Interview with Barrie Cassidy on ABC Insiders

Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's interview with Barrie Cassidy on ABC Insiders speaking about the Government's commitment to fully fund the NDIS, Labor’s refusal to fund the NDIS, Medicare, Cricket Australia and the National Sport Plan.

Page last updated: 29 May 2017

PDF printable version of Interview with Barrie Cassidy on ABC Insiders (PDF 231 KB)

28 May 2017

E&OE…

Topics: Coalition’s commitment to fully fund the NDIS, Labor’s refusal to fund the NDIS, Medicare, Cricket Australia, National Sport Plan

BARRIE CASSIDY:
Minister, good morning. Welcome.

GREG HUNT:
Good morning, Barry.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
That issue around fairness, it continually comes back to the question of the company tax cuts and that low and middle-income earners are being asked to pay an increase in the Medicare levy while you’re giving big tax cuts to companies.

GREG HUNT:
Look, this is obviously Bill Shorten's own levy; it was the very thing that he proposed, championed and advocated in government. It's not just fair, it's across-the-board for all Australians and I think what we've seen this week is not only has Mr Shorten had arguably his worst week as leader, but he's abandoned the NDIS and he's abandoned his own...

BARRIE CASSIDY:
Well he hasn't abandoned the NDIS, he’s just got a different formula for paying for it.

GREG HUNT:
No. If you don't support paying for it, you don’t support the NDIS.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
But he does support paying for it, he just has a different way of going about it than you do.

GREG HUNT:
No, he doesn't have a fully funded proposal for the NDIS. And this was their levy and you can see it across the chamber…

BARRIE CASSIDY:
But he does. His attitude, his approach is…

GREG HUNT:
…most Labor members are not comfortable with where Bill Shorten is.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
…his approach is to put more of the onus on the high income earners and yours is to put it right across the board.

GREG HUNT:
Well we’ve taken the very proposal that Julia Gillard and Bill Shorten championed, which we gave bipartisan support to when we were in Opposition. We never expected that they would oppose this because it was their measure, defined by them as being fair, and it is inherently fair.

It fully funds the NDIS for the first time and if you don't support paying, if you don’t support paying for the NDIS, you don't actually support it. So…

BARRIE CASSIDY:
But I go back to the point that he does. And in fact he argues...

GREG HUNT:
… at this moment that's why the Labor Party is uncomfortable and why the shadow Cabinet is leaking because they don't believe in the position that he has taken.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
He, in fact, argues that his model raises more money than your model.

GREG HUNT:
Well, I would say that they know it does not fully fund the NDIS. They've conceded that, over the course of the Budget, it does not do that.

And most significantly, it's inherently fair that, in an insurance scheme, each person contributes a proportionate component for something that could benefit them, assist them, if they are in deep (inaudible).

And this was an article of faith for the Labor Party, so Bill Shorten genuinely has abandoned not only the NDIS, abandoned his principles, and that's why his party is starting to split out from underneath him.

And you can literally feel it in the chamber, at the dispatch box; it’s an unusual sense where the Labor Party is not united. Many of them are looking at their phones; they’re looking at their feet.

There's this sense of: how did we get ourselves into this situation? They are going to have to reverse and they are going to support the NDIS.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
Part of the reason he argues that their model raises more money than your model is that it includes restating bringing back the Budget repair levy that you're getting rid of.

GREG HUNT:
Well this was something, again, which had bipartisan support. The nature, the timing, the framing of it, was all done with bipartisan legislation, to run for a certain period of time.

And in its place, what we're proposing is the very thing that Labor said was fundamental, fundamentally fair, and essential to the future of the NDIS.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
But I just put it to you, though, you can argue that your model is a better model, but you can hardly say that the Opposition has abandoned the NDIS.

GREG HUNT:
No, I can and I will, because the disability groups themselves strongly support what we're proposing. The AMA, the College of GPs, the council for people with disabilities, the council for those with intellectual disabilities; you couldn't have a stronger line-up of people who believe in the National Disability Insurance Scheme and who support the levy and who had previously believed that the ALP supported both the NDIS and supported the levy.

And I've got to say, I think the vast majority of people within the ALP still support the NDIS and the levy. The only person who doesn't now is Bill Shorten, who has taken his party to a position where they're not comfortable, they don't feel it’s honourable and they know that it’s not the right thing.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
On the Medicare rebate freeze, it's a slow thaw, isn’t it? It's going to take until 2020 for it to be brought in, to be thawed out completely.

GREG HUNT:
Well we’re actually investing $2.4 billion in Medicare out of this Budget and we are ending the freeze that Labor started. They started this in 2013…

BARRIE CASSIDY:
But why does it take three years? Is that just simply because you can't afford to do it any faster?

GREG HUNT:
Well what we've done is strike partnerships with the AMA, which is the Australian Medical Association; the College of General Practitioners; Medicines Australia, which represents the pharmaceutical companies; the Generic and Biomedicines Association; and in particular as well, the Pharmacy Guild.

