Transcript: ABC News 24
7.45pm | April 03, 2019
SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
ABC NEWS 24
INTERVIEW WITH GREG JENNETT
WEDNESDAY, 3 APRIL 2019
SUBJECT: Federal Budget, NDIS underspend, Energy Supplement backflip, Newstart, Senate election.
GREG JENNETT, HOST: Jenny, I think you've been listening somewhat intently to Paul Fletcher there. Why don't we start out with the NDIS? I think through your Committee work, you keep an eye on that. It's quite plausible isn't it, for a Government to have an under-spend if people aren't joining into the scheme at the rate that they had anticipated. Do you accept that?
SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES: Well, there is a reason people haven't been joining the scheme at the rate that was anticipated and that is because the Government has totally bungled the NDIS rollout. They're now in their sixth year of governing. They've been being told for years, literally for years by providers, by potential clients of the NDIS, that the system isn't working. That the authority that was overseeing it was understaffed, that the plans weren't being issued in a timely way and of course, the end result of that, is that many, many people who ought to have been receiving assistance are not receiving it right now and that's 77,000 people lower than what the Government projected.
JENNETT: But if you put more money in let's say $1.6 billion that's a number that's in the Budget books. Would that actually be spent if the system is clogged up? There seem to be mechanical and technical reasons why the money doesn't flow, hasn't been flowing. There is no quick fix to this is there?
MCALLISTER: There's not a quick fix. The fix ought to have been enacted by the successive Ministers for Social Services over the last six years of this totally chaotic Government. So Minister Fletcher is actually just the last line in a whole line of Ministers which include Porter, Mr Morrison, Mr Andrews. This is a portfolio that has been totally ignored over the six years, treated with contempt by successive Ministers and this is just one terrible consequence that they are building a surplus off the back of people with a disability. It's revolting!
JENNETT: What would Labor do if you win first of all? And if you are doing a mini-budget reset on all of this. Pump that money back in immediately?
MCALLISTER: There will be a lot of work to do to get the NDIS back on track. One of the first things that we will do is lift this arbitrary staffing cap that's been placed on the National Disability Insurance Authority. The lack of staff, the reliance on contractors, the reliance on outsourcing has been a major factor in their inability to stand up the NDIS and meet its promise which ultimately is about helping some of the most disadvantaged people in our community get in to work and get in to a dignified, self-reliant, self-determining way of living.
JENNETT: Alright, now the other development that has happened today is around Newstart. You would have heard Paul Fletcher explaining that as well. Labor could hardly be critical that they've now done effectively what Chris Bowen and Labor were demanding they do. I think Chris Bowen was in the House of Reps making that very point this morning.
MCALLISTER: Right, fastest backflip in all time. So last night it was perfectly sensible and reasonable according to the Treasurer, that people on Newstart were excluded from this payment. This morning we've got legislation with an extra $80 million in it to facilitate the payment of this supplement to people on Newstart. Why the backflip? Did they make a mistake in the first case? It was just an oversight? They're incompetent? Or were they just so cruel and so nasty that they deliberately thought to excise people on Newstart and now they've realised that the Australian public won't cop it because it's just mean.
JENNETT: Well certainly a fast response. What about again perfectly legitimate I think, to quiz Labor at this point in the cycle, if again, you manage to win the election, you are promising a review of the adequacy of Newstart? We'll leave energy supplements aside for now and then to do what and how quickly?
MCALLISTER: Newstart is too low and we're very conscious that we need to actually have a really good look at the payment system. You cannot easily live on Newstart at the moment and we need to have a look at Newstart the way it interacts with rent assistance and the overall framework for supporting people who are unemployed.
JENNETT: How long does that take? Twelve months, three months?
MCALLISTER: We'd be looking to get into that review in the first 18 months.
JENNETT: Cold comfort for someone on what you acknowledge is an inadequate payment.
MCALLISTER: We know that we've got to get on with this. We know it's important but we also know that we need the resources of Government to do this properly. We're not going to make a decision on the fly. We'll take advice from the Department and work with the community to work through this set of issues.
JENNETT: Alright, well you're sitting in a Senate as we said at the outset which will look a lot different I suppose when you come back after the election. Firstly, you do accept do you that the Parliament is unlikely - the Senate is unlikely to sit again in the 45th Parliament?
MCALLISTER: Seems unlikely. We'll go into the Estimates process Thursday and Friday. Really when the Government calls the election though, that's up to them.
JENNETT: Do you - would you mourn the departure of some of the characters, I think particularly you've been sitting there this morning looking up at certain Members of the Crossbench? It hasn't always been an edifying Senate, or an edifying Parliament really?
MCALLISTER: The presence of extremist far right politics in our Senate and in our national politics is really troubling. And this morning you saw the Senate condemn one Senator for his horrible remarks in response to Christchurch. I'm hoping that, that Senator won't be returned by the people of Queensland.
JENNETT: Yep, there could be a few others in that category as well. Jenny McAllister I know that you've got Question time to get to so we'll excuse you and thank you at that point.
MCALLISTER: Thanks Greg.
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