By Jorge Brance, edited for online by Sarah Richards
Disability groups are criticising shadow treasurer Joe Hockey’s lack of commitment to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
They say it is not a political issue, but a matter of human rights.
Mr Hockey has refused to guarantee his support for the NDIS, citing funding concerns.
He accused Labor of raising ‘false hope’ surrounding the scheme, but disability groups say it is simply something which needs to happen.
Every Australian Counts Queensland coordinator Fiona Anderson is urging a bipartisan approach.
“People with disability and their families don’t want to hear politicians argue over our lives anymore,” Ms Anderson said.
“People have been living in inhumane circumstances for years, some of them for decades.”
Multiple Sclerosis Queensland chief executive officer Lincoln Hopper says everyone needs to be aware of the issues surrounding the scheme, and that any public discussion is good.
But he is also echoing calls for both parties to work together.
“For something as important as the NDIS and the creation of a scheme to best support people with disabilities in Australia, it’d be a real shame for that to turn into political football,” Mr Hopper said.
Funding is the obvious sticking point in talks about the scheme, but some say it could fund itself entirely.
A report by the Australian Network on Disability suggests increased workplace involvement by people with disabilities could give a $43 billion boost to the economy over the next decade.
Network chief executive Suzanne Colbert says most disabled people want to be out in the workforce.
“With our ageing population, an increased health care and in fact a shortage of workers there are at least 200,000 people with disability who could be participating in the workforce today,” Ms Colbert said
Former University of South Australia health economics Professor Kevin O’Brien doesn’t see how the scheme could fund itself.
But he does agree there are serious economic problems with the way things are now.
“It happens to a significant extent, that people have to go from full-time jobs to part-time jobs or perhaps withdraw from the workforce altogether,” Professor O’Brien said.
Mr Hopper says the sooner the National Disability Insurance Scheme becomes a reality the better.
“Every day we wait, is a day that the bill for all Australians paying for the system we currently have goes up, so it’s in everyone’s interest to create this scheme,” Mr Hopper said.