Govt Looks to Plug NDIS Funding Black Hole
28 January 2016 at 11:40 am
The disability sector has called for a permanent solution to NDIS funding, acknowledging that the current model is insufficient as the Federal Government looks to generate $5 billion in budget savings this year to finance the insurance scheme.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter said that former Labor government’s funding model for the scheme, the 0.5 per cent increase to the Medicare levy, would expire over the next three years.
“Combined with other existing disability spending, we have been left with a 2019-20 funding gap of over $5 billion which we will fill,” Minister Porter said.
“The Coalition Government is working to fund the scheme in a sustainable way.
“We are not funding the NDIS gap from borrowings or by raising more income tax or any other general levy.”
Porter also reiterated the government’s commitment to delivering the full NDIS, which is due to be rolled out in July this year.
“The Government is fully committed to implementing the NDIS. This is a long-term commitment for people who need lifelong support,” he said.
“It is critical to watch and control the transition to full scheme with great attention to ensure that it develops both in a timely fashion and inside the estimated budget parameter.”
President of People With Disability Australia, Craig Wallace, told Pro Bono Australia News that Porter’s statement did not come as a surprise, but he welcomed the government’s funding promise.
“We always knew that the levy would not cover the full costs of delivering the National Disability Insurance Scheme and that we would need to find either further savings or revisit revenue measures to deliver the scheme,” Wallace said.
“What we’ve always been heartened by is the fact that the Abbott and now the Turnbull governments have committed since 2013 to delivering the scheme on time and in full, and so far they’ve kept that promise.”
However, Wallace said that the disability sector would like the NDIS to receive permanent funding.
“What we would like to see is to see guaranteed funding for the national disability insurance scheme, not just across, but beyond, the forward estimate,” he said.
“This should be taken out of the budget cycle and locked in forever. We shouldn’t be having this kind of perennial discussion that causes fear and alarms people with disability and carers about how this thing is going to be funded.
“It should be like Medicare, it should be like the defence forces, it should be like basic services under the education system where we accept that this is a public good, a public commodity that we all want and we’ve agreed is important, and we should find a way of funding it that is sustainable, is locked in and is permanent.”
Labor hit back at the announcement and accused the government of politicising the NDIS.
“The Turnbull Government is misleading the Australian people by suggesting the Government can’t afford the cost of the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” Shadow Minister for Disability Reform Jenny Macklin said in a statement.
“It is a disgraceful attempt to undermine the scheme and increase uncertainty over its future.
“The Labor government clearly identified how the NDIS would be funded for ten years.
“The Turnbull Government is trying to use people with disability as cover for another round of unfair budget cuts.”
Wallace said that the debate today had failed to take into account the return on investment that the NDIS would deliver.
“I think some of the commentary ignores the fact that this is actually investment as well as a cost, that we’re not actually talking a zero-sum game here,” he said.
“We’re going to have people with disabilities returning into the workforce, we’re going to have carers into the workforce, we’re going to have revenue coming from a bolstered community services sector that’s creating jobs.
“We will have other benefits from the NDIS as well by eliminating a fragmented and costly system that was on the verge of being at breaking point.”