Wallace says Labor's NDIS plans 'clever' albeit a little late
DISABILITY advocate Craig Wallace says Labor's proposed levy to fund the national disability insurance scheme is "clever and strategic", but should have been on the table earlier.
The People With Disability Australia president welcomed the government's announcement and also called on the Coalition to say how it intended to fund the scheme.
"Australians with disabilities are sick of waiting for this. We believe it needs to be done now," Mr Wallace said.
"What a levy does is it shields this from the budget cycle and the electoral cycle."
Mr Wallace said he was confident Australians would support a 50 basis points rise in the Medicare levy, as long as they were confident the money would be used to fund the NDIS.
Australia had a "rich tradition" of levies, he said, citing the Howard government's gun buy-back levy in the mid-1990s as the best example.
He also responded to calls from former treasurer Peter Costello and business groups to shelve the NDIS until the budget could afford it.
"Well, the fact is we had the better days … with the enormous surpluses under the Howard government. If we didn't do it then, how are we ever going to do it now?" he said.
The Business Council of Australia said announcing the levy without revealing the details of how the scheme would work was like "putting the cart before the horse".
BCA president Jennifer Westacott said while business supported the NDIS, a number of questioned needed answering.
"What business and the community need to know is what will be the service delivery and insurance model, how will eligibility be determined, who will provide the care and how will it be funded, and what are the appropriate roles for the Commonwealth and the states," Ms Westacott said..
"Without the answers to these questions it's impossible to accurately assess the full costs of the policy over the long term, whether the suggested levy is appropriate, what the extent of the gap is and whether we are able to sustainably fund the gap over time."
Ms Westacott said the government needed to finish the NDIS pilots, which commence on July 1, before committing to a funding model.
"If a proper cost-benefit analysis concludes a levy is the best way to go, it will give the community that confidence," Ms Westacott said.
But National Disability Services chief executive Ken Baker said the time for waiting was over, calling on the government to legislate the levy before the next election.
"People with disability and their families deserve certainty. A guaranteed and adequate source of ongoing funding for the NDIS is essential to providing that certainty," Dr Baker said.
"NDS supports a bipartisan approach to building the NDIS. We applaud the prospect that a proposal to fund the NDIS in full could be finalised before the September election."
Independent MP Rob Oakeshott, whose vote in passing the legislation would be critical, was another to add his voice to calls for a vote before the election.
"I support the levy because the NDIS is important. I would much prefer comprehensive tax reform to fund it, but piecemeal reform to fund a widely acknowledged important scheme is the best we'll get now," Mr Oakeshott said.