Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 1633..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
We acknowledge in this community-and, of course, the Gallop report brings this issue into fine focus for us-that there is much for us to focus on within the ACT in relation to the delivery of the best possible services to people with a disability. There is much work to be done and this is in train. The Disability Reform Group is working actively and incredibly busily with the Office of Disability and our consultant, Anne Cross, to deliver policy responses to the raft of issues that have been raised through the Gallop report and otherwise. The government has also committed to an additional $1 million of funding for disability services in the first instance to ensure that we can maintain our commitment to people with a disability.
It is interesting, too, that the Commonwealth has maintained its original allocation of funding for addressing unmet needs. This is funding that was also originally allocated in 2000. The states and territories have always understood that the Commonwealth's commitment to addressing unmet need was an ongoing one. But, once again, it was not until the budget last night that the Commonwealth indicated that it would meet that commitment. I know that at the last ministerial council of disability ministers, the Commonwealth minister, Senator Vanstone, refused to confirm or deny that the Commonwealth would be meeting or honouring that commitment.
One of the great concerns in the budget announcement last night, as it affects disability funding, is that the budget provides no growth funding to meet the increasing demand from population increases and ageing. I think that is highly ironic in the face of Mr Costello's intergenerational report and his new-found commitment to address the needs of a rapidly ageing community. There is much play about the Commonwealth's long-term focus but we find in relation to the issue of disability services that it will not commit to growth funding in the face of an ageing population.
The Commonwealth has also failed to contribute to the additional funding pressures facing service providers, such as increasing wage costs, insurance and compliance costs. The territory has picked up these costs to ensure that existing services continue to be viable, but with increasing pressures in other areas of the budget this may not always be possible. This is a very significant pressure on this budget and others, and we will continue to call on the Commonwealth to meet its commitment to people with a disability.
But having said that, the new arrangement in relation to disability pensions, this attack on people on pensions to fund the Commonwealth's current priorities, is one of the most disturbing aspects of the budget that was delivered-the extent to which the disadvantaged and the disabled are effectively being asked to pick up the fact that the Commonwealth has just dropped a $1.2 billion deficit on us.