Essential Report

A Matter of Priorities

Jul 31, 2012

My favorite philosopher, sometimes, is a US bank robber. A guy named Willie Sutton who, when asked why he robbed banks, replied, “That’s where the money is”. Which comes to mind when we think about the Queeg of Queensland’s refusal to come up with money for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

There is no shortage of money. Period. We don’t need to be cutting government spending because money is cheaper than it’s ever been or worrying about obsessing about very small deficits, when the choice is whether we fund the NDIS or a whole host of other projects.

But, what really brings this into sharp relief is reading about the housing options available to a few:

Mining magnate Gina Rinehart has reportedly spent $S57 million ($43.8 million) on two units, off the plan, in the Seven Palms Sentosa Cove condominium project in Singapore.

A company linked to Mrs Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting purchased a unit on the third floor of the four-storey complex for $S23.3 million as well as a top-floor unit for close to $S33.9 million, according to Singapore’s Business Times newspaper.

There is plenty of money, certainly, if the richest among the people pay a fairer share of taxes. While we have heard a lot about a mythical inability to pay to make sure people with disabilities are afforded fair treatment (we are in a country where a child is expected to wait two years to get a wheelchair), we have not heard — but certainly we’d be happy to publish — the Queeg of Queensland’s plea to the richest among us to pay higher personal taxes, or a fair resources tax, and perhaps forgo, uh, optional housing choices so that children who need wheelchairs get them quickly.

To channel Willie Sutton, if you want to know where to go to find money so children can have wheelchairs, we’re happy to provide the addresses of a few people who are kicking back in Singapore.


The Economic Forest, Not The Short-Term Accountant’s Trees

Jul 27, 2012

Can we suggest a slight re-framing of the debate around the National Disability Insurance Scheme, a re-framing that will, we think, force Barry O’Farrell, Ted Baillieu and Campbell Newman — the state premiers who are opposing putting up a tiny amount of money — to come up with a new rationale.

In a business, the kind of thing the aforementioned state premiers usually embrace as the foundation of all that is good, there are two sides of a ledger: expenses and income. You have to take into account BOTH SIDES.

In the debate over NDIS, all we hear from the opponents — all members of the Coalition — is how much the program will cost. Putting aside the moral argument that there is an obligation to provide support for all of our citizens, may we point out a fact: investing in NDIS will make money. Full stop.

Let’s repeat that: money going into the program will INCREASE the wealth of the country.

This isn’t a political argument. It’s an economic fact.

And it comes not from some left-wing think tank but from the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission July 2011 report:

The most important of the economic benefits are the welfare impacts for people with a disability and their carers. While not counted in official statistics about the performance of the economy, these are genuine and large economic gains. One, partial way of assessing these gains is the value of the implicit income transferred by the NDIS to people with disabilities. Commission estimates suggest benefits of around $7.8 billion annually (and this already takes account of the lost consumption for those people funding the scheme). This is likely to significantly understate the benefits.

It is harder to measure some of the other economic benefits of the NDIS, but it is possible to assess some of its economic effects. These will take some time to emerge. Were Australia to achieve employment ratios for people with disabilities equivalent to the average OECD benchmark — a highly achievable target given the proposed reforms — employment of people with mild to profound disabilities would rise by 100 000 by 2050.

In fact, the package of measures, including through reforms to the Disability Support Pension (DSP), would be likely to raise employment by considerably more than 100 000. Under a reasonable scenario, the Commission estimates that there could be additional employment growth of 220,000 by 2050 (including for people with less severe disabilities).

By 2050, the collective impact of these two employment gains would be around a one per cent increase in GDP above its counterfactual level, translating to around $32 billion in additional GDP (in constant price terms) in that year alone.

Bottom line: from an economic health point of view, it would be foolish not to invest in the NDIS.

People are definitely entitled to their opinions. But, they aren’t entitled to their own facts.


A Nation’s Greatness

Jul 27, 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.


John Della Bosca – Every Australian Counts

May 8, 2012

John Della Bosca was a long-serving NSW Labor minister. He is now national campaign director of Every Australian Counts.

How will the NDIS work?

May 8, 2012

John Della Bosca says funding the NDIS will be less costly than the future expense of disability.

THE Prime Minister’s announcement to fund a National Disability Insurance Scheme has been warmly welcomed – especially by Every Australian Counts who organised the national rallies and has lobbied long and hard.

Its campaign director, John Della Bosca, tells 3Q that people with a disability have been mistreated for years. The plan to institute a Medicare-style scheme a year earlier than recommended by the Productivity Commission is the first step in correcting the inequity.

Read the key points from the inquiry.

He urges all states and territories to sign on to the NDIS.


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