The first time in Australian history that there have been simultaneous partnerships with all of those groups and this was the very good outcome which was welcomed by those groups.

And I think what's happened here is that the ALP is very frustrated that we've managed to strike long-term agreements with the medical profession.

We're guaranteeing Medicare. We’re guaranteeing it with funding. We're guaranteeing it in law. And at the end of the day, making real investment in return for reform. It's a tremendous outcome.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
But the Parliamentary Budget Office says that if you lifted it all at once, it would cost $3.2 billion. Doing it the way that you are over a three year period, it costs less than $1 billion. So it comes down to money in the end?

GREG HUNT:
Well unfortunately, the ALP won't release the material underlying those figures. My suspicion is they have …

BARRIE CASSIDY:
This is the Parliamentary Budget Office.

GREG HUNT:
No, but they haven't released what's underneath them. So I would ask them to do that. My suspicion is that they've backdated it three years and so if the ALP is not interested in backdating payments, then it's simply a scam.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
Putting on your Minister for Sport hat, now. Is cricket in crisis? If this pay dispute drags on is there anything that you can do to save the Ashes?

GREG HUNT:
Well if they want to ask me to bowl, I would be happy to offer but I don't think that that would save the Ashes.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
I didn't have that in mind. If the impasse is not broken, is there a responsibility, is there something the Federal Government would do?

GREG HUNT:
If it got to a last minute situation, I suspect that we would offer to provide good officers brokering between the parties. But there is six months between now and the Ashes. It would be unthinkable that, in the end, we wouldn't have a full team.

I do not see either the players or the administration returning to the late '70s where we had a second-rate team. The players love playing for Australia. The administration, Cricket Australia, knows that this is not just fundamental to sport; it is part of our national identity.

I am very confident they will reach an agreement.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
How late would you leave it before you made the officers available to them as mediators?

GREG HUNT:
What I don't want to do – across all sports – is try to step in and become the mediator in contract disputes. If there were a fundamental threat, at an appropriate time, we would offer to work with them.

But all the advice I have is that, with six months to travel, the Ashes will be proceeding with a full Australian team and come Boxing Day, you'll have Steve Smith and David Warner and the rest of the team out there.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
The cricketers have brought in Greg Combet, a former Labor minister, to help them with their case. Your Government seemed a bit upset that Anna Bligh joined the ranks of the bankers. Would this be equally annoying to you?

GREG HUNT:
No, I'm completely relaxed about it. I actually know Greg Combet well. Whilst we've disagreed on different things in the past, I think he's fundamentally a person of good sense and integrity.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
He did say that Cricket Australia won’t recognise the players as a collective and in that sense, he sees it as anti-union.

GREG HUNT:
Well I think that this is a pay dispute between a very well-resourced organisation and very highly-paid players. They'll work it out.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
On the lottery, the national lottery that's being set up to raise $50 million a year, how much of that will go directly towards the Olympic effort in Tokyo and how much to grassroots?

GREG HUNT:
So this is something that will come out of the National Sports Plan process. We'll have discussions with the states, but the vast bulk of it will be directed at those sports that are lesser funded and to do it in two ways: to be supporting the athletes, but a mechanism proposed by the Sports Commission is to ensure that the athletes receive their support and in return work with the grassroots so you get a double bang for your buck.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
And is this lottery just letting the Government off the hook or is this top-up money?

GREG HUNT:
No, this would be in addition. The condition that we've talked about is that it’s additional funding.

It's worked in the UK. It’s been very, very successful and I think it's something that could be here 30 and 50 and 100 years from now.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
And on the Australian Sports Commission policy, the Winning Edge Policy takes money away from the AIS and directly to the sporting organisations. Is that how it will work under the lottery money? Because Bob Ellicott – who’s a former Coalition Minister and father of the AIS, in a sense – would rather see the original AIS program in operation.

GREG HUNT:
There's a role for both. The AIS is an incredible sports facility. I was fortunate to be there out on Monday and I was with Matt Carroll, who is the new CEO of the Australian Olympic Committee; and Kate Palmer, who is the CEO, again newly minted, of the Sports Commission.

What we're doing is working for the first time in a long while in a unified approach. We've brought both bodies together and over the next few months, we will work on a common platform agreed between the parties for the long-term benefit of Australian sport.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
And just finally, you're re-doubling efforts around security around the Commonwealth Games. But I would have thought that’s one event where the arrangements would have already been well in hand?

GREG HUNT:
I think the arrangements are absolutely focused and as professional as they could be. In the light of the terrible tragedy in Manchester, it is our job to make sure that, not just the Commonwealth Games, but that all major sporting events have the latest, most up-to-date advice and that's what we've done.

BARRIE CASSIDY:
Thanks for your time this morning.

GREG HUNT:
Thanks, Barrie.

(ENDS)

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