WEDNESDAY, 15 MAY 2019
Subjects: Labor’s $40 million investment in training for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the decimation of the public service during the Liberals’ time in office.
ALICIA PAYNE, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CANBERRA: Hi. I’m Alicia Payne, Labor's candidate to Canberra, and it's wonderful to be here today with Andrew Leigh and Nancy Waites to make this really important announcement about the NDIS. In my previous job, one of the really big parts of my work was to talk with people with disability and their families and providers about the NDIS. For many people this has made a really positive difference in their lives, but for too many it's been a bad experience and hasn't delivered what was promised. People with disability and their families have waited so long for the NDIS and only a Labor Government can get it right. We created the NDIS, and if we form government I know that we will get the implementation right, particularly by providing more staff and proper training. And that's what today's announcement is about. It's wonderful that Canberra will be a trial site for this investment in training for NDIS workers. And I'll hand over to Andrew Leigh to provide a bit more detail.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks so much, Alicia, and it's great to be here with Alicia Payne, Labor's terrific candidate for Canberra, with Nancy Waites, Labor's second Senate candidate, Natalie Lang from the Australian Services Union and Jack, a disability support worker who will speak to us in a moment.
As Alicia has said, Labor is enormously proud of the National Disability Insurance Scheme but we need to make sure that workers in the National Disability Insurance Scheme have the training they need in order to pursue long and fulfilling careers. That's good for the workforce and it's good for clients in the NDIS, who I know have been left shaking their heads when they learned that a quarter of the Morrison Government's projected surplus relies on an underspend on people with disabilities. We know that in Canberra there'll be 1,200 additional workers with the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Labor has decided that under a Shorten Government, this would be one of three trial sites, the other two being Townsville and Joondalup, in which we would trial innovative models for providing training to disability support workers. That training would come in three parts - up to $2,000 for induction training for people who are working on ensuring that they understand the full legal compliance and the basic protocols around working with people with disabilities, up to $4,000 for attaining Certificate III qualifications which will be undertaken in cooperation with the ACT Government, and then payments of up to $750 to provide ongoing professional training for disability support workers.
Labor wants to work with people with disabilities and the way we need to do that is by ensuring that disability support workers have the resources they need around them. My uncle was a disability support worker for a number of decades and I know from speaking to him about the importance of high quality training, of developing those strategies and approaches for working with clients with complicated needs. The importance of allowing disability support workers to specialize in particular areas. Let me hand over now to Natalie, will in turn hand over to Jack, to talk more specifically about this announcement today about the importance of training our disability support workers.
NATALIE LANG, AUSTRALIAN SERVICES UNION: Thank you very much, Andrew. The NDIA’s own figures suggest that one in five jobs created in Australia over the next three years will be an NDIS job. We want those to be good quality secure jobs. We want the workforce to be able to build a career in the NDIS and that is why we're very excited about this announcement, about this commitment from a potential Shorten Labor Government to invest in the best NDIS. Indeed, you wouldn't send your child to school to be taught by an unqualified teacher and you wouldn't allow a family member to go to hospital to be cared for by an unqualified nurse. Why should people with disability expect anything less from the NDIS?
We know that a well-trained, well qualified staff who are supported for career paths in the NDIS will deliver better outcomes for NDIS participants and will allow the NDIS to meet its true potential which is a once in a generation social reform. So we're very excited about this announcement. We welcome it wholeheartedly and indeed that is why the members that I represent in the disability sector have been calling out to have this investment in the workforce. So I'd now like to introduce Jack, who is a frontline disability support worker here in Canberra.
JACK LOWE, DISABILITY SUPPORT WORKER: My name’s Jack Lowe and I’ve been a disability support worker for around three years.
JOURNALIST: So tell us, what does this announcement from Labor mean to you?
LOWE: Oh, it means a great deal. For us, for the people on the front line, this is really crucial because there are not - we work all sorts of times and work with all sorts of people and that's something that's been really missing is the opportunity for training. And it'll grow and make better support workers in the long run. It’s important to improve [inaudible].
JOURNALIST: I suppose the sorts of people who take on this work, they're very special people. They mean well, they have the best intentions, but I guess it's important to back that up with the right training, isn’t it?
