This opinion article by Tony Shepherd, President of the Business Council of Australia, was published in The Daily Telegraph on 3 May 2013 under the title ‘Questions Have to be Asked and Answered’.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme is too important to be set up to fail the people it’s designed to support – and the Australian community who are prepared to put their hands in their pockets to pay for it. It is too important to politicise.
This scheme is groundbreaking. Doing it properly means asking and answering key questions about how it’s going to work, what services it will cover, who will get them, who will provide them and how they will be paid for over the long term.
In setting up a complex and costly scheme that has attracted such broad community support we should not limit national focus to one piece of the picture – the levy. If we do we would be doing a cruel disservice to the people who’ve worked so hard for so long to realise the NDIS.
The Business Council has consistently supported the NDIS and would support a levy after proper, detailed planning of the scope, design and cost of the scheme.
Bipartisan and broad community support gives us an opportunity to do something important – and do it well. Why would we compromise by cutting corners to help the government gloss over a fiscal predicament significantly of its own making?
Lower-than-expected company profits have taken a major toll on the budget. But that’s not the full explanation for the government’s budget predicament.
What has made the budget situation such a problem for the government and for all Australians is the collapse in fiscal discipline.
Committing billions in ongoing spending based on assumptions about volatile revenue fails the budget integrity test.
So does deferring or bringing forward spending instead of making the hard decisions about what to continue funding and what to reprioritise to ensure we can afford important new national schemes like the NDIS.
People who run businesses – large and small – and people who run households have to make these kinds of choices all the time.
We have to be disciplined in managing our budgets. We have to be accountable to people who depend on us, whether it’s our families or our shareholders and employees. We cannot make commitments unless we know how much they will cost and how we are going to pay for them.
Governments are expected to exercise the same care and discipline because the stakes are high and far reaching, particularly when it comes to decisions affecting our community’s most vulnerable.
The government should complete the NDIS pilot programs, learn from the results, bed down the detail, ensure the outcomes will be better for those we are trying to help, and sit down with the states to agree on the implementation plan. We should avoid duplication and bureaucracy.
We will then be in a position to make an informed decision on funding that ensures this important scheme is something Australians of today and tomorrow can be proud of.