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Howard backs disability boost

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Defence cuts 'shameful': Howard

Former Prime Minister John Howard tells a Brisbane business breakfast the budget lacked "any areas of major reform" and the surplus was "a political necessity".

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Former prime minister John Howard wants all sides of politics to work together on the planned new National Disability Insurance Scheme, saying it's something the country will look back on with pride.

Mr Howard issued the call at a post-budget business breakfast in Brisbane, during which the Liberal luminary also described the federal Labor government's promised surplus as being more about politics than economic need.

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan's budget, unveiled last night, flagged a slender surplus next financial year, while also earmarking $1 billion in funding over four years to kick-start the disability scheme.

John Howard

John Howard

The Gillard government will negotiate with state and territory governments to find four initial locations for the scheme, which is expected in the long-term to boost the level of support for people who have a disability.

Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls said while the Liberal National Party state government supported the landmark disability scheme, the sticking point was the need for a long-term funding plan.

During a speech at the PricewaterhouseCoopers event this morning, Mr Howard criticised the federal government on numerous fronts, including over “shameful” cuts to defence spending, but backed the disability push.

“On the social policy front, I do hope that a bipartisan consensus and a sensible understanding can be reached and achieved in relation to those in our community who have disabilities,” he told the 2100-strong audience at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

“It is a terrible misfortune to be struck through an accident or by the difficulties of birth with disability in your family and I think it is something that a decent, compassionate society should find the resources to provide more for.”

Mr Howard was later asked about the NDIS during the question-and-answer panel session, specifically the point that it had bipartisan support.

“Well in general terms it has [bipartisan support] and I just hope that can be preserved,” he said.

“If everybody can work together on it it'll be something the country in 10 years' time can feel good about.”

Cerebral Palsy League chief executive Angela Tillmanns said the scheme could herald a “revolutionary overhaul of our broken disability sector that has the potential to deliver massive social and economic benefits for our nation”.

Ms Tillmanns said Queensland Premier Campbell Newman should push to be included in the 2013 trials, otherwise the state could be financially and socially worse off than the rest of the nation.

“Queensland has the opportunity to take a leading role in trialling a launch site in a regional area such as Far North Queensland,” Ms Tillmanns said.

“Now the Federal Government has made a budgetary commitment to the NDIS, it is in the Premier’s hands to decide whether Queensland will be dictated to by the southern states or play a leading role in the most significant disability sector reforms in Australian history.”

State Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Newman government should make support for the National Disability Insurance Scheme a priority.

“If Mr Newman doesn’t step up the trial scheme will proceed and benefit up to 10,000 Australians by 2013-14 and 20,000 Australians by 2014-15, but not one of them will be a Queenslander,” the former state disabilities minister said in a statement.

“He must be part of the negotiations that decide the share of the $1 billion [in federal funds] that should come to Queensland and what contribution his government can make.”

Mr Nicholls told reporters the issue had always been the need for the federal government to engage with the states over a funding proposal.

“Well we've always said we support the NDIS, we went into the last election giving our support for the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” he said.

“At the moment there is no funding proposal that engages the states, that puts in place a long-term funding package.

“Disability is for life, not for the next four years of this budget cycle and yet that's all we've seen so far. We want to be involved.”

The disability scheme is set to begin in July next year in four locations and deliver personalised care and supportfor up to 10,000 people. It is expected to grow to support up to 20,000 from 2014-15.

The experience in the four launch locations will determine when and how the government rolls out a national scheme.

Such a scheme is expected to cost $8 billion a year more than governments now spend on disability services.

The federal government will ask those that participate in the launch to collectively contribute $288 million over the first four years of the scheme.

The Commonwealth will pay all administration costs, but will ask states to share the costs of care and support.

Mr Nicholls said Queensland currently spent more than $800 million a year on disability funding.

“We need to talk to the federal government, they need to talk to us so we can put in place a long-term funding package otherwise what's been announced yesterday is simply a cruel trick,” he said.

Earlier, Mr Howard said budgets were always framed with an eye to both economic need and to politics.

However, he said Mr Swan's latest effort was “a very political budget”.

