young people in Geelong and indeed everybody in that region.

PRIME MINISTER:

Have we exhausted questions on the NDIS? It sounds like we have.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Turnbull, are you going to make any last minute dash to Canning and, secondly, has Tony Abbott given you an indication about his future plans, whether he is going to see out this term, retire at the election, before, whatever?

PRIME MINISTER:

As to the latter part of your question, the answer is no. I have had a discussion with Tony Abbott but he hasn't given me an indication in those terms. As far as the first part of your question, in terms of Canning, no, my intention is there is a huge amount of work to do here, putting together the changes to the ministry and a lot of other work, consequent upon the change of PM, so my expectation is that I will be in Canberra or in Sydney between now and Monday.

JOURNALIST:

Will there be more women in your cabinet?

PRIME MINISTER:

There is no greater enthusiast than me for seeing more women in positions of power and influence in parliament, in ministries right across the country. I can assure you that. I am very committed to that but I am not going to say any more about the new ministerial arrangements. You won't have long to wait.

JOURNALIST:

At some point in the future, be it now, or a few months down the track, will there be a discussion on reforms to media ownership laws?

PRIME MINISTER:

The first time - let me just say this to you, James, the first time I was involved in discussions about media ownership and regulation was in 1977, which is not quite 40 years ago and the discussions are very much the same. A lot of the names of the players are the same, except sometimes it is a different generation but it will always be keenly discussed and I look forward to discussing these issues with the cabinet.

Now, Lenore Taylor?

JOURNALIST:

Did you offer the Nationals an agreement to pay more money to single income families or just that cabinet would think about it and why is it a good idea for water to be handled by the Agriculture Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

There are two questions there. Let me deal with water. As you know I am as passionate about water as I am about technology or indeed the New South Wales Opal card.  I have many passions. The Myki card in your state. I think Opal is better. More functionality actually. 

Seriously, water is a passion of mine. Water had always been, at the Federal level, in agriculture, it was taken out of agriculture in 2007 by John Howard and put into a new Department of Environment and water resources which I was the minister for and that was, I assume, for the purpose of me leading a very substantial water reform agenda, the national plan for water security.

There has been, prior to that the Commonwealth's involvement in water was limited, pretty much to the Murray Darling Basin commission. That is a little bit of a simplification, but in any event we assumed a bigger rule and the 2007 water act was subsequently amended by the Labor Government and there have been further amendments recently completed through the parliament by Greg Hunt and Bob Baldwin, who is the parliamentary secretary.

So the bulk of the reform process is done and it is, as Greg Hunt has said, it is perfectly reasonable, feasible and unremarkable for water to be returned to the agriculture department. Now, the question you asked me about payments to single income families, that is really a matter within Scott Morrison's area. He has made a proposal, as I think is widely known, as part of trying to seek agreement with the cross bench senators and all that we have reassured the Nationals is that Scott's efforts in that regard will continue.

Now, hang on, one at a time. Your interest in residential real estate Andrew, seriously I know you work for the West Australian but your interest in residential real estate is so keen, I would mistake you for a Sydneysider. Now, on that note, we are going to have to love you and leave you. Thanks.

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