In 2012 the Prime Minister is Julia Gillard, the issue the NDIS. She didn't have to pick a fight with conservative Premiers, but if they were silly enough to play Abbott's "never give Labor an even break" game, they were bound to be played just as Abbott is being played.
The Productivity Commission said that the NDIS should be funded 100% by the Commonwealth, mainly because they have access to all those growth taxes (thanks to the Gorton government). The states do a lot of the service delivery work in disability services, and such services as disabled people and their carers do get from government tends to come from states/territories.
O'Farrell and Baillieu have grown-up, serious governing work to do, unlike Abbott. No Liberal State MP would go out meeting-and-greeting with Abbott. They realise Abbott is doing them no favours, so why should they go out of their way for him?
They were both quick and right to realise that the NDIS was one of the few issues in Australian public life where (even though it's still a theory and hasn't yet been tested) the very idea is so valuable that anyone who mucks about with it is politically dead. This sort of issue flies in the face of conventional political wisdom, where Australians are so materialistic that they'll keen for something that is taken from them but won't miss something that is promised but not delivered.
Rudd was finished after measures to deal with "the greatest moral challenge of our time" were promised but not delivered. Keating was finished after his "L-A-W" tax cuts were promised but not delivered. Political commentators get in such a flap when this happens, because they tend to be idiots. This sort of thing is not mentioned by polls.
In the late 1980s/early '90s both Nick Greiner and Jeff Kennett worked with Hawke and Keating on national reforms. Neither went too far out of their way for John Howard (though Kennett worked with Howard on his biggest reform, gun laws). This was as it should be.
I have no idea why the Hunter (NSW) or the Geelong-Barwon area (Vic) are those states' chosen venues for the NDIS. Do those areas have high numbers of disabled people and carers? I know that those areas tend to have lower incomes than those in the capital, but this again is a failure of political journalism. It's possible the press gallery was given that information at a press conference or in a briefing document, but they are too lazy to review their notes and it's just easier to talk about polls or whatever.
The Premier of Queensland offhandedly nominated Gympie as his preferred location for the NDIS trial. Has the Queensland government done a cost-benefit analysis on Gympie vs other places in Queensland? Again, he demonstrated no real reason why it should be preferred over anywhere else. Gympie and surrounding areas is one of the lowest-income areas in the country, but as to its disability stats ... then it struck me. After its penny-ante culture-war targeting of Aborigines, litterateurs and gays/lesbians for budget cuts, after e-mail gaffes about feminism, it's entirely possible that the Queensland Government nominated that town because it is a homophone for an insult often applied to disable people: gimpy. A Gimpy Scheme for Gimpy Town. Yes, it's awful; but make the case that the Queensland Government is above that.
Abbott and Newman said that they are supporters of the NDIS but given that neither man has committed to funding it, what does this "support" mean? Naturally, Michelle Grattan takes Abbott at his word but she should be questioning what he means. Neither she nor the ABC's Marius Benson questioned the Federal Opposition what they meant when their spokesperson said stuff like this:
The National Disability Insurance Scheme, I think, is far too important to be mired in day to day partisan politics, which is why Tony Abbott wrote to Julia Gillard offering to establish a joint parliamentary committee to oversight the implementation of an NDIS to be chaired by the front benchers in the disability portfolio of both sides of politics.Hmm, oversight by a parliamentary committee where one side can checkmate the other. That's the way to get things done.
MITCH FIFIELD: Joe Hockey is a big supporter of the NDIS, as is Tony Abbott, as am I. But Joe Hockey has been making the pretty self-evident point that the Government has only allocated $1 billion towards an NDIS over the forward estimates. The Productivity Commission over that timeframe said that there should be $4 billion. So the Government haven’t fully committed to an NDIS and they haven’t indicated where the bulk of the funds will come from. And they need to.Any my goodness, can't you just take those guys at their word. Michelle Grattan does. Joe Hockey will demonstrate his commitment to the NDIS when he puts that $4b figure in his own forward estimates - and not before. That goes for Mitch (who worked under Barry O'Farrell in Bruce Baird's office).
The difficulty that we have at the moment is that the Commonwealth, the current Labor Government, haven’t sat down with the states and territories to talk about funding sources and funding shares.Well Mitch, they did; and the states proposed $0, and apparently the Prime Minister wasn't being "bipartisan enough" by just accepting that's how it has to be.
No government can know what their funding share will be unless they actually sit down with the state jurisdictions and have those discussions.What they need to do, Mitch, is have a trial and see how it all works, not just engage in your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine bluff and counter-bluff. Things are working out as they should.
That, Marius and Michelle, is how you do journalism - not just stick a microphone in front of someone and transcribe what they say.
Both of these supposedly experienced journalists relied heavily upon their shared fantasy that the Coalition will inevitably win the next election, which it won't and can't. The government has done a lot of work on the NDIS, consulting with interest groups to get the set-up right; the Coalition at state and federal level appear to have done no work at all. The NDIS is based on rights and responsibilities rather than charity and gratitude.
The Coalition would give us a cut-down, half-arsed version of an NDIS, as an act of charity rather than a manifestation of rights to those Australians who need more help than most. In this sense it would be like their not-the-NBN proposal or kind-of Medicare; a half-baked shambles deemed "good enough for the likes of you" by a bunch of Canberra shinybums. Only a federal election loss will knock this mentality out of them.
Maybe even that won't do it. In 1939 Robert Menzies claimed that he wanted to introduce a national insurance scheme, and resigned from the Lyons government because it rejected the proposal. 27 years later Menzies retired as the country's longest-serving Prime Minister and the insurance scheme proposal was no closer to realisation. Imagine if we'd had something like an NDIS in place for decades.
The idea of a levy to fund the NDIS comes from this mindset that throwing a few bucks to the disabled is an act of charity that you can turn off and on as pleases you. It was also a political trick; whether it's school reform or transport infrastructure the states don't care where Canberra get the money from, so long as they pay up.
The government should have sweetened an NDIS deal by offering to fund state/territory disability services without any loss in revenue transfers to the states, for early adopters. Barry O'Farrell is as concerned about vertical fiscal imbalance in 2012 as his predecessor Bob Askin was in 1968; ditto Baillieu for Bolte, Giddings for Reece, etc. They could have demonstrated the multiplier effect in delivering more services for less that the NDIS is supposed to provide. But, if the states are just going to say no then bugger 'em.
I'm glad that we'll have an NDIS. I'm glad that the Premiers of NSW and Victoria have come to recognise disabled people and their carers as a political force; unseen but substantial, like the icebergs that sunk the Titanic. I wish the Prime Minister would start mentioning it when asked what her government is doing to ease pressure on families.