Minister Rishworth interviewed on ABC NewsRadio Breakfast


Topic: National Forum on Australia’s Disability Strategy, Cost of Living, New gambling taglines

TOM ORITI, HOST: Labor has announced a new scheme aimed at lifting employment rates among people with a disability. Almost 2.1 billion people living with disability are of working age in Australia. People on the NDIS – the National Disability Insurance Scheme – who want to work will be connected with a Disability Employment Services Provider under a trial to be established by the Albanese Government. But this comes as there are growing concerns about the sustainability of its central Labor policy following new Budget projections that have revealed that the NDIS itself could balloon to more than $100 billion a year within the next decade. Amanda Rishworth is the Federal Minister for Social Services and joins us now. Minister, good morning. Thank you for your time.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Good morning, great to be with you.

TOM ORITI: Lots to talk about this morning. I want to talk to you in a moment about the immense cost of living pressures being faced by thousands of Australians, just after that story there. But first, the National Forum on Australia's Disability Strategy. There's a Forum on, but let's just take a step back. What is Australia's Disability Strategy for people who don't know what we're talking about?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Australia's Disability Strategy is a really important strategy about how we make our society and community more accessible to people living with a disability. A lot of the conversation has been around the NDIS and the supports that are provided, but of course, there's so much more to making society inclusive. It includes things like accessible information, whether that is AUSLAN, Braille, whether that is closed captioning. It is about making sure that our buildings have a universal design and making sure that they're accessible, that our sporting clubs have change rooms that are disability accessible. There are just so many areas of society and community that we need to work towards ensuring are accessible for people with a disability. Now, we have a strategy in place, but we need to make sure that that strategy is implemented, and that's what the forum is today. 

TOM ORITI: Lots of issues there. I mean, do you acknowledge there is a long way to go with this? You mentioned accessible buildings there, I'm thinking about a push to try and change the building code to make buildings more accessible. There have been struggles there. A lot of people who are saying we want to make information more accessible, why do we need a strategy? Why do we need forums? Just do it.  I mean, is there a long road ahead here to improve these issues? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This strategy goes until 2031. There is a pathway that we do need to take to ensure that our whole society is accessible and our community is accessible. But this Forum today is about ensuring that those living with a disability and their advocates are able to have a say, to track our progress, to discuss our progress and to discuss where achievements can be made. There have been achievements made in the past but there is still more to be done. And part of this Forum today is a really important part of that discussion. To make sure that the Disability Strategy doesn't just say words on a page – that we are taking tangible steps towards action.

TOM ORITI: In terms of that transparency, am I right in saying there'll be three of these forums over the lifetime of the strategy? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There will be three of these forums but there's also associated Action Plans that get updated and targeted into certain areas like employment as well as areas like education. These are really important Action Plans so that tangible steps that can be taken both by the Commonwealth states and territories and the wider community. There are lots of domains and it's not just in the built environment either. It is about service delivery as well. So there is a lot of work to be done. Action Plans sit under this Strategy and this Forum is really critical in terms of the ongoing discussion about how we are going.

TOM ORITI: A lot of interest – I understand 1500 people in total are due to attend over today and tomorrow. A lot of interest. Only three forums over the lifetime of the strategy, you say is going to 2031?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There are three forums in this format and there will continue to be discussions between the states, territories and the Commonwealth. But remember that this is part of what the states do as well. They have their own forums to consult and discuss with those living with a disability and their carers. But this is by no means the only part of the consultation to keep us on track. The three National Forums are critical for this discussion to occur.

