by Alan Thornhill
“This is the right thing for the nation” Julia Gillard, declared, as she announced a rise of 0.5 per cent in the Medicare Levy, to partially fund a Disability Insurance Scheme, which will help 410,000 disabled Australians.
The Prime Minister said no-one knew when disability could strike either themselves, or some-one in their families.
“We all put in.
“And we all take out.”
She said the price of the scheme, for Australians, would be modest.
The rise in the levy, to 2 per cent, would cost Australians on average weekly earnings of $70,000 a year, just an extra 96 cents a day.
The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, who was with the Prime Minister, when she made the announcement, said: “This is a logical extension of Medicare.”
The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has said that he supports a disability insurance scheme, but has said that it should be funded from consolidated revenue.
Ms Gillard said Mr Abbott should be as frank with the Australian people, as she had been, about how this could be done.
She asked Mr Abbott to say whether he would fund the scheme by increasing company taxes, or slashing other spending.
The government’s scheme, which would start next year, and reach full operation over the following five years, is expected to cost $8 billion a year.
The higher Medicare levy will raise an extra $3.5 billion a year.
Ms Gillard is expecting it to become an major issue in the September 14 elections.
“We are prepared to fight for this principle,” the Prime Minister said.
“That we all put in.
“And we all take out.”
In a separate statement, she said: “Labor is transforming disability services by creating and locking in funding for DisabilityCare Australia, the national disability insurance scheme.
“This reform will provide peace of mind to all Australians that if they or a loved one acquire a disability, they will be supported.
“It is the most fundamental social policy reform since the introduction of Medicare,” Ms Gillard said.
Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Disability Reform, who also attended the announcement said that, despite misleading reports, disability pension would not be changed, in the Federal budget on May 14.
by Alan Thornhill
Federal, State and Territory leaders, who met in Canberra today, as the Council of Australian Governments, issued a communique later, describing what they had done.
It is reproduced, in full, below:-
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) held its 35th meeting in Canberra today. The Prime Minister, Premiers, Chief Ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) participated in today’s meeting. The Leaders welcomed the Victorian Premier, the Hon Dr Denis Napthine MLA and Northern Territory Chief Minister, the Hon Adam Giles MLA to their first COAG meeting.
National Schools’ Reform
COAG affirmed its commitment to ongoing negotiations on the Commonwealth’s proposed reforms that would provide Australian students and families with an education system that would place Australia in the top five countries in reading, numeracy and science by 2025, as well as making Australia a high quality and high equity schooling system by international standards by 2025.
The Commonwealth’s proposed reforms are:
· reform directions under the new National Education Reform Agreement (NERA);
· the National Plan for School Improvement (NPSI);
· as part of the NPSI, States and Territories are also asked to commit to evidence-driven school improvement reforms; and
· reform directions under the NPSI will be nationally agreed and implemented in a manner that is flexible to the needs and priorities of schools in each jurisdiction. It will provide the national ambition needed to support student achievement, lift performance, and position Australia to achieve the 2025 targets.
The Commonwealth has offered to provide an estimated $9.4 billion of the $14.5 billion in additional funding expected to be required across all jurisdictions to reform funding for schools as a central part of the National Plan for School Improvement. In return for this significant extra funding, the Commonwealth is asking States and Territories to maintain current school spending and contribute the remaining estimated $5.1 billion in additional funding.
To ensure this investment is effective, the Commonwealth has asked that States commit to funding schools through transparent, needs-based funding models, consistent with the principles underpinning the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS). These arrangements would help ensure that all schools and school systems have the funding they require to support the educational needs of their students.
Under the NERA, the Commonwealth would allocate funding to States and Territories on the basis of need as determined through a new SRS, which comprises:
a per student funding amount for every student: $9,271 in 2014 for primary school students and $12,193 for secondary students; and
a range of ‘loadings’ that provide additional funding to categories of educational need – namely, students with disability, low socio-economic status students, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students with limited English language proficiency, and students in small or remote schools.
Under the NERA, States would be asked to allocate funding to schools through consistent needs-based funding arrangements.
COAG noted that States will need to sign the NERA and bilateral agreements by 30 June 2013 to ensure schools and students receive additional funding in time for the 2014 school year.
