03 May 2019


FRIDAY, 3 MAY 2019

I'm joined by Linda Burney who, if we get elected, will be an outstanding minister whose heart is entirely alongside yours. We've got a range of politicians here on the progressive side of politics and it’s lovely to be here with all of you. Also the panel at the front and Kirsten Deane, thank you very much and everyone working on Every Australian Counts. There is an election in 15 sleeps. It's actually under way now, there's pre-polling up at North Essendon  if you can't wait. This is my own electorate, I live up the road from here, so it's great I've got a chance to do an event in my own electorate. I saw some posters of me as I drove here and I thought why on earth are they using the old photos of me until I realised it was taken four weeks ago.
In all seriousness though the reason why I went to a little bit about this being Moonee Valley is I went up and had a little chat to Bronwyn Morcombe from Young People in Nursing Homes Coalition. And I said Bronwyn wasn't it here 11 years ago that a number of us met. 11 years ago. How time flies. And I was just a baby minister for disabilities. And the Young People in Nursing Home Coalition have done some good work getting some funding. And it was a big meeting here to talk about the progress of that particular issue. That is the process of making sure that young people, people who are not in their 60s, who might have been in a car accident or suffered pretty traumatic spinal injury. That they were not just given one choice of being in an aged care home. That they might be able to get age appropriate accommodation. So they didn't just have to listen to Frank Sinatra, as charming as Frank Sinatra can be. They had choices and friends. But it was around that time that we started to look together, me and disability advocates, carers, people with disability, started to actually look beyond why are we just having a tug of war over one funding proposal, you know getting people out particular accommodation and that's very important. We started to organise for a bigger idea. That's where I meet Kirsten, that's where I met a whole lot of, some of you certainly. That's where we met in those couple of years. And when there was no National Disability Insurance Scheme at all. Just a patchwork of state programs and government programs, federal government, state government.
And what I learned 11 years ago and 12 years ago and ten years ago was that disability is a fact of life. What really impairs people are the barriers that the community puts in people's path. What I really learned is that there are parents in their 80s and 90s hanging on, awake and anxious at 1 and 2 AM in the morning wondering who will love and protect their adult child when they no longer can. What I learned then is that institutions were very inconsistent in their care. And we've learned since then, and you already knew, but the public's begun to learn of the fundamental double standards which have existed in Australia for a very long time. 

What I learned then was that there are hundreds of thousands of people with profound and severe disabilities and millions of people who love them. What I learned then is that effectively through neglect, through bias, through prejudice, through ignorance, through saying we haven't got the money to fix the problem that people with disability were being exiled in our own country to a second class status. And what we did then is we all worked together. You and me and lots of our people, Julia Gillard, Jenny Macklin and many advocates. We said alright why don't we create a National Disability Insurance Scheme. And we did some work. John Walsh and Bruce Bonyhady and a whole lot of people. We did some work about could you fund it. I formed the view a decade ago that disability wasn't an unfundable or an unsolvable challenge, properly funding disability. It's a bit like leaning over a well and you throw the coin down and if the well didn't have a floor you'd never hear the coin land would you? But with disability my view is that even though it took a while for the coin to land this was a well we could fill. Disability is something that if the nation chose to prioritise it we could prioritise.

This is why and I'll come to why I want to be prime minister because this country is about choices. We make a choice on what we want to fund. We can make a choice to give $60 billion every decade on more to people and income tax cheques refunding them for income tax they haven't paid just because they own shares. It's called franking credits. You don't pay income tax, well if you own shares we'll give you a 30 per cent top up. You know it's not sustainable. So there's money in the system. Giant multinationals in Australia who get lots of revenue. Next time you go on your Facebook, next time you fill up your car with petrol, there are big companies. Next time you buy a nice bit of software. There are companies making a lot of revenue in Australia but they don't pay a lot of tax in Australia. So there's money. When a government says they can't afford to fund a new wheelchair, when they say they don't have enough staff, when they say that we've got to keep moving people through and we can't pay the staff properly - that is a lie. In Australia there is enough money. The question is what do you want to spend it on. When they tell you that we can't afford to spend more on disability, what they are saying is you don't deserve any more than what you are getting. It is a lie.

So what we are doing today, and Linda is here with me, is we are announcing and we were listening, I was listening very carefully to the contributions that you were making. It was fantastic. But what we want to do is we want to put people on disability back at the centre of decision making in the NDIA. The NDIS was not meant to be a new bureaucracy. It drives me to distraction when I hear these stories but plenty of other people saying they're doing plan and plan and plan again. When you're being second guessed on your views. When they put a staffing cap at the NDIA and everything else is done by contractor. When they change the board and they have insufficient number of people with the lived experience of disability at every level of the organisation. 

In the budget that the government just brought down at the beginning of April they've managed to fund their so-called surplus - not that they've brought in a surplus, it is actually a forecast, so it hasn't actually happened. One of the ways they funded their rice paper thin surplus is by miraculously there's an underspend in the NDIS, an underspend. I said this is not right. What has happened is that the government, because it has let the NDIS get off track, has manufactured a pipeline of funding in the NDIS which means it's impossible to get that money out. The current Prime Minister said there's no problem here. This is a demand driven program. And if the demand of the money we allocated isn't fully utilised this is not a problem. And as we just heard in the previous quarter 77,000 Australians have got plans not met. It's now up to 90,000 as you were saying, plus. So if you create basically a dam of money, the NDIS, but if you build tiny pipes which wont let that flow of money flow out to where all the people need it - if the diameter of your pipe is sufficiently small you will not get out this dam of money to where it needs to be spread. And that is what the government has done. It has set this great idea up to perform only adequately. It has a V8 engine and it's got it cutting the grass. Not good enough. 

What we are proposing is that never again can this cut occur. Never again. We've said that we want to create a Disability Future Fund. What that means is as we repair and reform and improve the NDIS, if the money is allocated based on the real demand but because the structure can't allow the real demand to be met in the short term, we will put this money into a special account, and will not only have it only be used for expenditure on disability when we improve the design, but the interest of it too flows back into disability. 

Labor gets it. We understand that people with disability deserve a fair go. That word fair go is used a lot. It is used perhaps too indiscriminately to too many situations. But for us the fair go is not just a slogan. It is a manner of organising society. See if you have to spend less time doing repeat plans, if you have to spend less time - and I really found your illustration powerful - working with the NDIS has become a part time job. Unpaid. I get that. So what we want to do is we want to make Australia the best in the world at working with people with disability, provide proper support. 

Back 11 years ago when we were right here in this grandstand, another room but in this grandstand, we agreed that we should be better than what we are. It's a very interesting election. This government wants to have the best franking credit system in the world. Fantastic. The most unique system of giving people a tax refund when they haven't paid tax. I don't want to be the best in the world at that. I do want to have the world's best National Disability Insurance Scheme. That is ambitious. 

You know I'm going to finish up on something Chris said and we've got the leaflets and the material here. You've heard a lot of promises. You have more right than most Australians to be cynical about the process. I do say to you that my interest in disability is not new-found with the hot breath of an election on my neck. My commitment is more than a decade long and some of you know that to be the truth. My commitment was when we didn't have a National Disability Insurance Scheme. My commitment was when disability would be lucky to be mentioned once in the national budget. I remember in one year when the next year was mentioned twice, I thought progress. But I am not someone content for people with disability to take second place.
I get the importance of the linkages in education and with Tanya Plibersek we are going to create the funding. And I know some of you are parents of kids with high needs or special needs. How you have been made to feel isolated. The kids here who have gone through the education system, you've been bullied. We will find the money in education to do better because we're not going to give multinationals the free ride they've been getting. We will protect the money for the NDIS. But I want to finish as I said on something Chris said. Mildura, regional Australia, being treated as second class, taken for granted by the Nationals. There is a strong Independent running there who's working on the funding for a public hospital. But last, on Monday night, Tuesday night it was or Wednesday night, I did the 7.30 Report. Leigh Sales interviewed us and at the end she said is what Labor really offering the election redistribution, take from the wealthy and give to the less well-off? And I balked at that characterisation. Because the idea of redistribution - and this government uses it, it says oh well if you vote Labor they want to look after some people but not others. That's a lie. I want every Australian to do well but what I won't accept is that everyone starts at the same place. You know they say Labor doesn't like the wealthy. That's a lie. But it is not class warfare to say you shouldn't have to fill in five plans. It is not class warfare to say that there shouldn't be more teachers' aides available to help kids on the autism spectrum. It is not class warfare to say that you shouldn't wait two years for a wheelchair. It is not class warfare to say that you shouldn't have $1.6 billion taken out and used to paper together a dodgy surplus. It is not class warfare to say that when people are not getting their legitimate requirements fulfilled through the NDIS that we demand to do better. 

The government says aspiration, that Labor doesn't like aspiration. Well I am in a room full of people who have aspiration. Chris has an aspiration that living in the bush shouldn't mean second class health. Other people here have an aspiration that being in the NDIS shouldn't be a bureaucratic maze. People have an aspiration their kids get a quality education. People have an aspiration that their children can grow old knowing that there is a comfort and support and love. People have an aspiration that their houses should be accessible. People have an aspiration they shouldn't be the victim of bullying because of their disability. People who work in the sector should have an aspiration to get a fair wage. People who work in disability have an aspiration that they just get a fair go.

Labor has an absolute commitment to getting the NDIS back on track. We've got our plans. We've got Linda Burney. We've got all of you. But this election isn't going to be won by meetings like this, although this is a very powerful gathering. It makes me inspired. You inspire me. What's going to change this election - will be talking to everyone else. I learned a very long time ago that disability is not a marginal issue. It's not a niche issue. Every Australian either knows someone with a disability, has an impairment or one day could have an impairment. When you fight and when we fight for you we fight for every Australian. If you want a better deal on disability, if you want a fairer country, vote Labor on May the 18th.
Thank you very much for hosting me here today.