TOM ORITI: Can I just ask you about the NDIS? Because that does play into this. Now I understand, of course, you're not the NDIS Minister – that falls down to Bill Shorten – but I imagine that this is something that you're very interested in as well. The Budget forecast costs growing 14 per cent a year for the next decade and almost $100 billion cost within 10 years. I mean, that is not sustainable. I'm not hearing many people saying that it is. What plans does your Government have to rein that in and ensure that it is sustainable? Recognising that this was a Labor, with bipartisan support, scheme.  Important? No-one's saying it's not, but it was a Labor scheme… 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I'd say Minister Shorten is doing a huge amount of work and looking firstly at all the fraudulent behaviour that that may be occurring in the scheme and he's set up a taskforce to address that. That's a really important part of it. He's also been very much talking about not losing sight of the participants, the person with a disability, having them at the centre of the scheme and making sure that it's fit for purpose for them. There is an independent review at the moment having a look at the scheme’s operation, we've actually brought that forward. But that is about making sure that we're not having waste. That the money and the support is going to those living with a disability

TOM ORITI: That is one issue. But do you think it's overly bureaucratic? Do you think that needs to be cut down as well? 

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We are working through all of those issues. I know that Minister Shorten has been very clear that there seems to be a lot of disputes and he wants to reduce the adversarial nature that is sometimes emerging. He has been talking about reform there. So there is a lot of activity from our Government, particularly Minister Shorten who has been very focused on what can be done to ensure that this scheme is doing what it's meant to do and that is deliver care and support for those with a disability. But I would make the point, those supports, if we don't have an inclusive community and inclusive society, those supports can only take us so far and that's why the Australian Disability Strategy is so important.

TOM ORITI: Amanda Rishworth is my guest on ABC NewsRadio, Federal Minister for Social Services. Given that Minister, Australians are doing it pretty tough with rent electricity, mortgages, not looking like there's much relief on the horizon either. And energy prices are set to climb exponentially in the coming months as well. When will we hear more on the plan to curb those costs?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Our Government is taking these issues very seriously. It has been a very difficult time for people and there's been a range of different global factors that are having a huge impact here at home. But the Prime Minister and also the Treasurer have been really clear that what we need is targeted responsible cost of living measures that don't add to inflation. And that's where you've seen our reforms around childcare, our reforms around cheaper medicines that have been about helping people. But one of the things that we have got to be very cautious about – the Treasurer and the Prime Minister have spoken about this – is that we can't add or make the Reserve Bank’s job harder. We can't take measures that will add to the problem of inflation, because that will just continue to prolong and make the issue more difficult. So what we've outlined in the Budget is some long term reform to ensure that we've got economic growth. Investment in skills for example, manufacturing, these are all lessons that we have learned out of the COVID experience that we need long-term reform. We need to get wages moving again, these are all issues that we have got our eyes focused on. When it comes to electricity though, it is about investing in the cheapest possible electricity generation and that is renewable energy. Now for nine years we had the former government do nothing about energy prices. They have sat on their hands with something like 20 failed energy goals. It is going to take some time, but we have to really invest in our energy grid to make sure it is modern, fit for purpose and is delivering the cheapest form of electricity to help. 

TOM ORITI: We’re almost out of time Minister sorry to interrupt there. I just want to ask you one more, about one more issue – gambling. This morning the Government is forcing online betting companies to include some new warnings about the risks of gambling. Why not ban the ads altogether?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What we're doing is using evidence and research that clearly shows that the tagline of ‘Gamble Responsibly’ doesn't do the job of getting people to think and to minimise harm. So the new taglines, which were agreed with all state territories and the Commonwealth, are evidence-based and they actually have been shown to work. Things like ‘Chances are you're about to lose’, ‘Think. Is this really a bet you want to play’ are so important.

TOM ORITI: Why not ban the ads altogether though? Surely the evidence would say, the anti-gambling evidence would say don’t advertise gambling?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This process and this evidence has been part of the National Consumer Protection Framework that all states and territories and the Commonwealth have signed up to. There's been a number of steps that have been taken. I would note that there is also a House of Representatives Standing Committee looking into how we minimise gambling harm – and that is doing its job and part of its remit is advertising on TV. But we need to take steps now. This has been well researched, well looked at and it works. It works. And so this is one of the many steps including Activity Statements, which show people how much they have lost in the last month. An exclusion register will be coming in at the end of November. There are a number of steps and this is just the latest step we're taking to minimise gambling harm or fraud. 

TOM ORITI: We are out of time. It is a pleasure though. Thank you very much for joining us. Appreciate your time.