National Disability Insurance Scheme
COAG noted the major step forward in the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), DisabilityCare Australia, that was taken in March 2013 when the Commonwealth Parliament passed legislation for the scheme. It also noted the ongoing progress towards launches in the Hunter Region in New South Wales, Barwon area in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania from 1 July 2013, and in the Australian Capital Territory from July 2014.
COAG also noted the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments to establish a full NDIS with this being fully in place in South Australia by 2018-19 and between the Commonwealth and the Australian Capital Territory Governments to ongoing arrangements after the launch which will ensure eligible participants continue to receive NDIS support.
COAG welcomed the in-principle agreement between the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments to a launch of the NDIS in the Barkly Region of the Northern Territory, commencing in July 2014. This will provide a valuable opportunity to test the implementation of the NDIS in a remote location.
COAG also noted that the Commonwealth is working bilaterally with other States to implement the NDIS in those jurisdictions.
These agreements add to the full scheme agreement with New South Wales in December 2012 and represent further strong progress towards a nationwide rollout of the NDIS. The Commonwealth will continue to work with all governments on this important reform.
COAG agreed to a set of principles that will guide the NDIS interface with key mainstream service systems during launch – health; mental health; early childhood development; child protection and family support; school education; employment; housing and community infrastructure; transport; justice; higher education and vocational education and training; and aged care. These principles will provide clarity about which supports can be provided or funded under NDIS, and which are more appropriately the responsibility of other service systems.
COAG also noted that the Commonwealth is working bilaterally with States and Territories to implement the National Injury Insurance Scheme (NIIS). COAG noted progress with launch jurisdictions on the development of a NIIS, which will complement the NDIS, to provide nationally consistent, no-fault lifetime care and support to people newly affected by catastrophic injury from an accident.
Minimum national benchmarks have been developed for the provision of no-fault lifetime care and support for people who are catastrophically injured in motor vehicle accidents.
New South Wales and Victoria already meet these motor vehicle accident benchmarks. The other NDIS launch jurisdictions – South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory – have also agreed to the benchmarks. Queensland has also agreed in-principle with the minimum national benchmarks.
The Commonwealth and States are continuing to progress work to develop benchmarks to support elements of a NIIS for other major causes of catastrophic injury.
Australia in the Asian Century White Paper
Following on from the discussion at its December meeting, Premiers and Chief Ministers discussed the progress being made to position Australia to realise opportunities in the Asian century.
It agreed that the relevant Standing Councils will report back to COAG by October 2013 on engagement with Asia and on strategies to:
· boost studies of Asia and Asian languages in the short term, including through use of the National Broadband Network;
· build in-country partnerships and develop complementary skills and qualification assessment and recognition; and
· increase Australia’s participation in Asia’s markets to assist food and agricultural exporters.
It noted that the relevant Standing Councils will consider whether and how to progress the other 29 policy pathways in the White Paper that involve jurisdictional collaboration in delivery.
COAG also agreed to establish a senior officials working group to provide, amongst other things, a forum for ongoing dialogue between the Commonwealth and States on matters relating to the Asian century.
Early Childhood Education
COAG noted its ongoing commitment to ensuring all Australian children have the opportunity to participate in quality early childhood education before they commence full-time school.
In an important step to provide funding certainty for families and providers of early childhood education, COAG agreed to a new National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on Early Childhood Education.
The new NPA will contribute $655.6 million in Commonwealth funding over the next
18 months, with a review of the NP by 30 June 2014. The new NPA will ensure service delivery is not interrupted or reduced in 2013 or 2014, consistent with all Governments’ ongoing commitment to Universal Access to early childhood education, including for vulnerable, disadvantaged and Indigenous children.
National Response to Gang Violence, Organised Crime and Illegal Firearms
In recognition of the concerns of all Governments and the community about gang violence, organised crime and firearms-related crimes, COAG agreed to continue to cooperate to ensure that law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to act effectively across Australia. COAG agreed that the Standing Council on Law and Justice would further examine options to fight nationally gang violence and organised crime, in consultation with the Standing Council on Police and Emergency Management and recommend options for consideration at its next meeting.
