6PR - mornings with Gareth Parker

Interviewer:

Gareth Parker

E&OE

GARETH PARKER:

Christian Porter, the federal Social Services Minister is my guest – we’re talking the NDIS.

Christian, good morning to you.

MINISTER PORTER:

Good morning Gareth.

GARETH PARKER:

I believe you were listening in to what Stephen Dawson had to say just before.

MINISTER PORTER:

I was, in actual fact I was trying to get a telephone conversation with Stephen this morning, but his office said he was very busy

GARETH PARKER:

Now you know why…

MINISTER PORTER:

You’re robbing me of my telephone conversation.

GARETH PARKER:

I apologise. I’m glad we could play middle man.

MINISTER PORTER:

Look, I think the pertinent question was the last one that you asked which is – when do we need to make this decision, or when does WA need to make this decision? And Stephen’s answer was effectively – well, we really need to make the decision as quickly as possible.

And look, we had always expected that a decision would be made before 1 July 2017, which is the date at which the bilateral that was signed with the previous government would start to be activated and we would have to start actioning that bilateral.

It always seemed to us in the Commonwealth Government that you’re elected in March – March, April, May, June, July – you’ve got ample time to make that decision before 1 July. And yes, I am corresponding with Stephen, the Minister, and we are answering every single query that can be raised but I don’t take the view that this is a lack of information that is staying the decision; it just seems to be the inability to make the decision.

If we look at issues inside the NDIS – there aren’t many secrets Gareth, its being poured over and every newspaper in the country looks at it. We’ve got an interim Productivity Commission report, we know the things that are working well, we know the things that need to be improved and that we are constantly working to improve. I’ll just give you one example; so Stephen raised the issue of telephone versus face-to-face planning – so at the moment, and this is well known, I’ve corresponded with Stephen on this, about 70 per cent of the participants have face to face planning and the rest in telephone. And we are constantly working to increase the face-to-face planning and decrease the telephone planning, but this is well known, it’s not a secret…

GARETH PARKER:

Yeah, well the Productivity Commission put out its interim report yesterday, I’ve had a scan of it this morning and makes pretty clear what the problems are in the scheme and the reasons for the problems which is, at its core, this is a really big undertaking that’s being asked to meet very ambitious targets to roll out plans for lots of – you know, tens or hundreds of thousands of Australians with disabilities in a really short timeframe.

MINISTER PORTER:

Where challenges arise we focus our energies and attention to them and we develop plans to overcome difficulties and to improve deficiencies and that’s going to be an ongoing process for many years to come. But, I’m just – I woke up this morning and read the West Australian and the ‘WA to expand disability scheme’ article said the McGowan Government has announced stop-gap plans to expand the WA version of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. And I’ve got to say as the federal Minister, I’m not even sure what that really means.

GARETH PARKER:

Does it mean that they’re trying to defer a decision?

MINISTER PORTER:

We haven’t got a decision, so I can only surmise that the decision is being deferred.

But it would be highly desirable to get a decision before 1 July 2017…

GARETH PARKER:

I understand that from your point of view Christian, I understand you need a decision and the state government needs to make a decision so that everyone can get on with it.

However, this is the bottom line for me – the key test has to be what is best for people with disabilities, their carers and their families. And I think that opinion is still divided on that, even among people with disabilities, their carers and their families. But it does seem to me that there is a lot of anxiety about people who are used to dealing with the Disability Services Commission in this state, who are happy with the level of support that they’ve got, that if we do sign up to a national scheme that there is a chance that that support will, in some way, diminish.

MINISTER PORTER:

That is a concern that has existed in every state and that is an issue about moving from the old system of block grant funding, where we through various levels of government fund service providers, and that’s the only service provider you might have available in a geographical region – and the point about the NDIS is moving people in to a system where there is greater choice, because you have individual funds attached to you through your plan and you choose who your service provider is.

And that choice is, in many instances, something completely new to Australians who have a disability and who have previously not had choice amongst funders.

So yes, there are concerns that have arisen in many states, but every other state and territory has signed on to the NDIS – it is working. And what the Productivity Commission interim report said; its fundamental question is – is this scheme on track and is it operating inside budget and its concluded that it is on track and it is operating inside budget.

So, I don’t doubt that this is a difficult decision and that there is divided views – I’ve always been aware of that in WA, but that doesn’t – those views aren’t going to be less divided just by waiting longer, and in the meantime we end up in this no-man’s land where we’re still waiting for WA Government to make a decision even though 1 July ticks over and they are basically then operating under the bilateral that we previously signed with the previous government…

GARETH PARKER:

The decision needs to happen, that’s clear.

Can I ask you about another issue?

MINISTER PORTER:

Sure.

GARETH PARKER:

Is climate change politics about to bring down another Prime Minister?

MINISTER PORTER:

No.

Look, I sat through, obviously, the party room debate on the Finkel report…

GARETH PARKER:

So how would you characterise that debate?

MINISTER PORTER:

It’s always a robust debate. But it was actually quite temperate.

Even when you look at individuals – I mean Craig Kelly’s a good example – he’s been one of the greatest critics of a range of issues in the energy space, and he sees the clean energy target as a way forward. And I think the Finkel report is a very sober and detailed coverage of an incredibly complicated area and its observations and recommendations, of which there are many, are things that we will consider and that consideration happens and started in the party room, but it’s an ongoing process – but I think it’s a process that can be worked through.

GARETH PARKER:

Is Tony Abbott genuine in his concerns, or is he using this is a stalking horse issue to undermine the Prime Minister?

MINISTER PORTER:

Well I think everyone who’s raised concerns is genuine in the concerns. But it’s a very complicated area.

But what any government has to try and achieve here is a degree of stability and certainty in policy so that you can get extra investment from people into generation.

Generation investment hasn’t been a problem for us in WA, it is a huge problem on the east coast.

GARETH PARKER:

Thanks for your time Christian.

MINISTER PORTER:

Pleasure, cheers.