Carers challenge MPs

GIPPSLAND Carers Association has challenged local politicians to match the Federal Government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme levy pledge or face voter backlash at September’s election.

Following Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s announcement yesterday that a new 0.5 per cent levy for Disability Care would be put to the Parliament after the next election, GCA president Jean Tops said the move was “long overdue” and economically sound.

Ms Tops was scathing in her response to comments made in the media this week by senior sources including Federal Opposition Treasury spokesperson Joe Hockey that a levy could curb economic growth and by former Treasurer Peter Costello that a levy should not be imposed while the Federal Budget was in deficit.

“The leaders of business and leaders of the opposition who have come out in the past 24 hours with the claim an NDIS is too expensive, should walk a mile in the shoes of every full-time carer and understand it could be you or someone you love tomorrow,” Ms Tops said.

“It is a shame on Australians who are well-off to suggest that a levy for the NDIS is something that should not be funded in the current climate… how dare those who are so well-off claim we cannot afford this.

“Australians needs to appreciate that objecting to this levy may cost more than they bargained for as carers sink into the abyss because of the absence of any support services.”

She warned failing to support a levy would see taxpayers “risk a blow-out of $42 billion every year to the government’s bottom line as people with disabilities end up on the scrap heap if carers are unable to continue to care”.

Ms Tops said GCA believed the Federal Government “should, in fact contribute the six to eight billion (dollars) required as a matter of core business”, and added “if some of that is achieved via a levy, so be it… the people of Australia must understand they have had it too good for too long while families caring for people with severe and profound disabilities have struggled on peanuts”.

Foreshadowing an intense lobbying effort by carers nationally in the lead-up to the next election Ms Tops said “we are not prepared to allow this plan to be pushed back on the premise there is a budget deficit”.

Ms Tops called on Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester and Federal Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent to make good on their suggestions “if the ALP puts forward a policy to fund the NDIS and/or regional carers networks it would force them to match Labor’s funding proposal”.

“So I ask them what will they promise the carers of Australia and people with disabilities if they are elected in September?” she said.

In response, Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said he had supported NDIS from “the day I was elected” and supported the appointment of a joint parliamentary committee “to take all politics out of this debate and focus on delivering the service”.

“I have publicly supported a levy style approach in the past because I recognise the biggest issue to resolve right now is how we are going to pay for this long overdue reform,” Mr Chester said.

“I agree with Jean Tops that people who have won life’s lottery and are in a position to earn a good living do have the capacity to make a relatively small direct contribution to people with disabilities and their carers,” Mr Chester said.

The MP said if it came to a vote, he would support Gippsland’s carers “above any political considerations”.

The government’s proposal would see the current 1.5 per cent Medicare levy increased to two per cent.