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A Nation’s Greatness

27 Jul 2012

Mahatma Ghandi said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” A thought that is pretty darn relevant when thinking about the debate over the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

We know tens of thousands of Australians agree with Ghandi’s sentiments, since, as of this writing, almost 126,000 people have signed on to support the Every Australian Counts campaign.

We know the Prime Minister supports NDIS. So, do a few state premiers. Here’s how it shapes up:

Only the small Labor jurisdictions of the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania secured trials after offering funds. Every Coalition-led state refused.

Just so we’re clear about the economics, per Anne Manne in The Monthly:

 The economics of disability are bleak. Nearly one-third of households involving a person with a disability live close to or below the poverty line, compared to one-tenth of Australians overall. As Bill Shorten pointed out in a speech made after the release of the 2009 report Shut Out: The Experience of People with Disabilities and their Families in Australia, a person with a disability is more likely to be unemployed and on income support, and to live in public housing or be renting. They are less likely to complete secondary education. Worrying numbers of people with an intellectual disability end up in jail. Children with additional needs require early intervention but don’t often get it. As their parents know, for each year such crucial help is missing, behavioural problems and educational deficits multiply.

And per Barrie Cassidy today:

On the face of it, the failure of the richest states to cough up a relative pittance towards the trials appears to be the dumbest – and meanest – act by leading politicians in a very long time.

Perhaps there is a plausible explanation to the intransigence of Barry O’Farrell, Ted Baillieu and Campbell Newman; perhaps it does go beyond the suspicion that they are merely playing a political game, denying the Prime Minister a “win” no matter what the issue.

But, there is another way of viewing this through the lens of the sports event captivating the planet at this moment: The Olympics. Countries put a lot of energy into making sure athletes bring home the gold. A victory fills the country with national pride.

And no country, including Australia, wins medals without investing a lot of public money into the preparation of their athletes. Tax money.

Consider this, from a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report, when thinking about Australia versus the host of the Olympics, the United Kingdom

An international comparison of disability-related expenditure (to the extent that this is possible) indicates that, compared with other countries, Australia has a lower level of spending as a share of GDP on longterm care for people under the age of 65. Expenditure is more than double in the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, and slightly less than double in the United Kingdom when compared with Australia. [emphasis added]

No one knows today whether Australia will bring home the gold from London. But, wouldn’t it be nice if, no matter how the games turn out, we felt great pride because we led the world in investing money in something that isn’t a game: peoples real, daily lives.