Aslan Shand, acting editor
Most of us would hope that the taxes we pay go towards key areas such as health, education and to supporting the most vulnerable in our community. This so-called ‘social contract’ surely wasn’t meant to provide $10.3 billion in fossil-fuel subsidies in the financial year 2020-21, as the Australia Institute pointed out in April.
And now, while providing handouts to its friends, the government is targeting one of our most vulnerable groups. It seeks to save money by stripping funds from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), firstly by privatising the funding assessment process.
Documents seen by The Guardian show that the transition to ‘independent assessment’ is predicted to save $700m over four years.
The new NDIS minister, Linda Reynolds, claims that the system is ‘unsustainable over time’. Ms Reynolds’s care for the vulnerable was shown when she called Brittany Higgins a ‘lying cow’ following her allegations of being raped in Ms Reynolds’s office by another staffer.
I know firsthand of the ‘care’ shown by the government to the vulnerable. A family member receives NDIS funding. As his mother became more ill owing to a progressive disease, we sought greater funding to substitute the care she had provided. Not only was this denied, his funding was reduced. The decision was appealed, but his mother was dead before the appeal was heard.
Informal carers provide billions of dollars of free care every year. I am one of those people. According to Deloitte Access Economics, informal care in Australia (for the aged and those with disabilities) was valued at $77.9 billion in 2020. This is based on the estimated replacement cost of the 2.2 billion hours of care they provide each year.
When Ms Reynolds and the government talk about the NDIS being unsustainable, it is not just the direct dollar figure that needs to be assessed. As support for families and carers of people with disabilities reduces, this threatens their ability to be productive members of society, hold down jobs and, yes, pay their taxes.
The recent Royal Commission into aged care clearly demonstrated that under-resourcing of care leaves those being cared for open to exploitation, neglect and abuse. Reducing funding for people with permanent disabilities will result in the same disaster.
The billions the government throws around on fossil-fuel subsidies, rather than tackling climate change, shows that the attack on NDIS funding is unwarranted cruelty.
There are an estimated 430,000 NDIS participants. If a high-needs participant requires on average a $100,000 NDIS care provision, then the $10.3bn fossil-fuel subsidies handout could have provided care for over 100,000 people.
Surely that is money well spent and a better use for our taxes?
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