NDIS Reserve Fund

E&EO

Interview Transcript – 2GB, The Rad Hadley Morning Show

Topics: NDIS Reserve Fund

Ray Hadley:

There’s a story in the Nine Newspapers today by Alexandra Smith says New South Wales and Victoria have accused the federal government of prioritizing a budget surplus over people with disabilities, by refusing to release a $1.6 billion funding agreement in critical unspent NDIS funding.

In a bipartisan attack the New South Wales disability minister Gareth Ward, and he's Victorian Labor counterpart, Luke Donnellan, are demanding the funds are released immediately.

New South Wales and the Federal Government agreed in May of 2018 to establish to reserve the fund which is an accumulation of money allocated to the NDIS, but not yet spent in a letter co-signed by the ministers to the Federal Minister responsible for the NDIS, Stuart Robert, Mr Ward and Mr Donnellan said it's unacceptable that reserve NDIS funding is not being released.

The letter says the states have been trying to work collaboratively with the Commonwealth to access the funds which includes 554 million for New South Wales, but have been told it will be withheld until the May budget.

Now the Minister for National Disability Insurance Scheme is Stuart Robert he's phoned the program, Minister Good morning.

Minister Robert:

Ray, how are you?

Hadley:

Not bad, we read this with some interest this morning, what's your side of the argument?

Minister:

What a complete an utter load of rubbish. The fact that that was leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald before I got it tells you everything. This is about politics and not about policy, these are reserved funds Ray, about a billion dollars, that are designed as an insurance reserve contingency fund, and all the states and territories must agree on how it's spent, or indeed if it's spent at all. It might stay reserved on the next five or 10 years as a bulwark for future needs, but that's a decision for all the states and territories. Not for the two big states to bully everyone else.

Hadley:

So in other words, it's not money that would be available for capital expenditure. It's there simply as you say as a reserve, in case you need it down the track.

Minister:

Correct. So the NDIS is fully funded and demand driven. Funding happens every single day, $18 billion this year $23 billion next year. This is a special reserved contingency fund that all the states and territories have agreed. We are now working through the parameters for that and how it will work. And just to give you an idea, it’s about a billion dollars. If we didn't spend a cent it wouldn't make a difference to the federal budget at all. Let's say we spend $50 million. Well, that would be a $50 million reduction on the underlying cash balance, and for a half a trillion dollar budget. That's a rounding error Ray I mean you see this is just nonsense.

Hadley:

Well I don't quite understand. It's a bit like trying to change the GST you can't do anything about it, unless you get all the states and territories to agree and from what you just explained to me here this is the same thing so you can't give money to New South Wales, Victoria, unless Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the territories agree is that correct.

Minister:

That's right. So of that billion dollars. About $215 million, give or take is New South Wales’ contributions over the last four or five years, $250 million belongs to Victoria, the rest is Commonwealth. So we're agreeing as a nation and what we'll do with this reserve funding for the most part we will invest it, and then we might use monies over the coming years to solve specific problems. What New South Wales and Victoria want is “hey give us our $250 million”, and don’t think for a second Ray they’ll spend it on people with disability. They're going to use it to prop up whatever they want in terms of their budgets. This is a reserve fund for people disability for use over the next X number of years.

Hadley:

Well, is talking about politicking I understand that with the Labor minister Luke Donnellan but what about your Liberal counterpart, Gareth Ward in New South Wales he wouldn't be trying to score political points off a federal conservative government would he?

Minister:

We he was the bloke who leaked the letter Ray so you can you can read into that what you will. And keep in mind every single full scheme agreement with the states and territories, and the Commonwealth includes a continuity of support clause, where any people with disability who weren’t accessing the NDIS the state agreed to continue supporting with existing programs, there's only one state that that was specifically excluded, and that's New South Wales. So we will not be lectured by a New South Wales minister who has ensured that their government has no continuity of support in their full scheme agreement.

Hadley:

Well, you just identified him as the leaker given there are two names here, Donnellan and Ward, how are you so certain Minister that he's the leaker.

Minister:

Because he was the one he came after me and saying that he demanded this and this and I went back to him and said mate, if this is how you operate by leaking against me this is not the way we do things and, and then he came back again quite clearly he was the one that leaked it to the Sydney Morning Herald, he doesn't deny it. This is not the way we operate as a Commonwealth. This is not the way we operate together, and we if you going to leak something how about you just leak the truth, let’s start with that.

Hadley:

So it's merely a surplus is not therefore concurrent spending. And as such, it would need the full agreement of all states and territories, for you to distribute in any case so it doesn't matter whether the two big states, New South Wales and Victoria come after you, you can't do anything about it without the other states being involved.

Minister:

That's it, and I'm going to stand up for the school states against the bigger state bullies and everything you said, well that wasn't in the letter that was leaked, how convenient for them.

Hadley:

Alright there will be a follow up no doubt by Alexander Smith sometime tomorrow in the Herald I think, thanks for your time.