COAG also agreed that Senior Officials would consider options for improving intelligence, data and information sharing between jurisdictions for the purpose of strengthening law enforcement action, for agreement out-of-session.
To ensure that no jurisdiction becomes a target for those wanting to acquire illicit firearms, COAG noted a number of jurisdiction’s support for firearms measures and agreed that Senior Officials would consider out-of-session:
· implementation of an Australian Ballistics Identification Network to support efforts by police to link firearms to crimes through advanced ballistic analysis;
· continued cooperation on the establishment of a National Firearms Interface to increase the opportunity for jurisdictions to identify the movement of firearms to the illicit market;
· continued commitment to identifying and remedying gaps and inconsistencies in firearm laws; and
· implementation of additional firearm search powers to target repeat offenders.
Public Safety Mobile Broadband
COAG agreed the need to ensure public safety agencies have adequate capabilities to respond efficiently and effectively when disasters occur. COAG noted the joint submission from States and Territories regarding the need for an allocation of broadband spectrum that is sufficient to meet the needs of public safety agencies in all jurisdictions now and into the future.
COAG further noted that the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) is considering this further information which will inform a final decision on allocation of spectrum.
COAG agreed that it required further work, and advice, from senior officials on the establishment of an appropriate public safety mobile broadband (PSMB) capability. This would include advice on the new governance framework for the development of the PSMB, and on ACMA’s spectrum reservation for a PSMB network. This advice will follow consultation with the Standing Council on Police and Emergency Management.
COAG agreed to a hybrid model to implement the previously agreed changes to the rules of Royal succession in Australia. Under the hybrid model, States may choose to enact State legislation dealing with the rules of Royal succession. States have agreed that they will request the Commonwealth under s.51(38) of the Constitution to enact legislation, and that any State legislation will be consistent with their requests to the Commonwealth under s.51(38).
Presentation from the COAG Reform Council Chairman
COAG received a presentation from the Honourable John Brumby, Chairman of the COAG Reform Council (CRC) and former Premier of Victoria, on the need for ongoing reform to keep pace with the ever-emerging challenges of globalisation, and the importance of COAG as a powerful vehicle for national reform.
COAG reaffirmed its commitment to transparency and accountability in achieving its reform agenda and the role of the CRC in achieving this.
COAG agreed that Senior Officials will consider the proposals raised by the CRC to review COAG agreements and reporting arrangements with a view to simplifying the indicators to focus them on outcomes.
Competition and Regulatory Reform: Update on progress
COAG released a response to the CRC’s 2011-12 report on the performance of governments under the National Partnership Agreement to Deliver a Seamless National Economy.
It noted that 18 of 27 deregulation and four of eight competition reform streams are now completed.
COAG also received a progress report on the reforms being undertaken through the Business Advisory Forum (BAF) agenda, and noted that continued competition and regulation reform is important for Australia’s productivity and to meet the challenges of the Asian century. In this vein, it agreed to consider options for a future competition and regulatory reform agenda later in 2013.
National Occupational Licensing Scheme
COAG noted progress on the National Occupational Licensing Scheme reform and agreed to a request for additional State-based consultation on the final Decision Regulatory Impact Statements, approved by the Office of Best Practice Regulation, to better inform decision-makers of stakeholder views. All governments recommitted to work towards a final decision on the reform by the end of 2013, which will take into consideration the outcomes of the further State-based consultations, with national licensing to commence in 2014.
COAG noted the risks to public safety that arise in emergency situations as a result of inadequate mobile coverage, particularly in rural and remote communities. It agreed that the Commonwealth, States and Territories would work collaboratively with the telecommunications industry to reduce mobile phone and internet ‘blackspots’.
Australian Government Fleet Vehicle Procurement Policy
The automotive manufacturing industry remains important to Australia’s economic future. South Australia and Victoria commit to providing further information about the competitiveness of domestically produced vehicles so that the Commonwealth, States and Territories can investigate aligning their government fleet vehicle procurement polices (including those of government departments, agencies and statutory authorities) to purchase Australian made passenger vehicles as often as possible.
Record of Appreciation
COAG acknowledged the significant contribution of Ms Helen Silver, Secretary of the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, to the Federation and intergovernmental relations over a 30-year career spanning the Victorian and Commonwealth public services.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government moved today to provide more secure payments and tax relief for disaster victims.
