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12 Apr 2018

Transcript:   AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, FIVEaa, Mornings with Leon Byner, Thursday 12 April 2018

Subject:  National Disability Insurance Scheme

LEON BYNER:   I want to talk about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which I think most Australians agree that it's something we needed to do, but it isn't cheap. But then looking after the vulnerable is about helping people and being humane and giving them a chance at opportunity, just like everybody else without a disability would have. Having stated that, you might have assumed that this was a bipartisan thing, so both sides - Liberal or Labor - very happy to have the scheme. And now, the current Government are saying: look, we want to just increase the Medicare levy a little bit and do that, so that we can afford to fund the scheme. So let's talk to the President of the AMA, Michael Gannon.

Michael, just for the record, was it agreed from both sides how this would be funded?

MICHAEL GANNON:   Certainly, that was my understanding, and certainly this was Labor policy in Government. So I suppose that's the moral argument from the Coalition Government, that Labor thought this was the right way to fund it to start with, and then they've sought certainty for this funding. As you know, the NDIS is in the process of being rolled out. We started with a couple of small trial sites. We're working out where it's a success, we're working out where the service gaps are, but what is in no doubt is that we need certainty of funding. The Government suggested a mechanism that would fully fund it. It's time for either Labor to agree or to come up with a better suggestion.

LEON BYNER:   Alright. So, just to clarify where we're at. So, the Labor Party appear now not to agree that the Medicare levy should increase?

MICHAEL GANNON:   Yeah. Look, I think that the Labor Party's arguments are that there's already a taxation burden on Australians of more limited means, and they seek to derive the- they’ve got a completely different idea, certainly it's not the AMA's job to express any view on the benefits, risks or otherwise, of the company tax cuts, et cetera, but what we can say is that this is a major, very important social program. It needs certainty of funding. The Government's come up with a model which is the way we fund every other Government service; with a progressive taxation system. Now, let's not forget that the people of higher incomes pay a lot more tax…


MICHAEL GANNON:   … so the progressive taxation system we have in Australia does ask less of those on lower incomes. It asks nothing of people on very much reduced incomes. It seems reasonable, it's certainly not our job to play favourites in the Australian Parliament, but we do want both sides of politics to get on with it and provide the certainty for the scheme.

LEON BYNER:   Alright. Well, what we do know is, in 2014-15, the Budget indicated the Government allocated greater funding in the first three years of the NDIS than Labor predicted. So it's probably going to cost us a little more than we thought, so let's hope that both sides can come up with an amicable solution. And I just want to ask something else. I would have thought that the unmet needs of people with disabilities would already be known by a stack of non-government agencies and Disability SA and organisations like that. I just wonder, is there a wisdom in setting up another bureaucracy which will take money from that funding to administer something where the knowledge is already out there?

MICHAEL GANNON:   Well, I think what you're shining a light on there, Leon, is that in the move from State-based disability support services to a national scheme, we're finding out that there are winners and losers. Now, overall, it's probably a better scheme, probably a fairer scheme. You're entitled to the same level of services, whether you're on the North Shore of Sydney or you're in rural South Australia, and so, from that point of view, we support a national scheme. But where we're seeing problems are at some of the points where there's been a changeover. So for example, there are problems at the moment- when people turn 65, they're no longer eligible for the NDIS, and we want to see smoother transitions from the NDIS into the aged care sector. And certainly, in services that were historically provided by the State, there are people who are missing out. Where those problems are identified, it's absolutely crucial they get ironed out.

LEON BYNER:   Well, who's going to do that?

MICHAEL GANNON:   Well, I suppose we need to have faith in the NDIA - so, that you know, the overruling agency - and it's absolutely essential that they listen to people in the space, whether that's patient advocacy groups, whether that's people like the AMA. You know, we've got GPs, psychiatrists, rehabilitation specialists, and other people on the ground doing this work. Where there are problems that are identified, listen to the experts and make the changes. A nimble bureaucracy listens to people at the coal face.

LEON BYNER:   Michael Gannon, thank you. I wanted to check with Michael Gannon from the AMA about this, because my feedback is that there are people missing out. Caught between the cracks, if you like.


12 April 2018

CONTACT:        John Flannery           02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761
                          Maria Hawthorne      02 6270 5478 / 0427 209 753


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Published: 12 Apr 2018