“It was a political necessity more than an economic necessity for the Treasurer to be able to announce a surplus," Mr Howard said.

“I favour surplus budgets. The best evidence of that is 10 out of the 12 of the budgets that we delivered in our time in government by Peter Costello were surplus budgets but the political necessity for a surplus last night was even greater than the economic necessity.”

- with Dan Harrison

37 comments

  • Mr Nicholls may well support the NDIS but wants to come in on the grouter by trying to avoid the state's responsibility to put money into the pot.

    Maybe the LNP government should recognise they have a responsibility to put funds into the scheme and stop complaining.

    Commenter
    John Forrest
    Location
    The Gap Qld
    Date and time
    May 09, 2012, 1:37PM
    • Exactly.

      And well said.

      Commenter
      J. Fraser
      Location
      Queensland
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 2:43PM
    • I thought $800 million a year in Queensland was putting money in the pot, in fact that's almost 3 times what the Federal Govt is aking for from the states.

      Commenter
      Oscar
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 4:39PM
    • that has been the response by the Coalition to most of the budget - sure they agree with the spending measures, but refuse to support any of the revenue measures and (most) of the cuts necessary to pay for said spending. Ah the luxury of opposition - all care no responsibility!

      Commenter
      Sandman
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 4:51PM
  • While on the budget, can someone remind the Government that the costs of the Carbon Tax though imposed on everyone, will be funded by, not only the 500 "biggest emitters" but also by anyone who is on a salary greater than 30K. Despite the fact the Government has hugely increased the tax free threshold, they also increased the next 2 tax rate thresholds.

    They talk about supporting families but someone needs to tell them that a person/family on 50K is not wealthy, and can equally be doing it tough, without added cost pressures.

    Seems to me that there is somewhat of an imbalance in the re-distribution of the CT cost impacts. A person on 30K seems to do best with 2.5K tax savings, but it drops off quickly after that. At 40K, the saving is down to 1K, 60K it's $500, and 75K is $130. One assumes that families increased costs will be much more than 1K ($20 per week).

    No-one is putting the heat on them to explain this logic, or at least say it like it REALLY is.

    Commenter
    Pancho
    Date and time
    May 09, 2012, 1:49PM
    • Pancho, why do you expect everyone to get government handouts?

      Commenter
      Matt
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 2:23PM
    • It is your decision to suffocate on pollution.
      Move next to a coal fired power station to fulfil your wish.

      I prefer to live as long as possible and hope that my children and grandchildren do the same. For this a healthy and unpolluted environment is necessary.

      Commenter
      caledoinia
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 2:45PM
    • The carbon prices compensation main aim is to assist you in changing from a polluting consumer into a more thoughtful user of polluting products.
      Change your ways and no doubt you will be financially 'better off' and realize you are assisting in moving us towards a cleaner future.
      It's not rocket science, it's about transition.

      Commenter
      a country gal
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 2:51PM
    • Pancho, I feel your pain.... don't you know internet forums are not for intelligent comments?

      Commenter
      Getoffyoursoapbox
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 3:39PM
    • Matt, I am happy to pay my way and advocate everyone that can, should do the same, but some people do need a hand at times. Sometimes circumstances control us and not the other way around. The point I was making is that the statement about who will pay is flawed, and should be told the way it is.

      Caledoinia & Country Gal, I also want to live in a clean environment to which I think everyone should contribute, even low income earners, and every business, not just selected ones. The uncertainty is there is limited compensation up to a relatively low level but the actual COL increase is yet to be determined but it is hard to imagine that already struggling businesses are not going to pass on the additional costs. The "stick" is that those businesses will transition to cleaner energy sources which, of course they can't overnight, as there are not appropriate cost efficient technologies yet available. Either way, costs will increase for quite a while yet. Of the total CT take, less than 30% will wind up going towards developing such technologies and at least 25% is going to administration, and 50% to tax cuts to a sufficient sector that may be struggling, but also include the most votes. Would rather see 50% going to technology development and less compensation, more evenly spread. But Governments are cutting down on incentives to take up solar etc, a mixed message....

      Commenter
      Pancho
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 8:32PM

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