Both measures were proposed in bills just introduced into Federal parliament.
The Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, said the new, more secure payments would help workers, small business people and farmers experience a loss of income as a direct result of a disaster.
“The allowance will provide fortnightly payments equivalent to the maximum rate of Newstart Allowance or Youth Allowance for up to 13 weeks following a disaster,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“Over this summer Australians have suffered devastating disasters, including cyclones, flooding and bushfires,” he added.
“Supporting workers, small businesses and farmers following a disaster and keeping them in their local area is key to long term community recovery.
“If workers lose their job following a natural disaster, often they will be forced to relocate to find new work.
“Training new workers takes time and money.
“ This payment will mean that workers, small businesses and farmers will be financially supported so that they can remain in the community and return to work after recovery and rebuilding efforts conclude.”
He said the proposed The Disaster Recovery Allowance would replace the current Disaster Income Recovery Subsidy payment, which is delivered as an ex gratia payment.
Once passed, it would start on 1 October 2013.
Mr Dreyfus said the government also provides assistance through the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment and in cooperation with the states, through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.
The Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury, also announced that there would be new measures to provide tax relief for disaster payments
He said disaster payments to families, small businesses and farmers recovering from the recent Queensland and NSW floods, as well as the Tasmania and Wambelong bushfires, would be made exempt from income tax.
This would be part of a suite of amendments to the tax laws known as the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2013 Measures No. 2) Bill .
“Those communities that were hardest hit during recent natural disasters deserve a helping hand to get them back on their feet,” Mr Bradbury said.
“These amendments to our tax laws will make sure that recovery payments made by the Commonwealth Government to households, small businesses and farmers will not be taxed, meaning more money in the pockets of those that need it most.”
He said other measures introduced in the bill today included:
- Amending the film tax offsets to restore the intended meaning of ‘documentary’ following an Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision in 2011.
- Ensuring simplified GST compliance and payment methods for certain small businesses can continue.
- Extending Deductible Gift Recipient Status to National Boer War Memorial Association Incorporated, the Anzac Centenary Public Fund and the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial Project Incorporated, Philanthropy Australia Incorporated, The Conversation Trust, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Limited.
The amendments will be considered by the House of Representatives over coming weeks.
by Alan Thornhill
Insurance premiums in flood prone areas could be cut substantially, as a result of a mitigation program the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has just announced. .
The Insurance Council conceded this today, but said the size of the cuts would depend on the mitigation work done.
“We will just have to wait and see,” a Council spokesman said.
He was speaking shortly after the Prime Minister announced the $100 million program.
Cuts of 60 to 70 per cent, in annual insurance programs, have followed other flood mitigation work in the past.
However home insurance premiums, in flood prone areas, have also risen sharply in recent years, as a result of recurring floods.
A senior minister said the government had moved, after it received a promise from the insurance industry.
“This Government is moving on mitigation with the promise from the insurance industry that when governments at all levels fund mitigation, we expect insurance policies for householders to go down,” Financial Services Minister Bill Shorten told reporters in Ipswich.
“The insurance industry’s indicated that in a place such as Roma … home and content policies should and could go down by as much as 70 per cent,” he added.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government has announced three new initiatives today, to help people hit by the Queensland floods.
(1) A $2 million natural disaster assistance program, to help small businesses get the expert advice and help they need to recover.
(2) A $45 million support package to help Queenslanders recover and rebuild after the Australia Day floods and
(3) A national insurance affordability initiative, which will see $50 million a year invested in targeted flood and natural disaster mitigation schemes.
For full details on the disaster assistance scheme go to www.ausindustry.gov.au
The support package details can be found at www.disasterassist.gov.au.
For more on the mitigation schemes go to www.pm.gov.au
by Alan Thornhill
Flood stricken farmers in Queensland can apply for extra help.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said this would be available as clean-up and recovery grants.
“The grants of up to $25,000 are available to help with the economic impacts of these devastating floods,” Ms Gillard said.
She said, too, that: “Primary producers in targeted areas within the local government areas of Central Highlands, Gold Coast, Logan, Rockhampton, Sunshine Coast, and Western Downs are now able to apply for this assistance under the jointly funded Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.
“The eligible activation area for grants in Goondiwindi and Toowoomba has also been extended to ensure similarly affected primary producers can also access assistance,” the Prime Minister said.
These grants are already available in the local government areas of Bundaberg, Fraser Coast, Gladstone, Gympie, Lockyer Valley, North Burnett, Scenic Rim and South Burnett in addition to targeted areas within Banana, Goondiwindi, Ipswich, Somerset, Southern Downs and Toowoomba.
The grants assist with the cost of cleaning up and removing debris, replacing damaged equipment and stock, and help ensure business isn’t disrupted beyond the next season. This assistance does not compensate for income losses and is not intended to replace insurance.
In addition, concessional loans and grants of up to $650,000 have been extended to these local government areas in recognition of the impact of primary producers in South East Queensland.
The exceptional loan and grant package is now available to eligible primary producers and businesses the LGAs of Banana, Bundaberg, Central Highlands, Fraser Coast, Gladstone, Gold Coast, Goondiwindi, Gympie, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Logan, North Burnett, Rockhampton, Scenic Rim, Somerset, South Burnett, Southern Downs, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba and Western Downs.
The Disaster Income Recovery Subsidy (DIRS) is also being made available to individuals in the Central Highlands, Gold Coast, Logan, Rockhampton, Sunshine Coast and Western Downs local government areas. This assistance provides payments to employees, small business people and farmers who can demonstrate they have experienced a loss of income.
The assistance will ensure that people are able to stay in these areas and will support the longer-term recovery of the devastated local and regional economies.
The subsidies are already being provided to individuals in Banana, Bundaberg, Fraser Coast, Gladstone, Goondiwindi, Gympie, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, North Burnett, Scenic Rim, Somerset, South Burnett, Southern Downs and Toowoomba local government areas.
This assistance is over and above the support already being provided under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements which are jointly funded by the Australian Government and the states.
by Alan Thornhill
Disaster relief will be made available in eleven local government areas in New South Wales that were hit by severe coastal storms at the weekend.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and State Premier, Barry O’Farrell, made the announcement today.
In a joint statement, the two leaders said:”This is the second major flood event northern NSW has experienced this year and it is important we support the region’s local communities as they recover.
“The damaging winds and heavy rainfall along the east coast of NSW has resulted in severe wind damage and major flooding in a number of areas along the coast between Byron and Kiama,” they added.
The areas declared are:-
- Clarence Valley
- Coffs Harbour
- Port Macquarie Hastings
The two leaders said their declaration triggers a number of disaster assistance schemes to help with the cost of storm relief and recovery.
by Alan Thornhill
More assistance is being made available for flood victims in Queensland and New South Wales.
The measures, announced by the Federal and relevant State governments, mean that more flood-affected primary producers and small business owners in some of the hardest hit regions of Queensland can now apply for clean-up and recovery grants.
The grants of up to $25,000 will provide extra help with the economic impacts these devastating floods have had on local businesses and the wider community.
Primary producers in the local government areas of South Burnett, Gladstone and Scenic Rim and targeted areas in Banana, Goondiwindi, Ipswich, Somerset, Southern Downs and Toowoomba will be able to apply for the assistance under the jointly funded Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.
Small businesses in targeted areas within the Gladstone and Southern Downs local government areas will also be able to apply.
Full details, for prospective Queensland claimants, can be found at www.disasterassist.gov.au.
A natural disaster declaration has been made in the following four local government areas in New South Wales.
- Great Lakes
- Moree Plains
- Upper Hunter
Communities in these areas will have access to jointly-funded Federal and State natural disaster assistance following extensive flooding.
Those affected can get more information at www.emergency.nsw.gov.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Friday May 24
The Dow Jones Index fell 12.44 points to 15,294.70
Ford Australia says it will close its Australian manufacturing plants in October 2016. Some 1,200 jobs to go.
Hazel Hawke dies at 83
A British soldier is hacked to death in the London suburb of Woolwich, in an apparent terrorist attack
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- Pete on Rudd government had entered “paralysis:” Gillard
- Liam Knuj on The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard’s, New Year’s Message
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