LOWE: Exactly. I was lucky enough to, for when I got my Cert III to have that paid for. That helped me grow and become a better support worker, which meant I could improve people with disabilities lives better.
JOURNALIST: What sort of effect would having more trained staff have on the people that need this help?
LOWE: Oh, it'll make a huge difference, especially for people with complex needs where you really do need training to really make a really good impact. There are some greater trainers out there who have some brilliance, you know, that could be shared for everyone.
JOURNALIST: Thank you for that. Was there anything else you wanted to say?
LOWE: Not really.
JOURNALIST: You’ve covered it off well.
LEIGH: Thanks, Jack.
JOURNALIST: Andrew, what do you see as some of the biggest failings of the NDIS under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government’s watch?
LEIGH: There’s a litany of failings. We've seen the significant underspend on the NDIS being used to prop up the projected budget surplus. We know for the average NDIS client, they're only receiving around 50 per cent of their package costs. The staffing cap, this arbitrary average staffing level cap, is biting particularly hard in the National Disability Insurance Agency and that's meant that people aren't getting their calls picked up, aren’t getting their plans dealt with on time. So Labor would remove that arbitrary staffing cap. We would ensure that the National Disability Insurance Agency has the resources it needs. We'd invest in providing vocational training for disability support workers with 20,000 fee-free places available in vocational training for disability support workers. And on top of that, we've got these three trial sites around the country looking to build a better model of training for disability support workers, a further $40 million investment in the needs of people with disabilities from a Shorten Labor Government.
JOURNALIST: And I think Scott Morrison is on the record as saying that his government has funded the NDIS properly. He says that, from memory, he’s said comments along the lines of that Labor essentially set this agency up to fail by not properly funding it and not allocating the right funds for it. What would you have to say when you hear things like that?
LEIGH: When it comes to any problem or government mismanagement, Scott Morrison's always got somebody else to blame. But when you listen to the people who call my office - people with disabilities, their carers - they're frustrated about their dealings with the agency. They don't think that money should be going back in to prop up the budget. Instead, ought to be going to their disability care packages. A well-funded funded disability support program oughtn’t be beyond the wit of Australians. But unless we're willing to make the tough decisions to crack down on multinational tax loopholes and to deal with tax lurks being exploited by the top end of town, we’re not going to be able to properly fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
JOURNALIST: Will any part of this trial in Canberra go to supporting NDIS workers in rural areas and more remote areas of the capital region?
LEIGH: My understanding is it's initially going to be for the ACT region. This will be a trial site, as we’ve said, but if the program works as well as we're hoping it to, this would be a model that we would look to expand and build on nationally.
JOURNALIST: Why did you see the ACT as ideal for being one of the first three trial sites?
LEIGH: Well, as you recall the ACT was one of the early start up locations for the National Disability Insurance Scheme itself. That reflected the willingness of the Gallagher and then Barr Governments to work very constructively with the Labor government in establishing it. Now we've now had the Barr Government putting forward innovative models for mapping out the available vocational training and seeing where we can fill in the gaps there. So it really does speak what you can achieve when you've got a strong progressive ACT Labor Government working with federal Labor, and that's what we hope to deliver for people with disabilities and their carers if we win the election on Saturday.
Let me make one final comment on a different issue. We've seen today some extraordinary comments in the Canberra Times from Liberal Senator Zed Seselja suggesting somehow that the public service would be worse off under Labor. Zed Seselja is somebody who has been a Liberal senator at a time when the federal public service has been literally decimated. One in 10 federal public servants have lost their jobs under the Liberals. We've seen people working harder, more contractors, more consultants and a blow out in costs. In response to that, Labor's put forward a carefully costed plan. We'd remove the arbitrary average staffing level cap. We would ensure that there were 1200 additional jobs in the Department of Human Services. We’ve said we wouldn't proceed with the Liberals’ additional 0.5 per cent efficiency dividend next year, and that we would curtail the spending on consultants and contractors.
For Zed Seselja to be somehow telling people about how the public service should be looked after is like an arsonist giving lectures on fire safety. Zed Seselja has no credibility when it comes to the public service, which has been gutted while he's purported to represent the interests of Canberra. If you want a strong public service, there’s only one way of getting it on Saturday - vote Labor. Thanks everyone.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra.