Ok it has been announced that there is to be a levy to fund the much discussed National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Prime Minister Gillard has announced that the Medicare Levy will be increased by .05% to help fund some of the NDIS costs. The Levy will raise around $20 billion to make the NDIS sustainable. A quarter of this will be given to the States to help with the set up of the NDIS. In short the Levy will ensure that the NDIS has a sustainable source of revenue to make it viable. The Levy is what was originally proposed but for some unknown reason was rejected. Most likely because it would be seen as “politically unpopular” . It will cost the average Australian $1 a day and for many it will actually be less than that. This will not happen immediately. It will now be a carrot dangled in front of people with a disability and their carers to entice them to vote Labor at the next election.
Predictably the Coalition is critical of the Levy. Former Coalition treasurer, Peter Costello, has said the NDIS should be put on hold if the Government cannot fund it from general revenue. He claims that under his Government there were no deficits, no borrowing and hence Australia would have been able to afford an NDIS. Abbott has said if the budget was not such a mess then the NDIS could be funded from general revenue. Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, has said a Levy will put pressure on Australians. He claims the extra cost will lead Australians to spend less and impact on business and the economy. Even the National Bank CEO has chimed in and said the NDIS should be put on hold because it costs a lot and Australia cannot afford it in the current economic climate.
Let me just respond to Peter Costello. The International Monetary Fund has called the Costello and Howard Government the most profligate Government in Australia’s 200 odd years. Costello and Howard are said to have paid off a debt inherited from Labor of $56 billion by sheer good economic management. Let’s be clear they did this by selling off Australia’s assets. This raised them $72 Billion. It was nothing to do with them managing the economy brilliantly; they basically just sold off the farm. They just borrowed in a different way. Apparently of the $56 billion debt, $40 billion was inherited from the previous Liberal Government by Labor. Come on enough of the crap Peter; go back to your retirement.[i]
Wasn’t the NDIS supposed to have bipartisan support? As my wheelchair using friend said yesterday – “My disabled arse.” Typically the moment that Labor come forward with a way to make the NDIS sustainable the Liberals come out with nonsense like its gonna send Australia broke… We have to have a Levy because Labor cannot manage the economy say the Liberals. Let’s be clear, Labor has managed the economy in these difficult times very well and leading economist the world over are in awe of Australia’s healthy economy which has grown for the 21st consecutive year. Enough of this fear campaign about the economy. Australians are not stupid.
Most importantly enough of saying that the NDIS is a cost! It is not! Anyone with a half brain will tell you that keeping Australians with a disability bound to their homes because they cannot get enough care is a drain on Australia’s resources. This is 20% of the population of which a large proportion cannot contribute to the Australian economy simply because they cannot get out of their homes. Two showers a week ewwwww. Four year waits for wheelchairs oh FFS! It is a scandal that parents in their seventies are still looking after their disabled kids because there is no care for them. Let’s be clear, the NDIS won’t fix all of this in a day but it is at least trying to do something about it. It’s a disgrace for anyone to say BUT IT COSTS TOO MUCH! Take a walk in the shoes of someone who can only get out and about once a month and say that to their faces.
Let’s also be clear that by improving participation and inclusion for people with a disability Australia is creating opportunities. It will mean more can work. More can get out to shopping. More can get to the movies. More can go out to eat. More can earn money meaning less are on pensions. Only 53% of people with a disability work compared to over 80% for able bods. It’s well known that simply by raising this employment rate of 53% to 65% it will mean that people with a disability will contribute a further $43 billion to the economy over ten years. Hell, this will fund a quarter of the NDIS on its own.
Australia needs to get over this perception of the NDIS being a COST. It is not, it is an investment that will mean that not only will people with a disability live better lives but they will also CONTRIBUTE more to Australia in a big way. The short sightedness of those that oppose the NDIS Levy is hard to comprehend. Sure setting up the NDIS is going to be a hard slog with more than a few headaches but Australia needs it AND NOW!
On the downside consider this … The scheme is said to be targeting 410 000 people with a disability. The NDIS is now called DisabilityCare. It is about CARE! There are said to be anything between 3 to 4 million people who are Deaf and hearing impaired in Australia. Well sorry folks you simply will not be part of the NDIS. It’s not targeted at the deaf and arguably never was.
I will be shot for saying this, but I don’t really care. I think there are a group of people with a disability that have more pressing needs and this is who the NDIS should target at this point. If the deaf get considered in the NDIS later then well and good. I think what we have now is the envy of many people with a disability who have really pressing care needs. We deafies can put up and shut up while these people have their needs met. But in the meantime the Government needs to come clean on this instead of leading all us deafies up the garden path.